2024 Multifamily Occupancy Trends: On the Rise

2024 Multifamily Occupancy Trends: On the Rise

The multifamily housing market continues to evolve, and investors are closely monitoring economic shifts, interest rates, and the sector’s overall health. After a challenging period of declining occupancy rates, the market is now experiencing a resurgence. Since February 2022, occupancy rates have been a cause for concern. However, new data suggests that the rental market is showing promising signs of recovery, with a positive shift in rental demand. In April 2024, there was a notable month-over-month improvement, marking the first such improvement in two years. Occupancy levels remained stable from April to May, leading experts to suggest that the rental market is now stabilizing.

This article covers the economic trends unfolding in the first half of 2024 and how experts interpret these dynamics. 

Improved Occupancy Signals Rebound

The national average for multifamily occupancy climbed by 10 basis points from March to April, reaching 94.2%. This increase is a sign of strengthening apartment demand nationwide.

RealPage Senior Director of Research and Analysis Carl Whitaker, notes that April’s uptick in occupancy highlights the sustained momentum in apartment demand, building upon an already robust first quarter in which over 100,000 units were absorbed.

This occupancy level surge attracts attention from large institutions, leading to increased investment in the multifamily asset class. As the rental market strengthens, it offers promising opportunities for investors seeking stable returns in real estate.

Blackstone Acquisition

In a significant move on April 8th, 2024, Blackstone, the world’s leading alternative asset manager, made headlines by announcing its acquisition of AIR Communities for approximately $10 billion through its Blackstone Real Estate arm. AIR Communities boasts a portfolio of 76 premium rental housing communities strategically positioned in critical coastal markets such as Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Blackstone’s commitment extends beyond the acquisition price, as they plan to infuse over $400 million into maintaining and enhancing the existing communities within the portfolio

This strategic move by Blackstone is one of two major acquisitions that have significantly bolstered the multifamily asset class in the opening quarter of 2024. Such sizable investments signal the resilience and attractiveness of the rental market, particularly in prime locations across the United States.

KKR Acquisition

Following closely on the heels of Blackstone’s news, KKR, a prominent global investment firm renowned for its expertise across various alternative asset classes, has made waves with its own acquisition. KKR announced the purchase of 19 purpose-built student housing properties from BREIT for approximately $1.64 billion.

This swift succession of significant transactions, totaling over $11 billion, represents major institutions’ unwavering confidence in the multifamily sector, even during economic uncertainties. Such bold investments speak volumes about the enduring appeal and resilience of the rental market, positioning it as a stable and lucrative investment opportunity in today’s dynamic landscape.

Seasonal Rental Behavior

The nationwide occupancy levels are increasing positively, but experts believe this is normal seasonal rental behavior. This behavior, which hasn’t been seen in recent years due to the economic downturn, is viewed as a positive trend that indicates a normalization in the rental market.

However, there are specific areas in the U.S. where this positive trend is not evident. While these markets are experiencing growth, they are also facing an influx of new supply, impeding the positive effects seen in markets where demand exceeds supply. Experts predict that due to the slowdown in new construction projects, the supply and demand will rebalance sometime between 2025 and 2026.

The Takeaway

Despite consistent monthly rent growth across all regions, the influx of new supply is tempering rent increases to a modest pace. Asking rents saw a marginal rise of just +0.2% month-over-month, translating to a mere +0.1% year-over-year growth, primarily influenced by underperforming market rent declines.

Traditionally, multifamily occupancy levels serve as a key indicator of rent growth stabilization. As these levels stabilize, there’s a growing anticipation for rents to trend upward in alignment with occupancy patterns.

Additionally, the potential deceleration in new multifamily supply post-2025 presents a positive outlook for rent growth. This projection is particularly significant given concerns surrounding distressed deals and defaults in the market.

Notably, industry giants like Blackstone and KKR have taken bold steps with billion-dollar acquisitions, underscoring their confidence in the sector. For investors, staying proactive and diligently monitoring market dynamics is crucial in navigating this evolving landscape and using these institutions as a guide.