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With any pandemic slowdown long gone, cost of renting in Seattle has surged 18.9% in one year

Median apartment rents in Seattle have increased dramatically during the past year due to low rates of vacancy and a climb from falling prices at the start of the pandemic, according to an industry tracker.

Apartment List just released its national rent report, and its findings provide an image of an increasingly costly Seattle for renters. The report finds that rent in Seattle increased by 18.9% over the past year, considerably higher than the national average increase of 17.1% during that same time.

“So far the rent growth we’ve seen this year has been slower than what we saw last year, but still above expected averages,” said senior research associate Rob Warnock.

As per the report, the median monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle weighs in at a staggering $2,097– over seven hundred dollars more per month than the nationwide average of $1,306. One-bedrooms in Seattle are similarly high, climbing to $1,681 against a national average of $1,139.

High demand for housing and low apartment vacancy have provided landlords across the country with an opportunity to increase rent. Though other factors such as inflation, construction costs, and wage growth contribute to rent trends, Warnock said these high occupancy rates are the driving force behind skyrocketing rent.

“With how expensive homes are for sale and how limited inventory is in the for sale market, that keeps more people renting, and it also keeps folks who would have previously been wealthy enough to buy homes in the rental market,” Warnock said.

Rents widely dropped as the pandemic emerged and people stopped moving into new apartments. Once people began to move again further into the pandemic, the demand for housing returned unevenly throughout the country and resulted in a longer road to recovery for dense urban cores.

Warnock said that while relatively suburban cities neighboring major urban corridors bounced back from the initial decline in rent prices at the start of the pandemic in just three to six months, the dense city cores have taken closer to 24 months to reach their pre-pandemic rent prices.

The report offers a glimpse beyond just the city of Seattle to include the metropolitan area as well, stretching from Puyallup in the south to Everett in the north, revealing similar increases throughout the region.

According to Warnock, cities further from the core of dense urban centers were less impacted by these drops in rent, instead continuing to grow with little interruption.

“What we’re left with today is Seattle, where rent prices have returned to their pre-pandemic level, and the neighboring remainder of the metropolitan area, where we have rent prices that are up 20% from where they were before the pandemic,”

Of all the cities within the Seattle metro area, Bellevue saw the largest increase over the past year, jumping by 20.9%. This brings Bellevue to have the most expensive rent in the area, where the median two-bedroom apartment will run you $2,573– a harsh increase from its most recent low of $2,059 in January 2021, and a shocking price tag that sits at nearly twice the national average.

“People typically expect that the Seattle’s of the world, they’re going to be more expensive than the Bellevue’s, from a renting perspective, but as it turns out it’s not uncommon for nearby suburbs to have more expensive median rents than the core urban area,” Warnock said.

This phenomenon can be attributed to the variety of apartment types located in urban cores, consisting of more expensive high-end apartments as well as relatively more affordable ones. Suburban areas, on the other hand, tend not to have as many low-income apartments. Warnock also said that cities like Bellevue draw the increasing number of renters seeking homes outside of city cores on the urban-suburban divide.

On the opposite end of the report is Lakewood, which maintains the least expensive rent in the Seattle metro area, growing a comparatively small 11.9% in the past year– far slower than the nationwide climb of 17.1%– leaving the median cost of a two-bedroom apartment at $1,540, over one thousand dollars less than the Bellevue equivalent.

Though not the most affordable in the region, Tacoma is the sole city in the Seattle metro area where rents fell during the past month rather than increasing, dropping by 0.2%.

The report was compiled with a methodology formulated and utilized by Apartment List since 2017. This method of data compilation was specifically designed to avoid the over-representation of luxury apartments in the Apartment List rent reports, which the company claims has yielded some level of success. The effect of eviction moratoriums was not measured in the Apartment List report and would be difficult to quantify.

Warnock said rent growth this year has been slower than that of the past year, though still above expected averages. Though there are signs the market is slowing down somewhat, rent growth is not necessarily reversing course. He advised that changes in rent correlate with the time of year, with prices increasing during the summer due to more people moving, and that declining prices are not usually seen until winter.

“I think it’s a good model for a lot of the urban regions across the country. We see a similar thing happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Boston, D.C., Miami, all having this type of rent changes, very much tied with density and urbanism,” Warnock said.

 

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Broke Renter
Broke Renter
7 months ago

Who’s finding a 2-bedroom apartment for $2100/month??!

Glenn
Glenn
7 months ago
Reply to  Broke Renter

My tenants on Capitol Hill, that’s who.

Guy
Guy
6 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

Got any vacancies lmao

Glenn
Glenn
7 months ago

So what we have here in Seattle proper is rents that are right about where they were pre-pandemic. And rent increases are slowing this year after jumping more dramatically to pré-pandemic levels last year. If you’ve been a renter in Seattle for more than two years, your rent, on average, would be just about the same as two years ago based on the cited report. That doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic as this story tries to convey. And although local rents are indeed higher than the national average, so are average wages and income here. Dramatically so. I’m not arguing that our area offers sufficient affordable rental housing for those on the lower end of the income scale, but overall, I think rents in Seattle are as affordable for the greater population that lives here as they are for those living in places tracking more closely to the national average.

Eli
Eli
7 months ago

In other words — rents haven’t increased at all in Seattle in 2.5 years in the aggregate, and the headline is a sensationalization?

“What we’re left with today is Seattle, where rent prices have returned to their pre-pandemic level…”

HTS3
HTS3
7 months ago

Yes, rents dramatically went up—when they were allowed to do so. It might have been interesting, while researching this article, for you to have also included some thoughts from those providing the housing. Perhaps touch on the reality that the owners renting these units had their hands tied. Even though their property taxes and expenses went up, they couldn’t raise rents. They also couldn’t evict people for not paying their rent—while the government justifiably put a moratorium on this during this crisis, the people renting the units were for the most part left to on their own to weather this financial event. Doesn’t it stand to reason that these people would raise the rents when they could to recoup their losses over the last two years?

You shared:
“Apartment List just released its national rent report, and its findings provide an image of an increasingly costly Seattle for renters. The report finds that rent in Seattle increased by 18.9% over the past year, considerably higher than the national average increase of 17.1% during that same time.

So you called rents that were 1.8% over the national average, “considerably higher.” And quoted Rob Warnock as saying that the rent growth this year has been slower than what we saw last year.”

You also made this statement, “the median monthly rent of a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle weighs in at a staggering $2,097– over seven hundred dollars more per month than the nationwide average of $1,306.” This is not news. Apartment rents have been significantly higher in Seattle than many other places for decades. The median household income in Seattle is now $100,000. This is significantly more than the national median. Of course housing will be higher here.

My apologies for the long comment, I just felt that your reporting on this matter could be a bit more factually balanced in context, with a few less dramatic adjectives. And no, I’m not a landlord.

DownWithIt
DownWithIt
7 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

Agree with all of this. Also note that comparing the 2br rent of Seattle to the “nationwide average” is misleading at best. Topeka KS is not remotely comparable in terms of rental market to Seattle. Use a nationwide median, or the average among large cities, etc.

Paul
Paul
7 months ago

3000 rental properties constituting 10,000 units have been removed from the Seattle market in less than one year thanks to the City Council and voters who put them in. Then you wonder why rent goes up lmao.

Shawn
Shawn
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Citation?

Workers Unite
Workers Unite
7 months ago
Reply to  Shawn

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