Apartment List National Rent Report
Welcome to the March 2024 Apartment List National Rent Report. The rental market turned a corner in February; after six consecutive months of rent declines, prices ticked up 0.2 percent this month and today the nationwide median rent stands at $1,377.1 This turnaround is in line with the rental market’s typical seasonal pattern, as we transition into the time of year when moving activity starts to gradually pick back up after bottoming out around the holidays.
That said, for the last two years seasonal declines have been steeper than usual and seasonal increases have been milder. So on a year-over-year basis, rent growth remains in negative territory at -1 percent, where it has sat for the last several months. In other words, as the market cools, apartments are on average slightly cheaper today than they were one year ago. But despite this cooldown, the national median rent is still more than $200 per month higher than it was just three years ago.
On the supply side of the market, our national vacancy index continues trending up and stands today at 6.6 percent. After a historic tightening in 2021, multifamily occupancy has been slowly but consistently easing for over two years. And with this year expected to bring the most new apartment completions in decades, we expect that there will continue to be an abundance of vacant units on the market in the year ahead.
Zooming in a bit, 57 of the nation’s 100 largest cities saw rents go up in February. But on a year-over-year basis, rent growth is positive for only 43 of these cities. Many of the steepest year-over-year declines remain concentrated in Sun Belt cities that are rapidly expanding their multifamily inventory, such as Austin (-6.7 percent year-over-year), Atlanta (-5.3 percent), and Nashville (-5.1 percent).
Rents are up 0.2% month-over-month, down 1.0% year-over-year
Rent growth follows a seasonal pattern – rent increases generally take place during the spring and summer, whereas the fall and winter usually see a modest price dip. We are currently transitioning between slow and busy seasons, as rents fell for six consecutive months from August 2023 to January 2024, but ticked up 0.2 percent in February.
The slow season that started in August 2023 was longer and steeper than historical standards. The national median rent fell 3.4 percent during this period, the second sharpest seasonal dip that we’ve seen in the history of our index (going back to 2017). The only period that brought a sharper decline was from September 2022 to January 2023, when rents fell by 3.7 percent as the market shifted into the period of sluggishness that still persists. For comparison, in the three years preceding the pandemic, the average winter rent decline was just 1.8 percent.
On a year-over-year basis, rents nationally are down 1 percent. Year-over-year rent growth dipped below zero last June for the first time since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has now been in negative territory for nine consecutive months. After prices skyrocketed in 2021 and 2022, the pendulum has been swinging back a bit over the past year as price growth has been kept in check by sluggish demand colliding with a robust supply of new inventory hitting the market. That said, the recent dip does not equate to a reversal of the earlier price hikes - the national median rent is still 20 percent higher than it was three years ago.
The rental market slowdown in gradually showing up in inflation numbers
The primary measure of inflation in the United States is the Bureau of Labor Statistics's Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is heavily influenced by changes in housing prices.2 The Apartment List National Rent Index has proven to be a strong leading indicator of the CPI housing and rent components, since our index captures price changes in new leases, which are only later reflected in price changes across all leases (i.e., what the CPI measures).
Because of these methodological differences, when our index peaked with record-setting rent growth in late 2021, the CPI’s measure of household inflation was still in the early stages of its upswing. And while rent growth as measured by our index was cooling over the course of 2022, the CPI measure continued to rise. But as we had long been predicting, the shelter component of CPI finally turned the corner last spring and has been steadily cooling off ever since. As the official measure of shelter inflation continues to trend down, it will help ease overall inflation as well. While most components of inflation are difficult to predict, the Apartment List Rent Index can help tell us where shelter CPI is headed.
Apartment vacancies are back above pre-pandemic levels
The rapid price fluctuations that have defined the rental market over the past three years are largely attributable to changes in the balance between the number of vacant apartments available (supply) and the number of renters looking to move into them (demand). Early in the pandemic, the Apartment List Vacancy Index rose to 6.8 percent as many Americans consolidated households and moved in with family amid large job losses and economic uncertainty. Then, a suddenly-tight rental market drove rapid rent growth in 2021 and 2022 as more households were competing for a dwindling supply of vacant units. Our vacancy index tightened from 6.8 percent to 3.9 percent in just over a year.
But after bottoming out in October 2021, vacancies have been opening up steadily for over two years. As of February, our vacancy index sits at 6.6 percent, the highest reading since September 2020. And there’s good reason to expect that it could rise even further in the year ahead. Despite a recent slowdown in new permits being issued and new construction projects breaking ground, the number of multifamily units under construction remains near record levels. 2023 saw the most new apartments complete construction in more than 30 years, and an even greater number of new units are expected to come on the market this year. This means that renters should have more available options than they have in some time, especially in the Sun Belt markets where construction activity has been strongest.
Vacancy trends are highly localized, and they have been a key indicator of rapidly evolving conditions in local markets across the U.S. throughout the pandemic. To explore the topic in greater detail, monthly vacancy data are now available for download for hundreds of cities, metros, and states, and can be easily linked to our existing rent estimates using Federal Information Processing System (FIPS) codes.
