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Morning Poll: Rising Rents

by ARLnow.com December 21, 2010 at 8:40 am 3,142 50 Comments

This morning the Washington Post quantified what many people have observed in the past year: rents in the area are going up, fast.

According to a Delta Associates study cited by the Post, local apartment rents have increased 8.2 percent this year, to an average of $1,643. Rents in the Washington area are at 20-year highs, as people flee the housing market for rentals. Only New York City has a lower vacancy rate.

Earlier this year, we reported on the red-hot rental market in Pentagon City, where the average rent at the beginning of the year was $1,902 and rising. And Pentagon City certainly wasn’t alone in terms of rent hikes in the county.

Just how fast have rents been increasing in Arlington in the past year? Let’s find out.


  • NorthAdams

    the no-growth advocates in Arlington have already created a housing shortage. We need so many residential units and the economy is in the tank still. wait til the economy starts humming and we will even be further behind.

    • Arlwhenever

      It always helps to take a minute to read the linked article. Average rents have risen because a higher share of houses are being rented (vs. sold); also units that were intended to be upscale condos (which would include, for example, everything new along Columbia Pike) were put on to the market as high-end apartments, literally across the street from their more pedestrian and affordable competitors. It’s a property mix issue.

  • Bernie

    I’m going to get slammed with a 20% increase in rent if I choose to renew my lease in Crystal City this February. That’s going to be an additional $300 per month. Rediculous! Market rate my a$$!

    • CrystalMikey

      While not as bad, I was hit with a 10% increase in Crystal City. Managed to haggle it down to about 5% on a shorter term. Regardless, couldn’t believe they were trying to do that in what seems to be a almost fully-occupied building; and with no noticeable changes/upgrades.

      • If it is fully occupied that actually makes sense, since obviously there is a demand for the building…. I would do it if I owned the place.
        If was far less than full than that would be really stupid, but not in this case.

    • R.Griffon

      To be fair, it isn’t market rate only if you decide to move out and the place stands empty. If someone else is willing to pay it, then it’s market rate by definition.

      • mehoo

        Exactly. This story is about how the market rate is going up.

  • Let me see if I can pull some market data on this interesting subject. I blog regularly about real estate, but have never analyzed the rental market unless it’s for a buyer who plans on renting the home out as an investor. Perhaps I can come up with a cool chart such as this on the rental side:

    http://bit.ly/_Clarendon_median_condo_price

    • ShirlingtonGuy

      @JRC I would like to see that data. Thanks!

    • LP

      Glad to see you’re on here, Jay.

      • winner

        How in goodness’s name someone claim to work in residential real estate and not understand the rental market?

        This post has to be a joke.

  • @NorthAdams I feel and embrace your sentiments about the “no-growth advocates” types who continually assault the liberty of individuals, families and businesses, however I disagree with the premise. If Arlington has approved at least 1000s of new condo/apartment units over the last 8 years on the orange line it’s hard to say they are no-growth. The numbers of new condos in Arlington have increased dramatically the past decade and Arlington county managed it quite well to the best of my knowledge.

    • NorthAdams

      but maybe we should have had 1500 units? more units, more supply, lowers costs.

      • mehoo

        I see your 1,500 and raise you to 2,000!

        Seriously, I’m not a slow-growther, but how does one determine the “right” amount of units? Are developers being turned down, curbing the market? I don’t know the answer to that.

      • R.Griffon

        And why, exactly, should property owners be motivated to lower costs? Renting more units at a lower cost might well lower margins due to the fixed costs required to maintain additional units.

        But if you feel it’s the County’s fault, then that’s really just a matter of opinion. Obviously there are residents who don’t want to see the area become overrun with high rises in order to maintain a neighborhood feel and keep congestion in check. Others would have unlimited development in search of cheap rent. It’s a delicate balance.

        • NorthAdams

          i don’t know the answer either. over the last 10-15 years a number of approved projects have fewer units because a floor or two were taken off the building for aesthetic purposes but also because the number of units in the building was too high, either by zoning or public opinion.

          honestly, does anyone know the difference between a 13 and 15 story building?

          If prices on units are exceeding the growth in inflation (there is no inflation right now) then that means that the demand exceeds the supply.

          as for METRO capacity, not everyone rides it. people drive. walk. don’t work (retired), and by 2013 people will be riding metro to their jobs in Tysons.

