Jul 11, 2022 - Real Estate

D.C. rents are rising fast

Illustration of apartment doorbells with an intercom shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Rent prices took a nosedive as residents left the city en masse at the start of the pandemic. Now that the return to the District is well underway and demand for rental housing is back, landlords are aiming to make up for lost profit.

  • Inflation factors in here, too, by way of higher utilities and labor costs.

Why it matters: From Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 rents in the D.C. metro area went up 15.7%, according to Delta Associates data.

Delta Associates also found that in 2012, Class A (high end) downtown D.C. apartments went for around $3.03 per square foot per month. In 2020 that dropped to $2.52 but in Q1 2022 it rose to $3.49.

  • That means an 800-square-foot apartment would’ve gone from $2,016 per month in 2020 to $2,792 now — an almost $800 increase.

What they're saying: Delta Associates senior associate Brendan Pierce tells Axios that the sticker shock also stems from dropped concessions. 

  • At the start of the pandemic, apartment buildings were likely to offer generous deals to attract residents — such as two or three months of free rent.

Pierce tells Axios that rents were expected to increase following the onset of the pandemic, but they’re increasing at a faster pace than expected. “We thought it would be a steady incline,” he says.

Zoom in: The rent increase is impacting all types of residential rental property in the D.C. region. But low inventory and high demand for certain categories of homes — such as single-family — are creating even bigger price jumps.

Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors president Harrison Beacher tells Axios he’s seen an increase in applications for his personal rental properties in the Washington area.

Between the lines: Driving competition further for rental properties is the fact that potential buyers are opting to re-enter the rental market as they wait for housing prices to drop. Those renters oftentimes can pay more and drive up the price of a rental property.

  • “In addition to the constricted supply … with fewer units available, you’ve got an influx of more qualified renters coming into the rental pool who can arguably afford to pay a little bit more,” Beacher says.

What you told us: Our readers are also seeing rents go up.

  • A reader in a Navy Yard high-rise saw a 20% monthly increase that equated to over $500. 
  • A reader in Rosslyn says they’ve had to adjust their budget to accommodate a $300 monthly rent increase. 
  • A reader with an Eckington studio apartment moved to Columbia Heights to avoid a $325 monthly rent increase. 
  • One bright spot: A reader with a basement apartment in Cherrydale didn’t have any rent increase when recently extending their lease.

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