Rents up month-over-month in 57 of 100 largest cities, up year-over-year in 43
The chart below visualizes monthly rent changes in each of the nation’s 100 largest cities from January 2019 to present. The color in each cell represents the extent to which prices went up (red) or down (blue) in a given city in a given month. We see a typical seasonal pattern in 2019, followed by 2020, where horizontal bands of dark blue represent steep rent drops in some of the nation’s largest and most expensive cities. Meanwhile, the dark red bands in 2021 and 2022 represent the rent heatwave that drove up prices nationwide. But the rightmost columns of the chart show the rent cooldown in late 2022 and the modest rent growth that has persisted through present. As nationwide rent growth was positive in February, so too was local rent growth in the majority of large cities across the county. 57 of the nation’s largest 100 cities saw prices rise month-over-month.
As recently as 2022, all 100 of these cities were posting positive year-over-year rent increases. But as the market cooled and many regions experienced back-to-back slow winter seasons, an increasing number of cities saw annual rent change flip negative. As of February 2024 the number stands at 57, including the majority of markets in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and along the West Coast. In contrast, most large cities in the Midwest and Northeast are still logging positive annual rent growth.
New supply driving falling rents in Sun Belt markets
At the metro level, year-over-year rent declines are especially prevalent across Sun Belt metros, topped by Austin, where prices are down 7 percent in the last 12 months. The Austin metro is also significant for permitting new homes at the fastest pace of any large metro in the county, signaling the important role construction plays in managing long-term affordability. This trend is evident in a number of markets on this list. Beyond Austin, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Orlando, Nashville, and Phoenix all ranked among the top 10 for the most new housing permits issued in 2022, and they are all now in the top 10 for sharpest year-over-year rent declines.
Midwestern and Northeastern markets have maintained positive rent growth
At the other end of the spectrum, the fastest rent growth has been occurring in metros across the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. In the Midwest, the Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Chicago metros all rank in the top 10 for fastest year-over-year growth, while the Northeast is represented by Hartford, Providence, and Washington DC. Note however, that even the markets topping the list are experiencing fairly modest rent growth. No large metro has seen rents rise by more than 4 percent over the past year, and none have seen measurable increases over the past six months.
February’s 0.2 percent rent increase represents an inflection point for the rental market, despite year-over-year rent growth remaining at -1.0 percent. Historical seasonal patterns suggest that rents will continue trending up for the coming months, but we expect future rent increases to be moderated by a robust construction pipeline delivering new units throughout the year. With consumer sentiment about broader macroeconomic conditions beginning to improve, it’s possible that rental demand will also rebound in the year ahead, but likely not to an extent that would outweigh the impact of all the coming supply.
For complete data, explore the interactive map below or head over to our rental data page, where you can download the most recent estimates for your city, as well as historic data going back to 2017. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions!
A Note on Our Methodology
Apartment List has long been committed to making our data products as accurate and transparent as possible. Our rent estimates and vacancy index are calculated as follows:
Rent Estimates: We estimate rent growth using a same-unit approach that controls for compositional changes in the rental stock. We also control for price fluctuations that arise over the course of a vacancy by identifying the last available list price before a unit gets rented as a proxy for its transacted price. Finally, we combat luxury bias in our rent data by benchmarking our reported rent levels to fully-representative median rent statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Vacancy Index: Our real-time availability data allows us to calculate a daily vacancy rate for each of our partner properties, which we then average over the course of each month to calculate a monthly rate. Our overall index is an average of these property-level vacancy rates, weighted by the number of units in each property. We restrict our sample to properties that have been on Apartment List for at least six months and that have attained a stabilized vacancy rate of 15% or less.
For those interested in getting deeper in the weeds, please see our rent estimate methodology and vacancy index methodology. And if you have any questions or custom data requests, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more context on local data, check out our market-specific rent reports for the following cities:
- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Boulder, CO
- Charlotte, NC
- Chicago, IL
- Cleveland, OH
- Colorado Springs, CO
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Detroit, MI
- Fort Collins, CO
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Houston, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
- Jacksonville, FL
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami, FL
- Minneapolis, MN
- Nashville, TN
- New Orleans, LA
- New York, NY
- Orlando, FL
- Phoenix, AZ
- Philadelphia, PA
- Raleigh, NC
- San Antonio, TX
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Tallahassee, FL
- Tampa, FL
- Tucson, AZ
- Washington, DC
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About Apartment List Rent Reports:
Apartment List’s Rent Reports cover rental pricing data in major cities, their suburbs, and their neighborhoods. We provide valuable leading indicators of rental price trends, highlight data on top cities, and identify the key facts renters should know. As always, our goal is to provide price transparency to America’s 105 million renters to help them make the best possible decisions in choosing a place to call home. Apartment List publishes Rent Reports during the first calendar week of each month.
- In January 2024, the levels of our rent estimates were re-based with data from the 2022 American Community Survey (ACS), resulting in an adjustment to the rent levels reported in our historic time-series. The rent levels that we report are benchmarked to the latest Census estimates and then projected forward to present day using real-time price changes observed on our platform. This benchmarking is updated every year when new ACS data is released by the Census Bureau, as a routine part of our methodology. This update impacts only the levels of our estimates, while our reported growth rates remain unchanged. For more details, please see our complete methodolog explainer: https://www.apartmentlist.com/research/rent-estimate-methodology↩
- Housing comprises roughly one-third of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI inflation measure, and the BLS methodology is based on estimates of market rents for both rentals and owner-occupied housing, a concept referred to as owners’ equivalent rent.↩