The rental market is softening so fast in some pockets of the country that landlords have no choice but to offer concessions

Must read

It looks like homebuilders aren’t the only ones offering incentives in this housing market—landlords are too, even though the median asking rent is at a near-record high, according to Redfin. 

Last month, the median U.S. asking rent was $2,052, which is just $2 below the record-high set a year earlier, and it’s up slightly from the previous month’s $2,038. Still, landlords are finding a way to attract renters, whether that’s a one-time discount or a few months free per Redfin.   

“While asking rents are near their all-time high, tenants in some parts of the country are finding deals,” Redfin’s data journalist, Lily Katz, wrote in a new report published today. “With vacancies on the rise, some landlords are doling out one-time discounts to attract renters while maintaining high asking rents on paper.” 

She later added that because of this, rents are effectively coming down in some areas, but those declines won’t show up in asking-rent data. Either way, the rental vacancy rate in the U.S. is 6.3%, as tracked by the St. Louis Fed (which uses Census Bureau data); a year earlier, it was 5.6%. Additionally, finished residential projects in buildings with five or more units rose close to 29% year-over-year in the second quarter, according to Redfin, which Katz explained means that landlords have “more vacancies to fill and less leeway to raise prices.” So in some cases, building owners are raising rents for existing tenants but not new tenants, Katz wrote, to strengthen their returns without scaring off prospective renters. 

“A year ago, you really didn’t see concessions in the market,” Rent.com’s chief executive officer, Jon Ziglar, said in the report. “Fast forward to today, and they are far more common, with landlords offering from one to three months free in an effort to attract new tenants without lowering their asking rents.” 

Higher-end properties are coming under pressure in some markets as demand declines, while supply increases. Meanwhile, more affordable units are in demand, as there’s lower supply and consumers are less willing, or unable, to afford higher-end units at this time Ziglar added. Still, even though rents are near their all-time high, they’re no longer posting substantial year-over-year jumps similar to the last two years amid a surge in demand fueled by the pandemic, Katz wrote, pointing to August of last year, when the median asking rent was up more than 12% year-over-year. 

“Rent growth has cooled over the past year due to slowing household formation, economic uncertainty, affordability challenges and an increase in rental supply,” Katz wrote. 

Still, the rental market varies across the nation. In the West, the median asking rent dropped 1.1% year-over-year to $2,469 in August. In the South, the median asking rent fell 0.3% to $1,673. However, the median asking rent rose 4.6% over the same period in the Midwest and 1.2% in the Northeast to $1,434 and $2,509, respectively, according to Redfin. 

“The rental market has cooled quickly in the West and South in part because those markets saw outsized rent increases during the pandemic,” Katz explained, adding later that both rental markets have begun to stabilize. “Rents skyrocketed as people flooded into Sun Belt cities including Phoenix, Miami and Dallas. But once the rental frenzy cooled, rents in those regions had more room to fall. The West has also been disproportionately impacted by layoffs in the tech sector, which may be contributing to its soft rental market.” 

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

More articles

Latest article