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Rents Drop for 4th Straight Month in December, With San Jose, SF & NYC Among Slowest Growing Rental Markets

Key takeaways:

  • The average US apartment rent decreased for the fourth consecutive month, reaching $1,210 in December
  • On a year-over-year basis, rental prices gained 4% nationwide, according to Yardi Matrix
  • The West Coast leads the country in annual increases, with Sacramento and Stockton at the forefront
  • Tulsa, OK, sees the biggest annual price drop, with rents in the city now nearly half of the national average

After a nine-month growing streak, rents began to cool off in September, with December cementing the idea that the rental market is indeed softening. The intensified construction activity that saw new apartment inventory levels grow by 50% in 2016 compared to 2015 (320,000 vs. 200,000 new units) had a huge say in the evolution of rental prices this past year.

The average US apartment rent dropped by $4 in December to $1,210, according to data from Yardi Matrix which tracks rent data across 124 markets across the US (approx. 14.7M units and 78,000+ properties).


Prices dipped across all major property types in December compared to the previous month, with one-bedroom apartments seeing the biggest decrease, -0.4%. Specifically, studios now rent for $1,059, one-bedrooms go for $1,089, two-bedroom units average $1,284 and three-bedrooms call for $1,495 per month.

On an annual basis, however, rents are still on an upward climb, settling at 4% in December, well above the long-term (eight-year) 2.3% average.

Bedroom TypeAverage RentChange M-o-MChange Y-o-Y
1 Bed$1,089-0.4%3.9%
2 Beds$1,284-0.2%4.1%
3 Beds$1,495-0.1%3.9%

High-End Apartment Glut Hits Luxury Market Prices: Rents in Upscale Properties Down 0.3% in December

Still fighting off the ghosts of a bitter recession, many people turned away from homeownership and see renting as a viable, more flexible housing alternative. Enticed by shorter commutes, amenity-rich environments, and low-maintenance, mortgage-free housing, even those who can afford to buy homes are choosing to rent — Millennials and Baby Boomers included.

In fact, the number of renter households that earn more than $150,000/year, the highest income bracket according to the U.S. Census Bureau, has exploded over the last decade. Totaling approximately 551K in 2005, the number of wealthy renters had grown to 1.75M in 2015, widening the ranks of the high-income renter cohort by an impressive 1.2M.

Naturally, this demand for luxury apartments has not been left unattended. Most of the cranes dotting the skylines of our major urban hubs are working to build luxury apartments. In 2015, 3 out of 4 new apartments were high-end (or 75% of all large-scale rental developments). In 2016, construction followed the same trend, with 80% of new apartment buildings completed in 2016 categorized as luxury.

These properties come with some exquisite amenities. Think 24/7 health and fitness centers, yoga rooms, concierge services, rooftop farms, and infinity pools. And, believe it or not, shrinking prices. The huge number of high-end units entering the market means there’s competition among properties and offerings which helps keep rents somewhat stable.

The average rent for luxury apartments has been on a very gradual downward slope for the last four months, reaching $1,397 in December.


Following Record-High Apartment Construction, Rents are Cooling Off in SF, San Jose, Boston

Perhaps the fact that the pace of rent growth is slow in markets where demand and supply are in relative equilibrium such as Tulsa, OK; Corpus Christi, TX; and El Paso, TX, is not that surprising. But the good news comes from high-flying cities for a change. Renters in historically tight markets such as New York City; San Francisco; San Jose, CA; and Boston are finally seeing some respite from the continuous rent hikes that plundered their pockets in recent years.

Rents in San Francisco — where new unit completions are at a 10-year high with about 3,200 apartments coming online in 2016 — have decreased 0.9% year-over-year and only increased 0.3% from last month. That doesn’t seem that much, does it? To put things into perspective, in December 2015, rents in the City by the Bay were showing a 9% increase year-over-year. In 2014, things were even worse with a staggering 13% year-over-year growth in city rents. In other words, renters are now paying $147 more on rent than they did in 2015, which seems almost reasonable considering that the previous growth cycles translated into double that amount. Renters were shelling out $278 more in rent, on average, in 2015 than in 2014, and $351 more in 2014 compared to the previous year.

Similarly, rents are flatlining in San Jose, where supply is finally catching up with demand. The rental market is also softening in New York City, with the two most popular boroughs — Manhattan and Brooklyn — experiencing rent deceleration. Rent growth stands at 0.6% in Brooklyn month-over-month, while apartments in Manhattan command $4,144 per month, which is $2 less compared to November. On an annual basis, rents in Manhattan have increased by a mere 0.4%, making it the 6th slowest-growing market when it comes to rental prices.

