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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

The Multifamily Housing National Report


multifamily housing

The multifamily housing market in the United States is witnessing unprecedented dynamics in 2024, marked by record-setting demand and a simultaneous surge in new supply. The first quarter of this year has set the stage for a fascinating interplay between these forces, creating a landscape ripe with both opportunities and challenges.


Record-Breaking Demand and Absorption


From January to March 2024, the multifamily sector experienced the strongest first-quarter net absorption on record, with nearly 104,000 apartments rented nationwide. This figure dwarfs the historical average of about 12,500 units typically absorbed in the first quarter over the past 30 years. Such robust demand, particularly ahead of the traditionally high-demand spring and summer months, positions the sector to achieve a three-year high in net absorption by year-end, barring any unforeseen setbacks.


graph of net absorption

Several indicators underscore this demand momentum. In April, the average time an apartment remained vacant dropped to 28 days, an eight-month low and a significant improvement from December 2023's 34 days. Additionally, the number of new lease applications per unit rose to an eight-month high, while the renewal rate of existing leases reached its highest point since August 2023. These metrics highlight a vigorous demand from both new and current tenants.


Surging Supply Challenges Vacancy and Rent Growth


Despite the record demand, the multifamily market is grappling with an equally historic surge in new supply. The first quarter saw the completion of more than 135,000 new units, the largest quarterly tally ever recorded. This influx, however, has put upward pressure on vacancy rates, which increased by 10 basis points to 5.9% during the same period.


graph of rent growth

Construction activity remains heavily concentrated, with eight major markets — Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, New York City, Orlando, and Phoenix — accounting for more than one-third of the national completions. These cities also absorbed a disproportionate share of the net new rentals, indicating a relative balance between development and demand. Nevertheless, the wave of new openings has spurred the use of rental concessions in many construction-heavy markets, thereby dampening rent growth across the board.


Regional Variations in Supply and Demand


The regional supply and demand dynamics vary significantly. Nine major markets, including Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City, experienced annual inventory growth exceeding 4.0%, with some surpassing 6.5%. This rapid expansion has led to notable increases in vacancy rates and slight declines in effective rents. Conversely, markets with more moderate construction, such as Chicago, Detroit, New York City, and Pittsburgh, saw minimal vacancy increases and, in some cases, achieved annual rent gains.


graph of luxury unit discount

Affordability Pressures and Concessions


The growing affordability gap between owning a home and renting an apartment continues to fuel multifamily demand. As of early 2024, the difference between a typical monthly mortgage payment for a median-priced home and the average apartment rent exceeded $1,200, a figure that has tripled over the past three years. This affordability disparity is exacerbated by soaring home prices and persistently high mortgage rates, with the average 30-year mortgage rate hovering near 7%.


graph of highest and lowest metros

In response to the increased supply, the prevalence of rental concessions has surged, particularly in markets with high vacancy rates like San Antonio, Jacksonville, Austin, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Raleigh. These concessions, initially more common in higher-end units, have spread to lower-quality rentals as well.


graph of concession activity


Economic and Financial Context


graphic of the 2024 forecast

The broader economic environment also plays a critical role in shaping the multifamily market. The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates steady since July 2023, with the federal funds rate remaining at a lower bound of 5.25%. While this pause has maintained elevated borrowing costs, the multifamily sector continues to attract financing, albeit with challenges. Lenders are active, though they often prioritize existing relationships and impose conservative loan-to-value ratios.


graph of investment sales

The national labor market's resilience, adding nearly 1 million jobs in the first four months of 2024, has supported multifamily demand. However, high debt costs and a cooling single-family housing market have made financing multifamily projects more complex. The average cap rate for multifamily properties has risen to 5.7%, the highest since 2014, reflecting recalibrated pricing in an elevated interest rate environment.


Outlook for the Multifamily Sector


Looking ahead, the multifamily market is poised for continued dynamism. While new supply is set to remain substantial through 2025 and 2026, a recent pullback in multifamily permits suggests a potential longer-term slowdown. In the near term, the sector will need to navigate the challenges of balancing robust demand against the pressures of significant new supply and rising concessions.


graph of upcoming multifamily loan maturities

 

Ultimately, the multifamily market's trajectory in 2024 and beyond will be shaped by its ability to adapt to these evolving dynamics, balancing development, affordability, and economic conditions to meet the housing needs of a diverse and growing population.

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