Here are the Top “Sell Markets” in an Overpriced World as “the Apartment Cycle Draws Closer and Closer to the End” | Wolf Street

Here are the Top “Sell Markets” in an Overpriced World as “the Apartment Cycle Draws Closer and Closer to the End” | Wolf Street

by Wolf Richter • Feb 16, 2017 • 52 Comments

Commercial Property Bust to hit Multifamily Rentals in San Francisco & New York, the Most Expensive Markets in the World

Two reports – one on the most expensive rental markets in the world, and the other on the top multifamily “Sell Markets” in the US – have the same winners: San Francisco and New York City, where the dynamics have changed and, for landlords, are veering for the worse.

Of the 120 global cities researched by online property service Nested, the top three most expensive rental markets are San Francisco, New York City, and Boston. They easily blow away other global hot spots such as Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, Paris, Vancouver, and Toronto. After years of soaring rents in the US, eight US cities are among the 15 most expensive rental markets.

To measure affordability, Nested’s report compares the cost of rents per square foot. Based on the minimum recommended dwelling size for a single person (420 square feet or 39 square meters) and for a family of four (800 square feet or 74 square meters), the report calculates the minimum incomes required to be able to rent in these cities (with rents not to exceed 29% of gross salary).

The table below shows the top 27 cities in Nested’s 2017 Rental Index. I chose the top 27, rather than the top 25 or 20, to get Toronto on the list. We’ve covered the ballooning house price bubble in Toronto (#27 on the list) and the now deflating house price bubble in Vancouver (#18) many times, most recently with the January numbers. Both cities measure among the most expensive in the world in terms of house prices, but are way down in terms of rents. This is another indication of just how precarious their house price bubbles have become.

In San Francisco (#1 on the list), rents cost $4.95 per square foot. So a single person in a 420 square foot studio, costing $2,078 a month, would have to earn $86,000 a year in gross salary (before taxes, social security, and the like) to be able to rent and have some money left over for living expenses. For a family of four, the income requirement jumps to $163,000 a year:

Since the table is in US dollars, exchange rates influence the rankings. But it’ll do for our purposes. Within the US, these three most expensive rental markets are the same in other reports I have cited. So there’s some rare agreement in the data. And in these markets, rents have begun to drop sharply, though they’re still soaring in Mid-Tier Cities.

San Francisco and New York have gotten so ludicrously expensive, and have so much new supply coming on the market, just as their economic growth has begun to slow, that they’re now the top two SELL markets for investors, according to Ten-X Research’s report and outlook.

In the US overall, the multifamily market is “still strong but fundamentals are weakening,” and some “face worrisome market dynamics.” The report summarizes:

The Bay Area is seeing high development and is the most exposed to a change in cyclical dynamics. NYC and Boston are seeing building booms, while Northern NJ will struggle as availability in neighboring NYC rises. Miami too is seeing high development at the wrong time cyclically.

As development rises, most markets will see vacancies creep higher, slowing rent growth. It appears the apartment cycle is drawing closer and closer to the end.

In some cities, the dynamics have soured. Expected rent declines through 2020 and surging vacancy rates are turning them, for landlords, into the “top sell markets”:

#1 Sell Market: San Francisco

  • Though there was still “solid annual employment growth” last year, the pace has “decelerated to the mid-2% range with major sectors losing steam.”
  • Apartment vacancies “have been rising steadily” from just above 3% in 2012 to 4.4% now.
  • “Persistent heavy supply will boost vacancies north of 6% by 2018, and even higher in our 2019-2020 recession scenario.”

#2 Sell Market: New York City

  • The city’s pace of employment gains has “decelerated to the mid-1% range with slowdowns in most of the metro’s major sectors.”
  • Vacancies have risen nearly 2 percentage points from recent lows to 4% in Q3.
  • “Heavy supply additions in Brooklyn and Queens will boost vacancies north of 10% by 2018.”
  • Expect rents to decline “by more than 5% through 2018 as vacancies mount. Rents will fall even further as our 2019-2020 scenario takes shape.”

#3 Sell Market: San Jose

  • Another city subject to Bay Area dynamics. While metro employment is up nearly 3.4% year-over-year, job growth is now decelerating.
  • Apartment vacancies rose 0.5 percentage points from a year ago to 4.1% and are “forecast to continue rising past their highest recorded levels as demand falls off amid a robust pipeline, reaching 6.5% by 2018 and climbing to the mid-8% range under our recession scenario.”
  • Rent growth has been cooling rapidly to 1.5% from a year ago, with no more than “tepid growth” next year. Rents will “begin declining by 2018, ahead of our 2019-2020 stress test scenario.”

#4 Sell Market: Miami

  • The number of jobs rose 1.6% “but the pace of growth has slowed over the last year.”
  • Apartment vacancies rose 0.7 percentage points to 4.7% in Q3. And a lot of new supply is in the pipeline, “boosting vacancies to a historic high above 8% by 2018 and past 10% in our 2019-2020 recessionary scenario.”
  • Effective rents are at an all-time peak, “but growth has already decelerated and will continue to slide as vacancies rise.

These multifamily properties are part of the vast commercial real estate bubble that the Fed is now confronting, with an eye on the banks that have made it possible. Various Fed governors and even Fed Chair Yellen have been voicing their fear of “waiting too long” to raise rates to cool it all down. Or of “having already waited too long?” Read…  Fed Frets about Commercial Real Estate Bubble & its $2 Trillion in Loans Mostly at “Smaller Banks”

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