Report: Wealthy out-of-town apartment seekers could add to Seattle housing crunch

Written by MLHA Team

July 24, 2021

“Wealthier renters are rearranging themselves across the country and putting additional pressure on already-competitive rental markets.” 

Wealthy apartment hunters moving to Seattle could fuel competition in the city’s already cutthroat real estate market, according to a new study.

The study, authored by Apartment List, found that users are willing to spend an average of $1,335 per month for a new apartment, which is the highest they’ve ever been willing to spend.

“Wealthier renters are rearranging themselves across the country and putting additional pressure on already-competitive rental markets,” the study said. “The pandemic unlocked new geographic flexibility for workers at the highest end of the income distribution, thanks in large part to the widespread adoption of remote work.”

Researchers say it’s common to see ballooning budgets this time of year, but they’re reporting an unusually large increase in the amount users are willing to spend — up 6.5% from last quarter. Normally, researchers see increases of around 2% during this time.

Adding to the phenomenon, more Americans are moving. Researchers examined 100 metros to figure out who was moving where, and where they were moving from. They also compared those movers’ average budgets to the average budgets of movers already living in the metro.

This graphic shows where people are using Apartment List to search for available units in Seattle. 

Of all the people using Apartment List to search for apartments in Seattle, most were from Portland (4.1%). The second and third most searches came from people living in San Francisco (3.8%) and Los Angeles (3.6%). On average, people looking to move to Seattle have a housing budget of $1,831, while people looking to move places in Seattle have an average housing budget of $1,582.

This chart shows the relationship between year-over-year growth in rent prices and out-of-town budgets in the top 15 cities with the largest year-over-year growth in rent prices. 

The rate at which wealthy apartment-seekers are moving across metros plays a large part in rising rent prices, the study said. In the top 15 metros with the highest year-over-year rent growth, out-of-town budgets exceed local ones by a significant margin, the study said.

“Typically, renter migration (and rent growth) cools each year during the late-fall and winter,” researchers wrote. “Until then, as we continue through a summer free of travel and moving restrictions, the elevated mobility of high-income and high-budget renters will amplify affordability shortages in smaller rental markets.”

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