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Another Bullish Sign for Housing Prices in 2012: Increasing Rents

Last week I highlighted the bullish signal that the price of newly listed homes after the first of the year were ticking up. This week I have another hint of good news. Rents.

In addition to the active housing market, Altos Research now tracks the active rental market. Our set of 750,000 – 1 million rental units a month is the largest set available anywhere. And it’s powerful.

Rents across the country

US Rental Prices, weekly sample, single family homes and apartments for rent. Sample size is approximately 600,000 per week.

This chart illustrates rents across our Altos 20-City Composite and 10-City Composite as of January 27, 2012 so it’s a national view. This data is a blend of both single family homes and apartments on the market.  The weekly upticks in rents is one of the signs we’re using to underpin our mildly bullish home price scenario for 2012. The argument goes like this:

  1. Rents are rising because mortgages are harder to get and because the conventional wisdom that “owning always wins” is diminishing.  Percent of American households who own their homes has fallen to 65%. It’ll likely keep falling to closer to 60% over the next few years. This bodes well for rents.
  2. As rents rise, home prices fall, and mortgage money remains unnaturally cheap, we’ve reached the point where investors see growing returns on investment properties. There’s a well-funded investor pool who can take advantage. They’re buying.
  3. As rents rise, those non-investor home buyers see more opportunity buying vs. renting. As long as they can get a mortgage, there are relative opportunities.

So rising rents help provide a floor to home prices. Keep an eye on this space for more as Q1 2012 progress.



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