As the apartment recovery hits the four-year mark, vacancy seems to have flatted out, according to the second-quarter apartment market report form New York-based research firm Reis. National vacancy, which went unchanged in the second quarter at 4.1 percent, sits 390 basis points below its peak of eight percent in late 2009.
“At 4.1-percent, the national vacancy rate remains low by historical standards,” says Reis Senior Economist Ryan Severino in a report that accompanied the results. “The only time vacancy in the U.S. was lower was during the dot.com boom-and-bust days of 1999 and 2000.”
Asking and effective rents increased 0.8 percent versus the first quarter as the cold strain, which hit most of the country, broke. On a year-over-year basis, asking and effective rents grew by 3.2-percent and 3.4-percent, respectively (up 3.1 and 3.3-percent from 2013).
“Rents continue to reach record-high nominal levels while the labor market, though strengthening, can only muster income growth of approximately two percent,” Severino says. “This is about on par with inflation and when combined with record-high rents limits the ability of landlords to push for large rent increases. Nonetheless, landlords continue to extract whatever rent increases they can out of their tenants causing rents to inch slowly higher.”
The improving weather in the second quarter also spurred new construction. With 33,210 units of new supply, it was the strongest second quarter since 2009—when developers were still finishing out their pre-recession pipelines. Reis expects the apartment market to see the most new units since booming cot.com days of 1999. Overall, the sector absorbed 35,102 units compared to 40,853 in the second quarter of 2013.
“What is a bit unusual during this particular cycle is that, although new supply is likely to exceed the level of demand, demand should nonetheless remain relatively strong given the large number of young, single potential renters,” Severino says. “In previous cycles, the national vacancy rate has usually been pushed up by dwindling net absorption as the economy slows down and then heads into a recession just as construction is accelerating. We do not foresee a recession over the next few years even though we do forecast an increase in vacancy, making this phase of the cycle somewhat unique.”