How 2020 Changed the Rental Market

A new report by RentCafé reveals the extent of the pandemic's influence on the rental market—so far.

Read Time: 2 minutes

December 16, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Multi-Family Housing

By Kirill Kulakov / Shutterstock

Irina Lupa shares findings of a year-end rental market report from RentCafé, describing the year as tumultuous and the market as adaptable. Still, the emerging practices of virtual tours and contactless property management were unable to prevent a decline in rental activity in most large cities in the country.

Key findings of the report, with more details included in the source article, include the following:

  • Renting activity was 10% slower in 2020, with a shorter rental season that started with a two-month delay 
  • Gen Z overtook Gen X and is the only renter generation that became more active this year
  • 18 of the 30 largest U.S. cities saw more renters leaving compared to last year
  • Apartment rents decreased in all top 10 most expensive cities for renters in 2020

As summarized by Lupa, the trends of the year do reveal fundamental changes to the rental market—changes that will have a direct impact on the social and economic makeup of the country once the coronavirus is finally and completely defeated.

A new cohort of renters, Generation Z, is now the second most active group of renters, overtaking Gen X-ers, while the front-runner generation of Millennial renters is shrinking. In terms of moving, there was an increase in renters who decided to move out of some large cities in 2020, including Detroit, New York and Seattle. And finally, 2020 was the year when rent prices fell in all of the nation’s ten most expensive large cities for renters, with San Francisco, New York, Boston and Seattle in the lead.

In addition to the more documented and discussed factors contributing to these trends, the article also notes that renters are dealing with stagnant wages for the first time in years, and provides specific data on rental prices and rental activities in cities all over the country.

Given that eviction moratoriums are still in place at numerous levels of government around the country, and stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are being added in numerous locations around the country as a third wave of infections takes a terrible toll on the country, the pandemic's influence on the rental market in cities is likely to be felt for several years to come.

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