"It's About Time For Recession" Property Manager Warns As Rents Drop "For First Time In Career"

As we've pointed out numerous times in recent months, real estate in America's largest metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco looks to be rolling over in a big way.  Earlier this week we pointed out that the volume of apartment sales in New York was down 20% YoY in 3Q 2016 as buyers disappeared while sellers, who have grown accustomed to selling above asking price, were slow to concede pricing concessions (see "NYC Real Estate Bubble Bursts As Apartment Sales Crash 20%").  Now, the Wall Street Journal seems to be catching on to the carnage noting that residential rental rates have collapsed in San Francisco, San Jose and New York. 

“San Francisco and New York are leading the way in the downturn,” said Ken Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center of Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California at Berkeley. “People are going to be surprised that this is happening but they shouldn’t be. It’s been too far, too fast.”


The rental market is coming off its biggest boom in decades. The foreclosure crisis, along with a trend toward urban living, has created seven million new renter households since the housing-market peak in 2006, as the home ownership rate declined to 51-year lows.

Rental Rates

As we previously pointed out in a post entitled, "Of San Francisco Rental Market Shows Signs Of Cracking Under Pressure Of Excess Supply", one of the biggest factors contributing to a soft rental market is the massive increase in supply of multi-unit housing complexes versus minimal job growth to fill those new housing units.

The main cause of the rent slowdown is a flood of new supply, with more than 555,000 units under construction across the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, according to MPF. Tenants also are beginning to tighten their purse strings as rents have jumped by as much as 60% in some markets since 2010. Growth of high-paying jobs, meanwhile, is slowing in New York, San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley.


Almost 6,700 additional apartments are expected to be built in San Jose and nearly 6,500 more in San Francisco by the end of 2018, according to Axiometrics. New York is expected to get more than 42,000 new units during that same period.

Below is a look at the staggering growth in construction of multi-unit housing facilities compared to minimal growth in employment levels over the past 16 years.

Rental Rates


San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are facing among the largest supply gluts in the country with a 76% surge in new housing units coming online in 2016. 

SF Housing Units


Just as employment levels are peaking...

SF Employment


Which is causing luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco to offer some pretty serious incentives as pointed out by Yahoo Finance:

“Listings that once rented in just two to three weeks can now take two to three months to rent,” explains Paul Hwang, principal broker at Skybox Realty, a San Francisco-based real estate agency.


At least four new apartment buildings have opened within a three-block radius of one another during the last 18 months in San Francisco’s thriving South of Market neighborhood, which is home to major tech companies like Airbnb, Pinterest and Yelp (YELP).


Those four buildings — Jasper, 340 Fremont, 399 Fremont and Solaire — frequently offer some sort of bargain for prospective renters. 340 Fremont is offering six weeks of free rent; Solaire is pitching four weeks of free rent, free on-site storage and $1,000 discounts to renters who work at tech companies like Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB) and Yahoo (YHOO). Meanwhile, another building, 399 Fremont, even tried giving away free bikes one weekend.

Meanwhile, the glut of new supply, like in New York, is also forcing down rental rates on existing capacity. 

Eugene Korsunsky, president of Intempus Realty, a San Jose real-estate brokerage firm that manages apartments and single-family homes for landlords, said for the past couple of years apartments sat on the market for about a week. Now it can take him nearly a month to find a tenant, he said.


“We’ve actually had to drop the rent on some properties, which I don’t think I’ve ever done in my career,” he said.


Tenants are even gaining the upper hand on renewals. Landlords typically drive a harder bargain on such leases because they know residents would rather avoid the hassle of moving.

To summarize, while low rates may offer an enticing cost of capital to real estate developers even low return hurdles can't be met when a sluggish job market fails to produce renters.