Data From Millions of Apartment Leases Shows Renters Spend 23% of Income on Rent
RICHARDSON, Texas, July 18, 2022 – RealPage, a leading global provider of software and data analytics to the real estate industry, released today its 2022 Market-Rate Apartment Affordability Report during its annual RealWorld conference in Las Vegas. The report shows that market-rate apartment renters signing leases so far in 2022 are spending only 23.2% of income toward rent, up modestly from pre-pandemic norms, but still well below the traditional affordability ceiling of 33%. The results come from a first-of-its-kind study based on millions of actual apartment leases.
Rents, like nearly all expenses in today’s inflationary market, are growing at the fastest pace in more than 40 years. That has put a spotlight on affordability. But RealPage’s study shows renter household incomes are nearly (though not entirely) keeping pace with rents.
“The study shows that market-rate apartment affordability is not yet a major concern, and won’t be so long as wages continue growing,” said Jay Parsons, Chief Economist and Head of Industry Principals for RealPage. “There’s been massive, well-qualified demand for apartments even as rents have increased, and that’s why vacancy remains low and rent collections high.”
Of course, renters have not been immune to inflation. The median household income for market-rate apartment renters so far in 2022 soared to an all-time high of $75,000, up 15.4% since 2020. Over the same timeframe, the median monthly rent on a new lease jumped 21.9% to $1,510, nationally. That reversed a pattern of eight straight years of rent-to-income ratios inching downward. The share of income spent on rent ticked up from 21.3% in 2019 to 23.2% in 2022, marking a return to the 2011 norm.
“Apartment renters are spending slightly more on rent than they did prior to the pandemic, but many could still get stretched as other expenses, particularly food and gas, climb at much faster rates,” said Carl Whitaker, Director of Research and Analysis for RealPage. “We’re closely watching rent collection trends, and so far, market-rate renters continue to pay rent at normal levels.”
In addition to rent-to-income ratios, RealPage also measured rent collection rates to capture a fuller picture of affordability. The percentage of billed rent collected has consistently averaged between 95% to 96% since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Previously, collections trended slightly higher at 96% to 97%. High collection rates in the market-rate apartment sector are one reason why rental delinquency and eviction filings never spiked nearly as much as some had feared.
The RealPage Market-Rate Apartment Affordability Report is unique because it reflects the first study to capture incomes and rents for the same households on a large scale, with nearly 7 million individual leases included. Past studies have mixed-matched different datasets on rents and wages. That creates a misleading view on affordability, in part because most publicly available rent data skews toward pricier, professionally managed rentals, while publicly available income data covers a much broader population.
RealPage’s study was limited to renters in market-rate, professionally managed apartments signing a new lease. The data is collected from RealPage software, where property managers record household income from lease applications along with the signed monthly rental rates. RealPage calculated the rent-to-income ratio for each lease, then took the median ratio.
“This is a groundbreaking study that brings new light to the rental affordability topic,” Parsons said. “Clearly, market-rate affordability is not the problem. The real problem is the severe shortage of true affordable housing for the millions of households who cannot afford to rent or buy. That is a separate challenge that is too often conflated with affordability among existing market-rate renters. We need a lot more housing across the country, especially affordable housing.”
“Housing affordability is a hot topic across the United States,” said Rich Hughes, Head of Data Science for RealPage. “This study, which leverages RealPage’s unique and vast database of residential leases, reflects our deep commitment to providing facts to better inform rental housing providers and renters, both of whom are our customers.”
Other key findings from the RealPage report:
Higher-income renters are shouldering the largest percentage increases in rent, while lower-income renters pay a larger share of income toward rent.
In the luxury Class A sector, the median rent-to-income ratio measured 20.5%. That compares to 22.1% in the middle-rent Class B segment and 24.5% in the lowest-price Class C properties.
Rent-to-income ratios by metro area range from a low of 18% in Pittsburgh to 26% in Riverside. The vast majority fall within the 20% to 25% range.
The results show that, as expected, pricier markets require much higher incomes. The median income for a market-rate apartment household measured around $150,000 in San Jose, San Francisco, and New York. Incomes also reached six-figures in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Oakland, and Boston.
Renter household incomes came in lowest at around $42,000 in Memphis, New Orleans, and Greensboro.
Apartment renters are not (yet) doubling up with roommates more frequently to share rising rental costs. Leases signed in 2022 averaged 1.63 occupants, compared to 1.65 in 2020 and 2021.
The median age of apartment renters came in at 31.4, equaling 2019’s pre-pandemic norm. This suggests older, would-be homebuyers are not propping up apartment demand and renter incomes.
The report is available to download at www.realpage.com/analytics. Additionally, RealPage will livestream a discussion on affordability from its RealWorld conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, July 19, at 4 p.m. EDT. Join the livestream here.
RealPage provides a technology platform that enables real estate owners and managers to change how people experience and use rental space. Clients use the platform to gain transparency into asset performance, leverage data insights and monetize space to create incremental yields. Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Richardson, Texas, RealPage currently serves over 19 million units worldwide from offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. For more information, visit https://www.RealPage.com.