People Are on the Move Again and Rents Are Spiking

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Real estate agent with couple in luxury home.

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While much attention has focused lately on the frenzied home-buying market, with sale prices at record highs, the cost of renting a home has been quietly playing catch-up. Rental prices have spiked in many parts of the country after falling dramatically during the pandemic.

In the first six months of this year, the median price of an apartment rental in the U.S. surged 9.1%, or $104, according to data from online listings company Apartment List. The median rent in June was $1,219, compared with $1,117 in January, and the summer—the peak season for rentals—has just begun. The chart below shows how rents have taken off this year.

Rental prices typically fall in winter and then rise gradually until hitting a peak in mid-summer, when mild weather and school vacations make it easier for people to move. But that pattern was broken when the pandemic struck. Just as prices started to rise in March 2020, millions of families canceled planned moves and instead sheltered indoors to slow the spread of COVID-19. Apartment vacancies spiked, and for three consecutive months rents fell instead of rising. Prices recovered slightly over the summer, but dipped again during the winter. Then, with vaccine rollouts this year and people on the move again, rents began going up fast.

In the spring of 2021, the national median rent was rising “more than twice as fast as it did during pre-pandemic springs,” said Rob Warnock, senior research associate at Apartment List, in a report. “Broad economic recovery, dramatic price reductions in major cities, and the widespread adoption of remote work are all inspiring Americans to reconsider where they live and what they value in a hometown.”

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