As an apartment locator, Tirey Counts is usually fielding calls and juggling multiple clients this time of year as an influx of students attending area universities and medical programs look to secure housing for the upcoming semester.
This year has been different. Instead of calls from students, he’s hearing from Houstonians who are looking to move to cheaper apartments or need a two-bedroom unit because they’re getting a roommate.
“People are much more budget conscious because they’re not sure where this is going or they feel their jobs are insecure,” Counts said.
Houston’s apartment market, which would normally be thriving this time of year, is in a pandemic-induced slump.
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Apartment occupancy has dipped to about 89 percent, falling about a half percentage point in May, according to new estimates from Houston-based ApartmentData.com. The average rent this month is expected to be down around $13 from the end of March to $1,046.
“We would normally see bumps in April, May and possibly June, and it’s just not there,” Bruce McClenny, president of the apartment data firm, said. “We’re seeing this same situation in every market we cover.”
In the Class-A apartment category, generally considered to be the newest properties with high-end amenities, the average rent has fallen 3 percent since the end of March to $1,497, the biggest decline among all classes of buildings.
A bumper crop of new units could exacerbate the slowdown.
Developers have completed construction on about 9,000 units so far this year and another 9,000 are expected to open by the end of 2020, McClenny said. Some of those projects could experience delays amid labor shortages or supply chain disruptions.
Seeking to avoid a flood of empty units, some landlords have waived late fees on rents and offered payment plans to their tenants.
The National Multifamily Housing Council found 90.8 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment…