Rent growth remains negative in December

rent growth continues negative

The latest rent report from Apartment List shows that the national median monthly rent growth in December was -0.8 percent. Year-over-year rent growth was -1.0 percent.

Apartment List reported the national median apartment rent to be $1,379, down $11 from last month’s figure.

Visualizing the data

The first chart shows the history of the national median rent level since 2017. It is plotted year-by-year so that the annual change pattern is visible.

rent growth history

The chart shows that year-over-year rent growth is generally positive. The only exceptions to this pattern are in the pandemic year of 2020 and in 2023. While 2023 year-over-year rent growth has been negative since June, the size of the year-over-year decrease peaked in September and has recently been slowly declining.

The next chart shows the year-over-year rate of rent growth since January 2018 plotted along with the national median apartment vacancy rate. The chart shows that the vacancy rate is trending higher, although at a slower pace than in 2022. The current national average vacancy rate is 6.5 percent.

year-over-year rent growth and vacancy rate history

The final chart shows the change in the national median apartment rent since January 2017 in nominal dollar terms along with two other measures of rent accounting for changes in income and price levels. The Income adjusted curve adjusts the rent by the change in average hourly earnings as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Inflation adjusted curve adjusts the rent by the general change in price level as measured by the not seasonally adjusted Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). The curves show that, while rents have soared in nominal terms, when adjusted for wage growth or for the general increases in prices, they are nearly at the same levels they were at prior to the pandemic.

rent history and inflation adjusted rent

By the numbers, since January 2017, the national average apartment rent is up 29.0 percent while the unadjusted CPI-U is up 26.4 percent and the national average hourly wage is up 31.8 percent.

Leaders and trailers

Apartment List provides the underlying data they collected in compiling their report and that data was used to create the tables, below. The tables look at the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas defined by the US Census Bureau and identify the top and bottom 10 metros for year-over-year rent growth. The tables provide the median monthly rent in the metro, the metro’s vacancy rate, the annual percentage change in rent (YoY Metro) along with the percentage change from the prior month’s rent level (MoM Metro). They also list the percentage changes in rent for the metro areas compared to the rent levels in February 2020, right before the pandemic struck (Feb 20).

The first table shows the 10 metros with the largest annual rent percentage increases. The list is notable for the absence of fast growing sunbelt cities.

Metro Metro Rent Vacancy YoY Metro MoM Metro Feb 20
Providence $1,376 4.8 4.7 (1.28) 29.0
Milwaukee $1,187 6.2 4.2 (0.23) 21.5
Chicago $1,552 5.3 3.8 (0.61) 17.2
Louisville $1,146 6.0 3.6 (0.48) 19.7
Oklahoma City $1,087 5.9 3.1 0.14 26.4
Boston $2,111 5.2 3.1 (1.28) 14.2
Washington $2,086 5.2 3.0 (0.63) 11.0
New York $2,167 4.3 3.0 (1.22) 16.8
Hartford $1,450 5.3 2.9 (0.57) 25.5
Virginia Beach $1,522 5.2 2.8 (0.30) 28.5

The next table shows the 10 metros with the smallest annual rent increases.

Metro Metro Rent Vacancy YoY Metro MoM Metro Feb 20
Austin $1,468 9.0 (5.6) (0.69) 16.1
Portland $1,625 6.6 (5.0) (1.00) 10.6
Atlanta $1,482 7.2 (4.2) (1.07) 19.9
Jacksonville $1,383 6.6 (4.2) (1.03) 24.6
Phoenix $1,445 6.8 (4.2) (0.78) 24.2
Orlando $1,559 6.8 (4.1) (0.82) 24.0
San Francisco $2,485 5.7 (3.9) (1.17) (7.6)
Raleigh $1,446 7.7 (3.6) (0.99) 23.7
San Antonio $1,248 8.6 (3.3) (1.00) 15.6
Salt Lake City $1,487 8.0 (3.3) (0.92) 22.7

In December, 29 of the 50 most populous metros saw their rents decline on a year-over-year basis. However, all but 2 of the metros saw rents decline on a month-over-month basis. San Francisco has been joined by San Jose as the only metros of the top-50 that now have rents that are below their level in February 2020, immediately before the pandemic.

The complete Apartment List report covers many more metros in addition to city, county and state data. It also provides readers with the opportunity to download their data sets. The latest report can be found here.