Full Impact from Employment Losses not yet Evident in Single-Family Rents

US Single-Family Rents Up 3% Year Over Year in March

By Molly Boesel Housing Affordability, Property Rental

  • Rents for lower-priced homes increased faster than those of higher-priced homes in March compared with a year earlier.
  • Phoenix had the highest increase in rent in March from a year earlier.

U.S. single-family rents increased 3% year over year in March 2020, the same rate of increase as March 2019, according to the CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI). The index measures rent changes among single-family rental homes, including condominiums, using a repeat-rent analysis to measure the same rental properties over time. Single-family rents were on the rise in early 2020 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, having increased by an average of 3.1% year over year for the first three months of the year. Impacts from state and local shutdowns on the rental market will be apparent in the coming months.

Figure 1: National Single-Family Rent Index Year-Over-Year Percent Change By Price Tier

Using the rent index to analyze specific price tiers reveals important differences in rent growth. Figure 1 shows that the index’s overall growth in March 2020 was propped up by low-end rentals, defined as properties with rents 75% or less of the median rent of the metro area[1]. Rents on low-tier rental homes increased 3.9% year over year and rents for high-tier homes, defined as properties with rents more than 125% of the metro-area median rent, increased 2.7% year over year. Rents for low-tier homes have been outpacing than those of high-tier homes since April 2014, and while the difference in these growth rates has narrowed over time, it widened again in March 2020.

Figure 2: Single-Family Rent Index Year-Over-Year Percent Change in 20 Markets

Rent growth varies significantly across metro areas. Figure 2 shows the year-over-year change in the rental index for 20 large metropolitan areas in March 2020. Phoenix had the highest year-over-year rent growth this March as it has since late 2018, with an increase of 6.8%, followed by Seattle (+6.2%) and Tucson (+5.3%). While none of the 20 metro areas showed decreases in rent, both Philadelphia and Honolulu recorded sub-1% growth in March. Philadelphia also had the largest deceleration in rent growth in March, showing annual rent growth of 3 percentage points lower than in March 2019. Seattle had the largest acceleration in rent growth in March, with rents increasing 5 percentage points faster than in March 2019. Employment gains turned negative in four of the 20 metros tracked in the report in March, a trend that will soon reach the remaining metros, likely impacting single-family rental prices.  

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[1] Metro areas used in this report are Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Metropolitan Divisions where available. The SFRI is computed for 75 metros.