Strong Fundamentals, Weak Market: A Multifamily Paradox

Eric Wilson


July 31, 2023

6 min read

Eric Wilson


July 31, 2023

5 min read

It isn't often that we see such a clear dichotomy in the same sector. According to a recent report by Yardi Matrix, "U.S. Multifamily Outlook: Summer 2023", the multifamily housing sector presents a paradox of strong fundamentals on one hand and weak market indicators on the other.

Strong Fundamentals

Despite indications of a potential economic slowdown, the multifamily housing sector has shown resilient fundamentals. The demand for multifamily housing has persisted, primarily driven by a national housing shortage and the need for affordable rental options.

The robust demand for rental units has propelled rent growth. As per Yardi Matrix's report, the average U.S. monthly rent reached an unprecedented high of $1,716 in the first five months of 2023. Large metropolitan areas, including Central Jersey, Austin, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City, have seen forecasted annual rent growth between 3.1 percent and 3.7 percent.

Moreover, the housing sector is expected to welcome nearly 1 million new units over the next two years. This anticipation of new supply indicates the market's proactive response to ongoing demand.

Weak Market Indicators

While the fundamentals remain strong, the multifamily sector isn't immune to broader economic fluctuations. Property values and sales prices have experienced a steep decline in 2023. The Yardi Matrix data also hints at the negative impact of high-cost debt on the sector, with an expected increase in defaults in the coming months.

Housing Shortage and Multifamily Demand

One of the primary drivers behind the persistent demand for multifamily housing is the ongoing national housing crisis. Homeownership has become increasingly challenging due to higher mortgage rates and an annual drop in home sales.

Mortgage rates shot up to 6.5 percent in March 2023, a significant increase of 230 basis points from March 2022. These higher rates have further deterred potential homebuyers, contributing to a decline in available single-family homes. As homeowners choose not to sell amid high interest rates, the resulting housing crisis presents an opportunity for the multifamily sector to step in and fulfill housing needs.

Oversupply Concerns

While the influx of new tenants can reap benefits for the sector, there is an underlying concern of potential oversupply. Over 1 million units were estimated to be under construction in the first half of 2023, with more than 430,000 units expected to be delivered by the end of the year, and an additional 450,000 in 2024. Markets expected to witness the highest number of new units include Austin, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, New York, and Phoenix.

This surge in supply may lead to intense competition among landlords, particularly in the high-end lifestyle segment, where rent growth has been slower compared to renter-by-necessity properties.

Slowdown in Transactions

The uncertainty in the capital markets, combined with higher interest rates, has led to a marked slowdown in multifamily transactions. Compared to previous years, the pace of transactions in 2023 has decreased by about 70%. The average price-per-unit for multifamily housing has also dropped by 15%, falling from an average of $210,000 in 2022 to $181,000 in 2023.

The Path to Recovery

Despite these headwinds, industry experts remain hopeful. Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix, expects transactions to pick up in the second quarter of 2024 as clarity on interest rates and new supply enters the market.

In conclusion, while the multifamily sector navigates this uncertainty, it's crucial to remember that real estate is subject to changes and fluctuations. Despite the challenges, the sector's strong fundamentals and the promise of a recovery in 2024 provide a silver lining in the current landscape.