Renters diving into a white-hot housing market are over-bidding on available apartments, marking the death knell of pandemic-era deals and months of free rent — all while potentially imperiling tenants who can’t afford to compete.
A realtor in Philadelphia, for example, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she “broke down and cried with my client” after losing a potential rental property to someone who was willing to pay $500 above the listed rental price. A renter in Los Angeles told the Los Angeles Daily News she forked over $60,000 — a year’s worth of rent, up front — just to land a five-bedroom home for her family after she was beat on offers for two separate places. A New York City tenant similarly told the New York Times they were outbid on “multiple rentals” before they were eventually able to secure an apartment.
The bidding trend seeping into the cut-throat race to sign a lease in some of America’s biggest cities comes amid a housing shortage and fast-rising rents. While some renters can — and will — pay above a landlord’s asking price to secure their spot in the frenzy, it’s just as likely that others will be priced out or wind up spending more than they should.
“Renters are being left with few options but to meet higher rents and, in some cases, even offer above asking — whether they can afford to or not,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in a statement this month after the real estate website released data showing the median rent in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas had reached $1,827 in April.
(Realtor.com is operated by News Corp subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, which is also a subsidiary of News Corp.)
“‘The current combination of high home prices and low inventories is making homeownership less accessible, pushing up rentership rates among older and higher-income households.’”
Higher-income tenants are increasingly entering the rental market, in part due to the rising cost of for-sale homes, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. That mean’s they competing with people who traditionally rent out of necessity, since they can’t afford homeownership.
“The current combination of high home prices and low inventories is making homeownership less accessible, pushing up rentership rates among older and higher-income households,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies said in a January report.
“At the same time, the influx of higher-income households into the rental market is driving up rents, potentially reducing the ability of younger and lower-income adults to form renter households,” it added. “The question now is whether there will be a sufficient supply of affordable and available housing to prevent this outcome.”
The nation is short 7 million affordable homes for extremely low-income renters, who are disproportionately Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The organization attributed this shortage to a combination of systemic racism and income inequality.
Because rents are spiking — up 17% year-over-year in March, according to Redfin — one solution to avoiding bidding wars might be to simply stay put. Landlords may be more forgiving with existing tenants, Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, told MarketWatch.