Detroit, Nashville, Fort Worth Join Usual West Coast Culprits in Staggering Y-O-Y Rent Growth

While rent growth is occurring at a slower pace nationally, not all cities are created equal. If concessions such as a month of free rent, free gym access, and waived move-in fees are becoming the new norm in construction-crazed markets such as Houston, Boston and Manhattan, that’s certainly not the case for Sacramento renters, where limited inventory levels keep rents spiraling.

At 12.2%, California‘s capital city leads the nation in annual rent growth, followed by Stockton at 10.6% and Colorado Springs in Colorado at 10%.

Detroit rents are also rising at a rapid pace, a sign that the city has recovered some of its appeal and economic strength — even though, when it comes to new apartment construction, it is still lagging behind. A very modest 200 units opened in Detroit in 2016 and that’s one of the factors contributing to the huge 9.3% rent growth year-over-year. As a consequence, Detroit apartments now command $932 per month, on average.

Which Arizona City Has Fastest Growing Rents in Statewide, Posting Double Digit Growth in December? Surprise!

The sound employment picture, growing population, and robust demand for apartments are driving Arizona rents to record levels. Surprise — one of the largest cities in the state — takes the lead with a 12.6% rent growth year-over-year, followed by Mesa (9.1%) and Glendale (8.8%), while Phoenix comes in fifth with a 7.1% annual increase, according to Yardi Matrix data.

Phoenix apartments now rent for $889 per month, or $59 more than in December 2015, with rents kept in check by the high number of completions. Approximately 2,900 new units were delivered in 2016, with more than 3,500 apartments in the pipeline.

But the same doesn’t hold true for cities such as Surprise and Gilbert, where available inventory is scarce. Renters in Surprise, where new large-scale development is practically nonexistent, are now shelling out $1,025 per month on average, $115 more than the same month last year. At the same time, the priciest Arizona city for renters is Scottsdale, where rents hit $1,254 in December.

From an investment standpoint, the Phoenix metro area is expected to maintain its status as a top-performing market. “Phoenix has been at such a restricted level of multifamily housing over the last 10 years that saturation is not an issue”, said Yardi Matrix senior analyst Doug Ressler. “Market fundamentals will remain strong in 2017 as the area continues to attract top employers, particularly in the tech sector.” What’s more, (…) “pension funds and life insurance companies, and even individual investors, are buying multifamily product because apartments are a safe investment”, Ressler pointed out.

Phoenix has seen tremendous efforts meant to rebuild its urban core — and these efforts are starting to pay off. SkySong, the 42-acre ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, is projected to generate more than $32 billion in economic output and more than 10,000 new jobs across the Valley of the Sun over the next 30 years, according to new analysis performed by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. State Farm, another major player in the area, plans to boost employment numbers by 1,000 new hires at its Marina Heights regional headquarters in Tempe. Marina Heights, which cost more than $700 million to develop, may eventually house up to 8,000 employees.

Top 3 Most Expensive Rentals in Arizona in December

Monthly Rent: $40,000
Address: 7017 N Invergordon Road, Paradise Valley, Maricopa County, AZ 85253
Photo credit: Point2 Homes


Monthly Rent: $36,000
Address: 20011 W Minnezona Avenue, Glendale, Maricopa County, AZ 85340
Photo credit: Point2 Homes


Monthly Rent: $35,000
Address: 5761 N Casa Blanca Drive, Paradise Valley, Maricopa County, AZ 85253
Photo credit: Realty Executives Phoenix


Top U.S. Cities With Highest & Lowest Rental Prices

Apartment construction may indeed be taming rents across the board, but affordability still eludes many of our nation’s renters. Our most recent research of U.S. Census Bureau and Yardi Matrix data revealed that more than two-thirds of the 100 biggest U.S. cities are moderately rent-burdened, meaning that rent takes up between 30 and 49.9% of the median income.

And while it’s true that Manhattan may have something to be joyous about as rent growth is softening, the borough still remains the #1 most expensive place to live in the US with an eye-popping $4,144 in average rent. The second and third least affordable rental markets are San Francisco and Boston, where rents hover around $3,360 and $3,172 respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, Wichitaends the year as the cheapest big city for renters in the U.S., with apartments commanding $631 per month, on average.

