Pierce-Eislen 2015 Multifamily Rent Forecast & Outlook Anticipates Another Great Year Ahead for the Apartment Market

Rent growth at multifamily properties across the United States in 2015 is expected to increase 4.5 percent for Class A and B+ assets and 5.1 percent for Class B and C assets, with some technology-heavy Western markets seeing spikes as high as 9 percent.

Rent growth at multifamily properties across the United States in 2015 is expected to increase 4.5 percent for Class A and B+ assets and 5.1 percent for Class B and C assets, with some technology-heavy Western markets seeing spikes as high as 9 percent.The 2015 Rent Forecast & Outlook report for the U.S. multifamily sector prepared by Pierce-Eislen noted that next year’s estimated rent growth is lower than last year’s average of 5.9 percent. But the news is still good compared to previous years.

“Even with 2015’s forecasted rent growth decelerating from 2014’s pace, this still represents faster rent growth than in recent years: Rents grew by 3.7 percent in 2012 and 4.3 percent in 2013,” the report stated.

The Pierce-Eislen report said new supply in 2015 will negatively impact rent growth more in the Lifestyle segment, Class A and B+, than in what it calls the Renters by Necessity segment, Class B and C. The survey said it would result in “faster rent growth at the lower end of the market, in contrast to the trend seen earlier in the cycle.”

Of the 10 strongest markets in the U.S., seven were in the West with Denver and San Francisco topping the list each with 9 percent rent growth expected. The report noted that the Bay Area (East) and Portland are predicted to have 8.5 percent rent growth; Bay Area (South), Suburban Atlanta, are both estimated to have 8 percent growth; Seattle, Sacramento and Southwest Florida should all see rent increases of about 7.5 percent and Urban Atlanta is estimated to have 7 percent growth.

“Ordinary cyclical patterns do not seem to apply to these markets at this time,” said Jack Kern, director of research and publications at Pierce-Eislen. “Denver is on its third year of having a new historic high rental rate almost every month. The Bay Area has seen nearly three years of double-digit rental growth.”

The 10 weakest markets for the Lifestyle segment are in the Mid-Atlantic region and the Carolinas, where rent growth is expected to be 2.5 percent or less. Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia are predicted to have no rent increases at all for 2015, according to the Pierce-Eislen report.

Kern said there were several reasons for the lack of rental increases in the Washington, D.C. region, including government jobs that were lost to sequester. Many of the jobs that have been created in the area are in service industries with lower wages than the high-end jobs that were lost.

“There is widening income inequality and sluggish wage growth for low- and moderate-income workers,” Kern said.

He also cited more supply expected to hit the region, saying a “doubling of inventory is coming online in 2015 versus 2014.”

Additional supply is also predicted to impact Charlotte, N.C.’s multi-family market, according to the report. Pierce-Eislen is estimating a 3 percent year-over-year rental increase in Charlotte, where the vacancy rates have risen from 5.1 percent in 2012 to 5.5 percent in 2014.

“Although employment growth was strong in 2012, it has not kept pace with the dramatic overbuilding occurring in the market,” the report stated.

Pierce-Eislen said Albuquerque, N.M., is another city that has seen “surprisingly robust” construction. It also expects only a 3 percent rental increase in this tertiary market.

“Unless employment improves, new supply may strain the already weak vacancy rates and reduce rental rates,” the report noted.

Markets like San Francisco and Denver are seeing a high percentage of new units coming online, but the report stated it is not keeping up with the increasing demand. Also in the West, metropolitan Los Angeles is getting a significant number of new units. With vacancies increasing, Pierce-Eislen projects only a 3.5 percent rental increase for 2015 for L.A.

Meanwhile, the nearby San Fernando Valley and Ventura submarkets are seeing strong growth. Pierce-Eislen reports that Burbank has a new plan which allows for up-zoning and a density of seven units to an acre. Glendale is getting 4,000 new units.

Also in California, rents have climbed 30 percent over the past three years in Sonoma County, faster than almost anywhere else in the U.S., because of a lack of supply, Kern added.

In suburban Las Vegas, vacancy rates have dropped from a peak of 11 percent in 2009 to 5.5 percent, according to Kern. He said investors were aggressively buying up local properties during the recession, often at heavily reduced prices, and are now building new multi-family communities. There is big demand for apartments because residents hit hard by bankruptcies, foreclosures and short sale are having difficulty getting mortgages and are forced to rent.

Suburban Atlanta is an area where the improving economy has been evident with strong job growth. Pierce-Eislen expects 8 percent year-over-year rental increase in this Southeast market, where rents have been steadily rising, up 2.7 percent in 2012, 5.9 percent in 2013 and 7.9 percent in 2014.

“Rents have been growing significantly, and there is considerable room for growth in the medium term,” the report stated.

While the report does point to some potential pitfalls in the coming year, including the dropping oil prices and how that may affect some regions, the economic forecast is generally positive.

“The economy as we know it has changed substantially over this period (2012 to 2014), in some ways negatively and in others pointing to a brighter perspective,” the report concluded. “While the U.S. economy and the real estate market see different patterns and GDP does not track the rate of real property demand, we believe that growth is likely in both.”