Apartment Markets Continue to Strengthen Says NMHC Quarterly Survey

Aug. 8, 2006
Findings indicate tighter market conditions

Apartment markets continue their upward trajectory, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council’s July 2006 Quarterly Survey of Apartment Market Conditions. Fully 75 percent of the respondents reported tighter market conditions over the prior three months, measured by lower vacancy rates, higher rents, or both.

As a result, the survey’s Market Tightness Index increased slightly this quarter (May to July), to 85, now the second highest index number on record. (An index reading above 50 indicates that, on balance, con-ditions are improving; a reading below 50 indicates that conditions are worsening; and a reading of 50 indicates that conditions are unchanged.) The Market Tightness Index has been 80 or above for five consecutive quarters, and above 50 for 12 consecutive quarters, signaling a significant improvement in demand for rental housing. In contrast, the Index was 45 in July 2003 and 39 in July 2002, during the peak of the recession.

Despite improving market conditions, sales activity continues to slow from the record-level of transactions conducted in 2005. A mere six percent of all respondents reported higher sales volume this quarter than last, and 42 percent reported lower sales. The Sales Volume Index declined slightly from 35 to 32, the lowest since January 2002, and down from a high of 66 in July 2005.

The Equity Financing Index remained at 50, indicating that equal shares of respondents (in this case, 11 percent) gauged equity financing was either less or more available. But nearly three-quarters of respondents thought the availability of equity financing had not changed from the previous quarter.

Finally, despite steadily rising interest rates, the Debt Financing Index actually increased from 21 to 29 this quarter. The number of respondents saying that now is a worse time to borrow dropped from 69 percent last quarter to 16 percent this quarter. The vast majority, 71 percent, report that conditions are unchanged. This suggests that even though conditions for borrowing are not ideal, they are not getting worse.

“Improving rental demand in the face of rising interest rates and declining sales volume attests to the strong outlook for the apartment sector,” notes Doug Bibby, NMHC’s president. “According to Harvard University’s 2006 State of the Nation’s Housing report, the number of renter households rose in 2005 for the first time in years. The report goes on to say that as echo boomers, same-age immigrants and second-generation Americans move into adulthood, demographic forces will favor rental housing over for-sale housing.”

The July 2006 quarterly survey was conducted July 24-31, 2006. Sixty-five CEOs and other senior executives of apartment-related firms nationwide who serve on NMHC’s Board of Directors or Advisory Committee responded. The April 2006 quarterly survey was conducted April 24-May 1, 2006; 75 responded. The July 2005 quarterly survey was conducted July 18-25, 2005; 88 responded. Full survey results are posted at (www.nmhc.org/content/Servecontent.cfm?contentItemID=3945).

This information was provided by Washington, DC-based NMHC, a national association representing the interests of the larger and most prominent apartment firms in the U.S. NMHC's members are the principal officers of firms engaged in all aspects of the apartment industry, including owners, developers, managers, and financiers. For more information, contact NMHC at (202) 974-2300, e-mail the Council at ([email protected]), or visit NMHC's website at (www.nmhc.org).

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