by Matt Maison
This article was originally posted on arbor.com.
The U.S. multifamily market continued to post strong results during 2017. Rent growth slowed, although remained healthy, and appears to have peaked in 2015. Despite a high volume of new supply, vacancy increased only slightly and remained at historically low rates. Investment activity was slow to start the year, yet gained momentum as the year went on, and finished just below 2016’s record highs.
The fourth quarter marked the 32nd consecutive quarter with positive rent growth for U.S. multifamily properties, according to data from Reis. Rent increased 4.2% during 2017, up from 4.0% during 2016, although was below the peak of 5.9% posted in 2015.
The vacancy rate increased to 4.5%, up from 4.2% one year ago, yet remained well below the previous high of 8.0% in 2009. The active development pipeline suggests 2016 may have been the cyclical low for vacancy.
Rent growth in Class A properties increased 4.3% year-over-year, as compared with 3.2% for Class B/C properties. Additionally, vacancy in Class A properties increased to 5.8% from 5.5% at the end of 2016, while Class B/C vacancy rose to 3.4% from 3.1%.
Birmingham had the most substantial rent growth among primary markets for the year, increasing 7.3%. Gains in the financial services and construction industries have driven the local economy.
Data from Reis showed that 2017 was a record year for multifamily supply growth in the U.S., as more than 221,100 new units came online, surpassing the 2016 total of 219,800 units. Demand struggled to keep pace with the additional supply, as absorption totaled 167,700 units, down from 213,900 units in 2016.
Many projects initially expected to finish during 2017 were delayed into 2018, suggesting an even stronger year ahead. Reis forecasts that a total of 265,100 new units will be added to the market in 2018, with absorption predicted to reach 202,500 units.
A total of 199,600 Class A multifamily units were delivered during 2017, building on last year’s total of 207,100 units. In the last eight years, less than 28,000 Class B/C multifamily properties have been added to the market.
Following a slow start to the year, multifamily investment activity increased as the year progressed. Data from Real Capital Analytics showed that 2017 volume reached $150.1 billion, just below the historical high of $161.2 billion recorded during 2016, marking the first year since 2009 with a decline in volume.
The average sales price was up 1.0% on the year and up 19% compared to the five-year average. Cap rates continued to decline, falling 10 basis points during the year, to 5.6%.
The RCA CPPI™ apartment price index increased 10.6% during 2017, higher than the 10.1% increase for 2016. In comparison, the all property index increased 7.1% in 2017 and 8.6% in 2016.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , total nonfarm payroll employment in the U.S. increased 1.5% during 2017, a gain of 2.2 million jobs, which was the lowest annual total since 2012. Employment trended up in construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing. The unemployment rate was 4.1%, an improvement on the 4.7% rate reported one year ago.
The BLS also reported that over the last 12 months, the Consumer Price Index increased 2.1%. The shelter index rose 3.7%, down from 4.0% one year ago, with both the owners’ equivalent rent and the rent of primary residence indexes increasing 3.2%.
Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the “advance” estimate released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the homeownership rate finished 2017 at 64.2%, up slightly from 63.7% at the end of 2016. This marked the first annual increase since the peak of 69.2% in 2004, during one of the biggest housing booms in history.