In March, we reported small median rent changes and that trend has continued into April. Median one-bedroom rents fell by $1.00 to $1,088 — an almost non-existent 0.18 percent change for the year. Conversely, two-bedroom units rose $1.00 to $1,354, still up a weak 0.59 percent for the year.
Just like March, April’s one- and two-bedroom winners and losers were confined to a tight range; not only were double-digit movers totally absent from our charts, but only one city fell or rose more than 5 percent.
Again, as we had stated last week, these narrow price ranges are indicative of a contracting rental landscape.
Let’s look at the details:
Top ten gainers were stuck in a tight range from 3.41 percent to 4.0 percent. Top ten losers were a little more spread out, but the range was also narrow from 1.96 percent to 6.31 percent. As we mentioned above, double-digit movers were conspicuously absent in April.
Fresno, CA won the one-bedroom top gainer price with a 4.90 percent rise to $1,050. Durham, NC was next reporting a gain of 3.92 percent to a median rent of $1,193. Buffalo, NY and Albuquerque, NM increased 3.00 and 3.87 percent respectively.
Wichita, KS was alone in fifth position with a moderate 3.73 gain to a nicely affordable $612, while St. Petersburg, FL and Raleigh, NC posted similar gains near 3.57 percent.
Columbus, OH, Toledo, OH and El Paso, TX each gained between 3.41 and 3.44 percent.
Durham, NC was the priciest location on our top ten gainers list at $1,193, and Toledo, OH was the most affordable, reporting an April median rent of only $603.
Pricey Boulder, CO fell 6.31 percent to a median rent of $1,648. New Haven, CT lost 4.08 percent to settle at an even $1,200. Columbia, MO and Virginia Beach, VA lost 3.49 and 4.47 percent respectively, and Tulsa, OK took the fifth spot on our top ten losers list falling a moderate 2.92 percent to $731.
Ranges tightened up in the bottom five loser category as San Antonio, TX, Milwaukee, WI, Memphis, TN and Eugene, OR all lost between 2.22 and 2.88 percent. St Louis, MO appeared on the top ten losers list in April with an $18 decrease to $902—a 1.96 percent fall.
Columbus, Mo was easily the cheapest place to live with a one-bedroom unit at $581. And even with its 6.31 percent loss, Boulder, CO was the most expensive one-bedroom rental on our top ten losers list at $1,648.
We keep talking about tight ranges for both of our two-bedroom top ten gainers and losers, but the limited moves reported are striking. Only 1.67 percentage points separate the top and bottom cities on our gainers list, and similarly, only 1.11 percentage points divide the top and bottom locales on our losers list.
Syracuse, NY gained 4.35 percent from $943 in March to $984 in April, and Dayton, OH reported the only other 4 percent plus gain rising 4.28 percent to $755. El Paso, TX claimed third place with a 3.91 percent rise. Two California cities, Bakersfield and Oakland, rose a respective 3.65 and 3.35 percent.
Cleveland, OH, seen frequently on our lists rose $40 to $1,287—a 3.21 percent increase. Mesa, AZ and Jacksonville, FL fell between 3.06 and 3.14 percent.
Finally, Houston, TX gained 2.88 percent to a median $1,427, and Evansville, IN rose $19 as that town reported a 2.68 percent gain.
Evansville won the affordability prize at $729, barely beating Dayton at $755. Oakland, CA demolished all others on our top ten two-bedroom gainers list with a whopping $3,820 April median rent.
Our top ten two-bedroom losers list inductees showed muted movement. Memphis, TN fell $3.88 percent while Arlington, TX lost $38 or 3.66 percent. Gainesville, FL lost 3.26 percent followed by Winston-Salem, NC losing 3.09 percent to a median April rent of $815.
Tempe, AZ claimed our fifth spot losing 2.7 percent to a median $1,372. Cincinnati, OH was alone in sixth place reporting a drop of 2.3 percent, and Milwaukee, WI fell 2.21 percent of $1,374.
Expensive Boulder, CO declined 2.12 percent to a median $2,082, and Cambridge, MA fell 1.98 percent to settle at a hefty $3,268.
Tulsa, OK lost 1.77 percent posting an April median two-bedroom rent of $834.
Cambridge won the April prize for the most expensive two-bedroom unit on our losers list, and Winston-Salem, NC was the cheapest at $815.
Rent Report Recap & What’s Next?
In March, we mentioned that experts were concerned about a recession. It’s probably here now as COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly. Many sectors of the national economy are shut down, and the stock markets have violently reacted to what may be the most instant recession in recent history.
Oil prices have fallen to about $20 per bbl. and some pundits look for them to bottom out near $10.
This is a load of doom and gloom, and as both landlords and tenants worry about how to integrate social distancing regulations into the apartment leasing landscape, there are a lot of things that need to become clear before the true effect of the pandemic on apartment prices becomes evident.
Will most apartment dwellers just stay put? With regulations in force that tenants can make late rent payments without fear of eviction, will landlords merely be happy to collect any rent rather than attempt to push through increases?
If massive job losses occur, will this cause some apartments to become vacant as residents double up? Or, will there be an eventual wave of foreclosures as job losses contribute to mortgage payment delinquency? If this happens, some foreclosed homeowners may have to move to apartments, and that may blunt some of the trauma.
Finally, will we see another eventual cessation of new apartment construction that would in turn, eventually fuel some local rent increases? This happened in Austin, TX in 2011.
If the recession we are most likely in now is sharp but short, we may look at this time period as an unfortunate blip. If the coronavirus cloud hangs over us for a longer period of time, there may be darker economic times ahead.
Lots of questions with few answers for now, so please check out our next report.
Each month, using millions of Rentable listings across the United States, we calculate the median 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom rent prices by city, state, and nation, and track the month-over-month percent change. To avoid small sample sizes, we restrict the analysis for our reports to cities meeting minimum population and property count thresholds.
For press inquiries, please contact Sam Radbil.