The median Arlington apartment rent grew slightly in February, with rental rates remaining slightly higher than during pre-pandemic times.
The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,982 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,399 for two bedrooms, according to data reported March 1 by Apartment List.
Compared to the period immediately preceding the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020, Arlington rents are up 0.5 percent.
Arlington’s relatively flat March report compares to a median-rental-cost increase of 0.6 percent for the month nationally, bringing the year-over-year rebound to 17.6 percent.
“After a slight seasonal cooldown over the past few months, rent growth is back on an upward trajectory,” noted Apartment List analysts Chris Salviati, Igor Popov, Rob Warnock and Lilla Szini.
But while the market is warming with the temperatures, it has not returned to red-hot territory.
“Even though month-over-month rent growth has moved back into positive territory, it remains substantially cooler than last summer, when rents grew by more than 2 percent per month for four straight months,” the analysts noted. “Year-over-year rent growth currently stands at a staggering 17.6 percent, but most of that growth took place last spring and summer. Over the past four months, rents have increased by a total of just 0.7 percent.”
(For the full national report, see the Website at https://www.apartmentlist.com/research/national-rent-data.)
Median rents increased over the past month in 74 of the nation’s 100 largest urban areas, with Sun Belt markets such as Phoenix and Miami continuing to see some of the nation’s fastest growth.
The early stages of the pandemic led to a modest decline in rents from March through December 2020 (-2.5%), but the staggering growth of 2021 more than made up for the lost ground. In fact, the national median rent ($1,321) is now $126 greater than where Apartment List projects it would have been if rent growth since the start of the pandemic had been in line with the average growth rates we saw in 2018 and 2019. Rent growth over the past year has far outpaced that of any prior year in the firm’s estimates, which go back to 2017.
“If 2020 was characterized by price convergence (expensive cities getting cheaper and cheaper cities getting more expensive), 2021 was characterized by price inflation: cities large and small getting more expensive, rapidly,” the analysts said.
For comparison, year-over-year rent growth in February averaged just 2.4 percent in the three years preceding the pandemic.
The Miami metro has seen the nation’s fastest growth over the past six months (11%), more than tripling the growth rate of the national index over that period.
The Miami metro also ranks No. 1 for year-over-year rent growth and No. 5 for growth since March 2020. Phoenix and Tucson are the only other metros to land in the top 10 across all three of these time horizons.
The Tampa metro has had the fastest rent growth over the course of the pandemic as a whole, with a 36-percent increase. However, growth in Tampa has cooled slightly in recent months, with a more modest 3.9 percent increase since last August, roughly in line with the national average.
Similarly, the Riverside (Calif.) metro ranks No. 3 for growth since March 2020, but a relatively large share of that growth occurred in 2020, and Riverside has fallen out of the top 10 over the past year.
“On the other hand, we’ve also seen some metros heating up in recent months which had not been among the hottest markets in the earlier phases of the pandemic – the New Orleans, San Diego, Dallas, Nashville and Los Angeles metros each appear in the top 10 in only the six-month column,” analysts noted.
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of markets have seen much more modest rent growth since the start of the pandemic. These are generally a mix of pricey coastal metros, where rents fell sharply in 2020 followed by a rebound last year, and Rust Belt metros, where growth has consistently been sluggish compared to the national average.
San Francisco is the only metro in the listing where rents remain below pre-pandemic levels.
On the supply side, Apartment List’s national vacancy index is continuing to slowly inch up, indicating a gradual easing of the tight market conditions that have characterized the rental market over the past year.
“We estimate that the national vacancy rate hit 4.5 percent this month, continuing a seven-month streak of increases after bottoming out at 3.8 percent last August,” the analysts noted.