SEATTLE – Seattle builds more apartments than anywhere, and now 1 out of 10 units across the city is empty. Landlords have responded by lowering the rent a bit and offering more benefits to getting tenants in the door.
The housing market is almost always the slower this time of year, but the changes in winter have been particularly strong, according to new figures from Apartment Insights / RealData, which investigates landlords here quarterly.
During the King and Snohomish counties, the condo fell by 1.1 percent from the third to the fourth quarter, and the second largest quarter dropped this decade, behind only the 2.9 percent decline seen at this time last year. In terms of concessions, landlords offer to lure tenants, like a free month's rent, the actual amount of tenants has declined by 1[ads1].4 percent over the last quarter, or $ 24 a month.
These incentives are now common on new buildings and are becoming more prominent in older complexes that also struggle to replenish their units. Some property managers even offer mystery gifts to those who agree to just experience a trip.
Some rental ads discovered:
. "2bed home with 2.5k Amazon gift cards and more!" on a new building in First Hill
. "2 months free plus $ 1000 gift card if you go in with 1 week!" in Kirkland
. "NEW REDUCED PRICES – 1 Mo FREE + 2 Mo FREE Parking!" in Sammamish
The market cools most in the most pricy parts of the region. On the east side, interest rates pushed down 2.5 percent, or nearly $ 50, in the last quarter, while rents remained almost unchanged in South King County and Snohomish County.
Rents fell at least 3 percent in the last quarter of Belltown, South Lake Union, Fremont / Wallingford, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish / Issaquah and Edmonds.
Seattle rents fall at the fourth fastest rate in the country, behind Cleveland, Oakland and Spokane, according to apartmentlist.com. A year and a half ago, it was common to find Seattle on the list of fastest rising rents in the nation.
During the year, the rent was still about 3 percent in Seattle and Eastside after adjusting for landlord concessions, just a little more than inflation.
"I've been renting in Seattle since 2014, and this is the first time I felt like I was having bargaining power," said Kjerstin Wood, who went hunting with her partner last weekend and was bombarded with offers like free parking she plans to Use to play landlords of each other. "For the most part, everyone we have met has been very eager to get us to search right then and then."
The trend is likely to continue: The apartment building that began earlier this decade continues at the same high pace, which surpasses the demand for rental, even as the city's population boom.
"I don't think most landlords expect rent increases this year," said Candice Chevaillier, an apartment broker with SVN Whitecap who has begun surveying landlords as co-founder of the new Commercial Analytics firm. "We are just starting to see a lot of delivery of newly developed units, and that will continue in 2019 and 2020."
When you look at all the apartments available for Rent in Seattle – including new – 10.5 percent are empty, up from 9 percent a year ago and 7.7 percent too two years ago. But it doesn't just happen in Seattle. Throughout the region, 8.6 percent of the units are empty, most since 2009.
In South Lake Union, where Amazon has created a new neighborhood with burgeoning high-rise buildings, 18 percent of units are empty. Job vacancies hit 16 percent in Seattle city center, 13 percent in First Hill, 11 percent in Queen Anne / Magnolia, and 12 percent in Redmond, building most of the King County suburban apartments. About 15 percent of the units are empty in both Tukwila and Sammamish / Issaquah, each of which just opened large new apartment complexes.
These figures are skewed by the new buildings that are still renting, but even landlords with older apartments are having trouble finding tenants. The regional unemployment rate among "stabilized" buildings that have existed for at least a couple of years was 5.5 percent, the highest since 2010 and up from a low of 3.9 percent a few years ago.
Developers do not seem to be leaning on the Seattle area, even a whole year into the rental market refrigeration. A total of 24,000 units are under construction or planned to begin soon, a figure that has no budget in the past year. The pipeline for future potential projects is 34,000 units, also essentially unchanged from a year ago, although these projects may not necessarily be built.
SO MUCH BUILDING
The Seattle Metropolitan Area, which is the 15th largest in the country by population, had the fourth most multifamily unit approved for construction in 2018, according to the census. Only New York, Los Angeles and the Dallas areas issued permissions for more.
The Seattle area approved twice as many units as the Chicago or Boston regions, both of which are larger. It vegetables 25 percent more than the San Francisco region, which is larger and has double Seattle's housing costs.
Although it was nothing but good news for tenants in 2018, the region is of course still insurmountable for many after the rent has increased about 60 percent from 2010 to 2017.
The housing market in Portland
All device types are now $ 1,924 in Seattle and $ 1954 on the Eastside. Rental rates are $ 1,502 in Snohomish County and $ 1,448 in South King County.
Regional, even with the latest decline, average rent has increased from $ 1,034 in 2010 to $ 1,725 now. The extra $ 691 a month in rent amounts to around $ 8,300 in extra costs over a year compared to the beginning of the decade.
However, tenants who shop around can take advantage of the new supply gluten to get offers. Carl Hiltbrunner recently met a 3 percent rental increase in his city center and decided to move. He toured five apartments and found one that gave his first six weeks rent free.
"Most buildings have the same in terms of amenities, so it was mainly comparing downtown and price," Hiltbrunner said. "Six weeks free was hard to beat, so I ended up with one."
By MIKE ROSENBERG, The Seattle Times via The Associated Press