It was upended during the worst of the COVID crisis, but the Arlington apartment-rental market continues roaring back to life, according to a data analysis by Apartment List.
With an average rental rate of $1,962 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,375 for a two-bedroom unit, Arlington’s month-over-month rental rate in August grew 3.6 percent from July, compared to a 2.6-percent increase nationally, ranking the county 22nd among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas.
In a year-over-year comparison, the average apartment-rental rate going into August was up 3.1 percent from the summer of 2020. Last year this time, the year-over-year change was negative 5.9 percent owing to the pandemic and uncertainty about the region’s economic future.
Nationally, the rental market seems to have pushed past the COVID crisis and rants are now “well above where they would be” even had COVID not happened, Apartment List analysts Chris Salvati, Igor Popov and Rob Warnock said in a July 26 briefing. (See full data at https://bit.ly/3y8RN1o.)
“Rents remain below pre-pandemic levels in just 13 of the nation’s 100 largest cities, and even in these markets, prices are rebounding quickly,” the analysts said.
Indeed: Since January, rents in some of the urban corridors most whacked around by the pandemic and resulting government-mandated shutdowns have seen some of the biggest boosts.
San Francisco, which recorded the most significant sag in rents in the months following the onset of COVID, has seen average rental rates up by more than 17 percent since the start of 2021. Even sharper rebounds have been observed in Boston (+23 percent since January), Seattle (+22 percent) and New York City (+21 percent).
Despite the rebounds, however, rental rates are still down 14 percent from pre-COVID heights in San Francisco, and remain in negative territory in localities including Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland and Jersey City. In the District of Columbia, average rents are still down about 5 percent.
The boom that mid-sized communities have been experiencing in rental rates continues, with Boise (up 39 percent since the start of COVID) still leading the pack. It was followed by Spokane, Wash. (average rental rate up 32 percent since the start of the pandemic) and Fresno (up 26 percent).
For thriving markets, strong growth was occurring before COVID upended the national scene.
“In many of these markets, the pandemic did not start a new trend so much as accelerate an existing one,” analysts said. “For example, from 2017 through 2019, rents in Mesa, Ariz., increased 25.5 percent, the fastest growth in the nation over that period. Similarly, Fresno ranked third for fastest rent growth.”
The future remains unknowable, but if things continue moving in the right direction economically and health-wise, sustained growth in rental prices seems inevitable.
“Rental inventory across the nation remains tight, and as economic recovery continues to gain momentum, we may be seeing the release of pent-up demand from renters who had been delaying moves due to the pandemic,” analysts said. “Whereas last year’s peak moving season was halted by the pandemic, this year’s seasonal spike is more than making up for lost time.”