Check out this table to see where your city stands when it comes to rent growth and average rent prices:

RankCityAverage RentChange M-o-MChange Y-o-Y
1Sacramento, CA$1,1931.1%12.2%
2Stockton, CA$991-0.1%10.6%
3Colorado Springs, CO$1,0200.1%10.0%
4Detroit, MI$9321.1%9.3%
5Mesa, AZ$8640.8%9.1%
6Long Beach, CA$1,8280.2%9.0%
7Riverside, CA$1,3750.9%7.9%
8Arlington, TX$913-0.3%7.5%
9Nashville, TN$1,240-0.8%7.3%
10Seattle, WA$1,895-0.1%7.2%
11Phoenix, AZ$8890.9%7.1%
12Las Vegas, NV$9050.3%6.7%
13Tampa, FL$1,1620.1%6.2%
14Henderson, NV$1,0730.4%6.1%
15Plano, TX$1,263-0.4%6.0%
16Miami, FL$1,5620.5%5.9%
17Dallas, TX$1,102-0.2%5.9%
18Anaheim, CA$1,645-0.9%5.9%
19Fort Worth, TX$996-0.5%5.7%
20Los Angeles, CA$2,1690.5%5.7%
21Tucson, AZ$7650.4%5.7%
22Chandler, AZ$1,0911.0%5.6%
23Cincinnati, OH$928-0.2%5.3%
24Bakersfield, CA$9150.1%5.3%
25Chula Vista, CA$1,5550.1%5.3%
26Indianapolis, IN$8050.5%5.0%
27Portland, OR$1,4520.2%4.9%
28Fresno, CA$9230.3%4.9%
29Denver, CO$1,4650.1%4.9%
30Kansas City, MO$906-0.7%4.9%
31Orlando, FL$1,2310.6%4.9%
32Columbus, OH$848-0.4%4.7%
33Oakland, CA$2,448-0.2%4.7%
34Atlanta, GA$1,299-0.3%4.6%
35Aurora, CO$1,2230.1%4.5%
36St. Paul, MN$1,1410.5%4.5%
37Santa Ana, CA$1,748-0.3%4.4%
38Minneapolis, MN$1,4130.6%4.4%
39Jacksonville, FL$9600.8%4.2%
40Raleigh, NC$1,078-0.3%4.2%
41Philadelphia, PA$1,4881.7%4.1%
42Chicago, IL$1,741-0.1%4.1%
43Austin, TX$1,312-1.0%4.0%
44Charlotte, NC$1,107-0.6%3.9%
45New Orleans, LA$1,093-0.2%3.7%
46Virginia Beach, VA$1,126-0.9%3.4%
47Lincoln, NE$8840.2%3.4%
48San Antonio, TX$9760.5%3.4%
49Albuquerque, NM$8130.0%3.3%
50San Diego, CA$1,932-0.5%3.2%
51Cleveland, OH$9600.4%3.1%
52Memphis, TN$7280.7%3.0%
53Greensboro, NC$817-0.4%2.9%
54Baltimore, MD$1,1780.9%2.9%
55Omaha, NE$841-0.4%2.7%
56Milwaukee, WI$1,0720.8%2.7%
57Washington, DC$2,053-0.2%2.7%
58Louisville, KY$854-1.3%2.5%
59Pittsburgh, PA$1,098-1.3%2.4%
60St. Louis, MO$8600.5%2.3%
61Newark, NJ$1,1000.2%2.2%
62Jersey City, NJ$2,7540.0%1.9%
63Wichita, KS$6310.2%1.6%
64Oklahoma City, OK$7371.2%1.1%
65Lexington, KY$841-1.2%1.0%
66Houston, TX$1,046-0.9%0.8%
67El Paso, TX$7520.7%0.4%
68New York City (Manhattan), NY$4,1440.0%0.4%
69Boston, MA$3,172-0.1%0.3%
70San Jose, CA$2,5490.0%0.0%
71Corpus Christi, TX$9650.5%-0.7%
72San Francisco, CA$3,3600.3%-0.9%
73Tulsa, OK$672-0.7%-1.6%
74Toledo, OH$655-0.9%-
75New York City (Brooklyn), NY$2,8190.6%-

About RentCafe and How We Compiled the Data

RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.

To compile this report, RentCafe’s research team analyzed rent data across the 75 largest cities in the US. The report is exclusively based on apartment data related to buildings containing 50 or more units.

Rent data was provided by Yardi Matrix, an apartment market intelligence source and RentCafe’s sister company which researches and reports on all multifamily properties of 50+ units across 124 markets in the United States. Rental rate coverage is for Market Rate properties only. Fully Affordable properties are not included in the Yardi Matrix rental surveys and are not reported in rental rate averages.

Based on Yardi Matrix’s definition and classification of the apartment market by rental household segments, high-end or luxury rental properties are those that fall into the discretionary (Class A+/A) and high mid-range (Class A-/B+) class categories.

*National averages include 124 markets across the US, not just the 75 cities featured in the report.

Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet
Amalia Otet is an online content developer and creative writer for RENTCafé. She loves all things real estate and strives to live beautifully, one green step at a time.

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