Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rents Down, Vacancies Up

No surprises coming from the fall Rental Market Report from CMHC, rents are down from a year ago and vacancies are up in a big bad way. So, I guess we'll start with vacancies and work our way to rents.

Vacancy Rate
Here we see a big jump, especially in apartment vacancies over the last 12 months. Apartment vacancies stand at 4.5% (up 2.1% YoY), Row stand at 4.0% (up 0.9% YoY), which results in a market average of 4.4% (up 1.9% YoY).

The biggest jumps have came in 1-bedroom (4.5% vacancy) and 2-bedroom (4.7% vacancy) apartment units, up 2.3% and 2.2% respectively year-over-year. This is notable as combined those two divisions make up over 75% of all rental units in the city.

Unit Share
Total Rental Units
As we can see the total number of rental units available has continued to drop, down 700 units from last year and over 8,000 from just four years ago. So not only has the number of occupied units shrunk in the last twelve months, but the supply itself has contracted.

Edmonton - Average Rents
Finally we've arrive at rents, and here is a graph for the two most common unit types. Recently the CMHC has started offering a partial spring update (only covers apartments), so I've included those and we can see that the increased vacancy rate has finally started to soften rents.

Back in the spring we noted that even though vacancies were up in a big way from last fall, rents were actually still trending up. Now it seems the effects of high vacancies are starting to show up in rents as they are now starting to noticeably decline, particularly two-bedroom apartments and townhouses.

We explored the counter-intuitive phenomena of rents rising despite recent increases in vacancy rate last month, and explained it as a lagging effect due to the nature of the business. What was also interesting from that post though was the cycle diagram. Which showed that when vacancies start rising that before starting to offer reduced rents, first outfits will start by offering incentives.

I've been watching the offerings fora few buildings online over the couple years, and it it has been interesting to watching them evolve. A year and a half ago there were no incentives to be had, and advertised rents for new move-ins were at a significant premium over the market average.... then about a year ago as vacancy rates started to rise, we saw that premium disappear and move-in's were only asked to pay what established occupants were paying. But there were still no real incentives, and hadn't been for years as vacancy rates were super low.

Then as the year progressed the advertised prices stayed about the same, but we started to see incentives being offered. First things like halving the security deposit, then first month/partial month free... items that really don't cost them anything since the units are sitting empty anyway.

Then come summer they started adding things like televisions, move-in allowances, tickets to sporting events, etc. Now I checked back this morning and their current offering is no rent for December, no security deposit, $500 move in allowance, and/or $100 off per month in rent.

So, they're effectively cutting the rent but trying to avoid lowering their advertised rate. There is several reasons for that, including but not limited to not overtly pissing off established occupants who would find out they're paying more then new ones.. and also when leases come up for renewal they can hope the occupant just rolls over and keeps renting the place sans the incentives at the advertised rate.

For the renters out there you have to be aware your landlord does play these games and you can get yourself a lot better deal if you play them too... especially in high vacancy environments like we have currently. If you're established as a good occupant, they don't want to lose you.

So, you should be able to march down and negotiate yourself a good 15-25% reduction from whatever they're advertising (including incentives) if you haven't already. If they're willing to give any schmuck off the street a deal, you should be able to score yourself a real good one right about now... assuming you're not a point in the ass, in which case you'll probably find yourself shit outta luck.