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Why Multifamily Rents are Holding Up Better than Expected

May 19, 2020

Despite mass unemployment and underemployment, multifamily rental payments have held up far better than many industry experts expected amid the economic wreckage caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

More than 36 million people have filed for unemployment in recent weeks and millions of others working fewer hours and taking reduced pay. That’s amid new estimates that real GDP growth for the second quarter will come in at -42.8 percent. Toss in a backdrop in which, as of December, 69 percent of Americans had less than $1,000 in savings accounts, and it would seem to paint a bleak picture on the ability of renters to meet their obligations.

Yet 87.7 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by May 13, according to a survey of 11.4 million professionally-managed apartments across the U.S. by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC). That’s up from the 85.0 percent who had paid by April 13, 2020, during the first full month of the crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus. That’s also down from the 89.8 percent of renter households who made rental payments the year before, when the U.S. economy was still strong and long before the coronavirus began to spread.

“Once again, despite the economic and health challenges facing so many, we have found that apartment residents who live in professionally-managed properties are meeting their obligations,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC President.

So what gives?

There are a few things at work. For one, NMHC’s dataset is weighted towards renters more likely to be able to continue working their jobs remotely and those with some savings as a backstop.

NMHC gathered its data from five leading property management software systems: Entrata, MRI Software, RealPage, ResMan and Yardi. It does not represent all apartments in the U.S. For example, the data does not include many government subsidized affordable housing properties. “These excluded properties are the ones more likely to house residents experiencing financial stress,” says NMHC’s Bibby.

The data also does not include smaller apartment properties that typically don’t use those software system.

“There are thousands and thousands of buildings with 10 units, 20 units, 40 units,” says John Sebree is the senior vice president and national director of Marcus & Millichap’s Multi Housing Division. “They generally don’t have property management software…. However, they generally have personal relationships with their clientele. [So,] their collections are a li ttle better.”

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