Demand for new apartment leases has “all but evaporated” as consumer confidence remains low and inflation continues to rise, according to the latest data from RealPage.
In other words, say farewell to the days of record-high household formations.
“We’ve never before seen a period like this – weak demand for all types of housing despite robust job growth and sizable wage gains,” RealPage Chief Economist Jay Parsons said. “It wasn’t just apartment demand that shot up in 2021 and plunged in 2022. The same pattern played out to varying degrees in other rentals and in for-sale homes.”
Parsons and his colleagues also note that “while some pundits have suggested demand is slowing due to affordability challenges, there’s not yet any evidence that’s true within the professionally managed, market-rate apartment market,” adding that turnover, while normalizing, is still low and nearly 96% of renters were paying on time as of November 2022.
In addition, “there’s no indication renters are doubling up to any significant degree,” RealPage analysts say. “That may occur later, but as the publicly traded apartment REITs all reported in their last earnings call, it’s not a major factor yet.” What’s more, “there’s no “’flight to affordability’ –meaning that renters aren’t moving down from more expensive units or markets into more affordable units or markets,” according to RealPage. “The drop in demand came across all price points and in essentially all markets.”
According to Parsons, the cause is consumer confidence.
“Low consumer confidence means many American households feel nervous and uncertain, and that has a freezing effect on household formation and housing demand,” Parsons said. “Human nature is that when we feel uncertain, we’re much more likely to stay put – and that’s what happened in 2022.”
Rents for new apartments fell in December for the fourth consecutive month, declining by 0.4%. Rent have dropped by a cumulative 1.6% since September, according to RealPage. The deepest rent cuts were in tech-heavy markets like Austin, San Jose and Raleigh/Durham, as well as cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sacramento, which all benefited from strong pandemic-era in-migration trends.