Saturday, January 7, 2017

Metro Denver rent growth falls to 3-year low in third quarter

According to new data from the Metro Denver Apartment Association, the average rent in the metro Denver area grew 5.9 percent from the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2016. That's the smallest year-over-year gain in the average rent since the second quarter of 2013.
The year-over-year growth rate has also been falling for the past five quarters. Year-over-year rent growth had reached an all-time high of 13.2 percent during the second quarter of 2015. Since then, the growth rate has gotten smaller each quarter, and as of the third quarter is now at a level not seen since the second quarter of 2013 when the year-over-year growth rate was 4.3 percent:

In the first graph, we see that rent growth had reached all-time highs last year, but things have since tapered off (the graph shows percentages):

At 5.9 percent, the growth rate for this year's third quarter is at a level that would have been considered very run-of-the-mill throughout the 1990s. Considering that new housing permits reached a 15-year high in metro Denver during October 2016, it may be that the period of surging rents in metro Denver is over for now. 

In the second graph, we see rent growth in non-inflation adjusted dollars over the past 35 years (the graph shows dollars): 
Although rent increases have been getting smaller, they do remain in positive territory, so we do see that the overall trend has certainly been upward. 

During the third quarter of 2016, the average rent in metro Denver was 1,358 dollars, which was up 5.9 percent from the third quarter of last year (when the average rent was $1,291), and down 0.2 percent from the second quarter (with an average rent of $1,371). It is very unusual, however, for the average rent to fall from the second quarter to the third quarter, further suggesting that the apartment market really is softening. 

Inflation-Adjusted Rents 

It is always a good idea to look at rental rates with an eye on the inflation-rate as well. In recent years, rent growth has generally outpaced the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and we see that is still the case as of the third quarter. (The CPI was up only 1.1 percent, year-over-year for the third quarter). However, we can see that rent growth, when we take inflation into account is less than it is in nominal terms. Adjusted for inflation, the average rent in metro Denver looks like this: 

As the CPI has been growing very slowly in recent years, we find little difference in the recent trend between the nominal numbers and the inflation-adjusted numbers. What's different in this case is the fact that rents can go down for years at a time  in real terms — as happened from 2001 to 2012. That has not the been the case since 2012, however, and even when adjusted for inflation, we find that rent growth has been substantial in recent years. However, as is the case with the nominal rents, the rate of year-over-year growth in rents has been falling for the past five quarters. 

The takeaway here is that rent growth continues to be positive, but the trend suggests we're already moving beyond last year's record-level rent growth and may very well be moving into a period of more moderate rent growth, especially in light of increased activity in single-family and multi-family construction.