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National Rent Prices Since 2017

By: Rob Warnock
May 18, 2021

Apartment List has been tracking rent prices in the United States since January 2017. Here we describe some of the typical -- and atypical -- trends that have dominated the rental industry over the last several years. All rent data rent data are available for download on our site.

2017-2019: Steady, Seasonal Rent Growth

Apartments in the United States have grown steadily more expensive over time. From 2017 to 2019, the median rent price followed a predictable seasonal pattern: prices would rise to an annual peak in mid-summer and then retreat each winter as the moving season slowed. During these years, peak prices increased approximately $30 (+2.5 percent) annually.

2020: Pandemic Rent Pricing

The steady seasonal trend of 2017-2019 broke quickly in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as prices were starting their seasonal rise, the pandemic forced millions of families to cancel planned moves and instead shelter indoors. Apartment vacancies spiked, and for three consecutive months when rents usually rise quickly, they fell. By July 2020, people started moving again and rent prices resumed their normal seasonal trajectory, but the damage had been done; by the end of 2020 apartments were 1.3% cheaper than one year earlier.1

2021: The Rental Market Rebound

As the pandemic wanes, families are moving again and landlords are no longer finding it difficult to fill vacancies. In response, the rental market is rebounding quickly. In spring 2021, the national median rent is rising more than twice as fast it did during pre-pandemic springs. Broad economic recovery, dramatic price reductions in major cities, and the widespread adoption of remote work are all inspiring Americans to reconsider where they live and what they value in a hometown.

Methdology

Our national rent estimate is designed to approximate the price of new leases signed in a given month. We use a combination of US Census Bureau data and internal Apartment List property data, feeding both into a repeat-transaction model (a modified Case-Shiller approach) to account for compositional changes to the rental market over time. See our rent estimate methodology for a detailed description of the data, including the goals and limitations of our calculations. Rent data are refreshed monthly and are available for download at the national, state, metro, and city levels.

If you have any additional questions, you can reach the Apartment List research team at research@apartmentlist.com.


  1. This national trend hides significant regional variation in rent price changes. While some expensive, urban cities saw significant price declines of 20% or more, other smaller and more-affordable markets saw prices rebound past pre-pandemic levels in just a few months. For more on this, see our report The Suburban Rent Rebound.

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SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
Rob is a senior research associate at Apartment List, where he examines trends in the housing and rental markets. Previously he worked in public health policy, and before that, graduated from UCLA with a degree in Globalization. Read More
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