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The past may still be prologue in multifamily markets

Apr 30, 2024, 11:59 AM by Tyler Mangin

Since 2020, a global pandemic, four-decade-high inflation and a construction boom fundamentally altered the multifamily sector. In light of this, it would be reasonable to assume that old rules don’t apply, and past trends are of little value in today’s marketplace.

Our “Map of the Month” uses the Seattle market to show why this thinking would be misguided.

Our map divides Seattle’s various submarkets by census tracts and depicts both rent and total inventory growth. Maroon shows tracts with sturdy rent growth and blue identifies those with significant supply growth from 2010 to 2019. Purple represents tracts with high levels of both rent and supply growth.

There are three broad types of submarkets in Seattle. First, there are submarkets such as Downtown and Capitol Hill that saw supply outpace rent growth in the 2010s. Weak fundamentals have persisted in these submarkets during the past four years, with compound annual rent growth of -0.4% in Capitol Hill/Central District and -0.6% in Downtown Seattle since the beginning of 2020.

Second, submarkets like SeaTac/Burien saw rent growth outstrip supply during the 2010s. This pattern has also continued, with 3.9% compound annual rent growth over the past four years.

The third group consists of submarkets that straddle the ‘inner ring’ of the city, such as University District/Ballard West and Seattle/South Seattle. In these submarkets rent growth has been middling – up 1.4% and 1.3%, respectively, compounded annually over the past four years. That dynamic was set during the 2010s as well, with the parts of the submarket closer to downtown reflecting the high supply, low rent growth trend in downtown areas, and the parts of these submarkets further from downtown reflecting the low supply, high rent growth type. The reason rent growth is ‘middle-of-the-pack’ in these submarkets is because they span both geographic trends.

Despite all the changes affecting the multifamily sector since 2020, historical real estate fundamentals have been a reliable predictor of rent growth. In Seattle, the same neighborhoods that underperformed on rent growth in the 2010s have continued to do so in the current decade.









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