May was a mixed bag for renters.
On one hand, rental prices across the nation hit a new record high—for the 15th month in a row, according to a recent Realtor.com® report. Rents climbed 15.5% annually in May, to hit a median of $1,849 in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Rents were up 26.6% over the past two years. (Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.)
However, as punishing as those higher rents are, the percentage by which they increased fell as price growth slowed. While this latest hike is still brutal, it’s lower than the 16.5% rise seen in April and the nearly 17% jump in March.
(Realtor.com recently revised its rental data report methodology. Our findings are based on all studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and private rentals such as condos, townhomes, and single-family homes listed on Realtor.com in May.)
“After a long period of accelerating rental price growth, we’re seeing rental growth start to taper off over the last five months,” says Joel Berner, senior economic research analyst at Realtor.com. “The pace was unsustainable. That’s a natural limit to what [landlords] can reasonably charge.”
Rents have surged as a result of the rental—as well as for-sale—housing shortage. There are simply more people looking for places to live than there are properties for them. Builders slowed down putting up new units during the Great Recession and then struggled to rev back up—during a time when there were more millennials, a larger generation than the preceding one, seeking homes.
The rental pool also grew as those who would have become homeowners haven’t been successful in the for-sale market as a lack of homes for sale and an influx of investors have led to record-high prices, heated bidding wars, and mind-bending offers over asking prices. That’s forced many to continue renting.
Plus, the eviction moratoriums during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic halted many landlords from raising rents too much. Now that they’re mostly over, landlords can make up for the hikes they didn’t make.
“We’re going to see rents continue to level off,” predicts Berner. “Hopefully the worst of that is behind us.”
Ironically, studios are experiencing the largest price gains. Nationally, rents for the no-bedroom units, which are generally smaller spaces without dedicated bedrooms with doors that can be closed, shot up 16.9% year over year, to a median of $1,530 a month in May. One-bedroom units rose 15.2%, to a median of $1,708, while two-bedroom units were 14.8% more expensive, at a median of $2,076.
“Studios have been driving the rent growth,” says Berner. “Studio renters are generally younger and more mobile. When their financial situations get better or worse, they can move in with parents or roommates” or into a larger place.
Geographically, Miami is continuing to notch the highest rental price increases. Rents soared 45.8% in May compared with just a year earlier. It cost a median of $2,843 a month to rent a unit in The Magic City. The high prices are due to the proliferation of luxury, high-rise condos that builders put up on the water in the area.
Three of the five metros seeing the highest price growth were in Florida. The top five largest rent hikes were in Orlando, FL, at 28.4%; Providence, RI, at 23.8%; San Diego, at 22.7%; and Tampa, FL, at 22.4%.
“People are really interested in these Sun Belt metros. These warm areas are getting a ton of interest from people in other parts of the country,” says Berner. “That’s leading to higher prices because there aren’t enough places to buy or to rent.”