The Wall Street Journal provides a short update on the weak conditions in the apartment rental market. Vacancies have just hit a 23 year high, and experts expect them to increase.
The story, however, is largely silent on the implications for the housing market are concerned. Some have argued that the housing market is stabilizing, and one of the encouraging signs was that purchase prices were normalizing in relationship to rentals. But in markets where rental prices are still declining, that will apply further pressure to purchase prices. Apartments are admittedly not direct substitutes for houses, but an apartment glut will put pressure on home rental prices, which will in turn affect purchase prices. While many renters lack the resources to buy a house, the two markets nevertheless overlap to a degree.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. vacancy rate reached 7.8%, a 23-year high, according to Reis Inc., a New York real-estate research firm that tracks vacancies and rents in the top 79 U.S. markets. The rate is expected to climb further in the fall and winter, when rental demand is weaker, pushing vacancies to the highest levels since Reis began its count in 1980.
Meanwhile, the air leaving the market is driving rents down, most sharply in markets that had been chugging along until a year ago, when unemployment accelerated, including Tacoma; San Jose, Calif.; and Orange County, Calif….
Driving the change is the troubled employment market, which is closely tied to rentals. With unemployment at 9.8% — a 26-year high — more would-be renters are doubling up or moving in with family and friends during periods of job loss. Landlords have been particularly battered because unemployment has been higher among workers under 35 years old, who are more likely to rent. Nationally, effective rents have fallen by 2.7% over the past year, to around $972.
“When job losses stop, rents will firm and occupancies will firm,” said Richard Campo, chief executive of Camden Property Trust, a Houston-based real-estate company.
The second and third quarters typically are the strongest periods for rental landlords because they are popular times for people to move. But this year, “vacancies just continued rising,” said Victor Calanog, director of research for Reis.
During the third quarter, vacancies increased in 42 markets, improved in 26 markets and remained unchanged in 11 markets. Omaha, Neb., saw the largest rise in vacancies, with the rate rising 1.1 percentage points to 7.4%. Other big rises were seen in Memphis, Tenn., Indianapolis, Raleigh and Tacoma.