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Trackinsight: U.S. rents spike will force policymakers to review their assessment of inflation

09/22/2021 | 08:35am EDT

One of the key developments in the US housing market has been the rebound of rents, the median national rent climbed 13.8% in the first eight months of 2021.

Chief Economist and Strategist at Market Securities since 2011, Christophe Barraud has been awarded by Bloomberg the title of Top Forecaster of the U.S. Economy (2012-2020), Eurozone Economy (2015-2019) and Chinese Economy (2017-2020). He also won the Forecaster of the Year contest organized by MarketWatch in 2020.

For a few months, one of the key developments in the US housing market has been the rebound of rents. Several indexes pointed to a sharp increase. According to Apartment List, the median national rent climbed 13.8% in the first eight months of 2021. On a YoY basis, the median national rent rose 12.5% in August (largest increase since the firm tracked data). Even if some part of the increase reflects a bounce-back effect in prices that fell earlier in the pandemic, the real-estate firm highlights that rents are now far higher than if they had stayed on their pre-Covid trend.

The same pattern has been observed with other indexes. As a matter of fact, ?Typical U.S. rents measured by Zillow?s Observed Rent Index (ZORI) were $1,874 in August, almost $200 more than in August 2020?. As a result, ?annual growth hit new highs, rising 11.5% year-over-year, the fastest in Zillow records dating to 2015″.


Furthermore, according to industry consultant RealPage Inc. (which analyzed more than 13 million professionally managed apartments), ?Effective asking prices for new renters jumped 1.8% just in the month of August, driving asking prices up 10.3% year-over-year.? The WSJ highlighted ?That marked the first double-digit increase in the more than 20 years this data has been collected, and in several hot cities the rent increases were much greater than the national figure.?


Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported ?Apartment rents were up in August from a year earlier in all the top 30 U.S. metro areas, the first time that?s happened since the start of the pandemic, according to a new report by Yardi.? It added ?The national average rent in multi-family buildings rose 10.3% from a year earlier to $1,539 ? the first double-digit rise in the dataset?s history ? after a $25 increase in August, the real-estate firm said. Over the past 10 years, the average pace of growth has been 2%.?

Lastly, according to Realtor.com, ?Rents across the country reached new highs in August, growing by double digits for the first time on record. After months of stalled rent growth during the peak of the pandemic, gradual recovery gave way to price surges in 2021. Now, the national rent has reached $1,633, up 11.5% ($169) year over year, and is growing over 3 times as fast as the 3.2% growth rate seen just before the pandemic hit in March 2020.?

All in all, housing data providers confirm that U.S. rents exploded in August, growing by double-digits. Although a slowdown can?t be excluded in the coming months, a complete reversal looks impossible with at least five major factors supporting rents.

This situation could pose a problem for Fed policymakers as the shelter component of the Consumer Price Index (and also PCE price index) tends to lag market rents. In a context where a part of inflation (linked to supply chain disruptions) is likely to persist more than forecasted, the improvement of the labor market and the upside rents spiral could force Fed members to review their assessment of inflation. As a starter, they should revise upward their inflation projections for 2021 and 2022 during the FOMC meeting (tonight).

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© www.trackinsight.com 2021
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