          We need more housing units to support all the retail. not just the bars but also Trader Joe’s.

    • The Dope of South Arlington

      And we all know capacity on the Orange Line is limitless.

      • mehoo

        As if nobody’s going to build on the Orange Line (and I-66) to our west.

  • LP

    Good news for condo owners in Arlington – makes it easier to cover our mortgage if we decide to rent out our plays.

    • G

      It is good news! My monthly payment actually went down last year because my property tax went down (then again, so did its value). But I can currently rent it out for a few hundred dollars more than what I’m paying monthly.

    • Radar

      That’s right LP. Another advantage of owning versus renting.

    • JamesE

      And with the current low rates refinancing helped a lot.

      • Radar

        Oh yeah, definately! I got a really good deal and refinanced a few months ago. So happy!

  • MrStevens

    My rent went up 0 as I own, not rent.

    However, the county increased the rent I pay for my land, sorry, I mean property tax this past year.

    • Arlingtonthen

      Try owning, ahem renting, a vacant lot – Arlington County almost forces you to sell-out for a McMansion.

  • Hikin’ the Pike

    My rent increase is due out any day now…THANK YOU ARLNOW for putting out this survey. It will give me some leverage if I get hit with a high rent increase.

  • DT

    A friend just moved from a 2 BR to a 1 in the Smith/Archstone building in Crystal City and her rent is the same after the increase. Another friend was basically evicted from her 1BR in a Bainbridge building because she has a corner unit with a nice exposure. They were increasing her rent by $400 a month to stay. I can’t believe there aren’t laws against this sort of thing.

    • mehoo

      There are laws against that sort of thing.

      I don’t know for sure, but I seriously doubt it’s legal to evict someone just to get a higher-paying tenant if the place has four or more units. If she was just forced out by a huge increase in rent that’s beyond market, that might be illegal too (less likely though).

      Here’s the Arlington Housing Office page with resources, including a link to the state Landlord-Tenant law:

      http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/cphd/housing/housing_info/CPHDHousingHousing_infoTenantLandlord.aspx

      • R.Griffon

        I’m pretty sure nobody was evicted. “…was BASICALLY evicted” is shorthand for “she wasn’t evicted at all, but I think it’s unfair so that’s what I call it.” I’d guess she was offered an opportunity to pay the new market rate, and chose to move instead.

        It sucks for her that she moved into a place that now finds itself in high demand and that she is unwilling or unable to pay new market rates, but nor can you expect businesses to keep rents below market when others are standing cash in hand ready to pay a higher rate.

        • mehoo

          Yeah, it sounds like that’s what happened. I think some localities have guidelines on rent increase limits, though they may not be required by law. The county might make a landlord’s life more difficult if they do this kind of thing though.

          Bottom line is that renters have rights and should know them, and not assume a landlord can do anything they want.

    • Teyo

      Bainbridge management is pretty terrible. I’m not surprised they’d increase the rent a ridiculous amount just to try to force her out.

  • willy

    Doing a little arithmetic on the survey results and assuming that the 9.1+% category is 10%,on average, then weighted increase of about 190 respondents was 3.5% this year. If that top group had an increase of 15%, then the total is 4.2%. Finally, if the top group had an increase of 20%, then the total is 4.9%.

    So using the evidence we have so far, and disregarding all of the wonderful anecdotes, the increases have not been that high.

    • anon

      Sounds like people who own are also voting, so some of the no increase people may not be renters.

      Personally, I’ve never had my rent raised in the past 4 years in Arlington (knock on wood). But I also have never lived in a building owned by a major rental company.

  • JASDCA

    I got hit with a 20% increase in Crystal City but managed to negotiate down to “only” a 15% increase.

  • The Pope of South Arlington

    Maybe we can export some of south Arlington’s third-world exotics into Clarendon as a kinda rent control. A couple Buchanan Garden Mara Salvatrucha in the Whole Foods parking lot should do the trick. Sit back and watch the rental prices plummet…

    There’s no shortage of trendy bar-crawling zombies willing to pay 2000 a month to live an efficiency so they can passively socialize while they walk around Clarendon with their Guinea-Pig/Dog hybrids.

    • mehoo

      Hey, you’re back from printing out neo-Nazi fliers!

      • The Pope of South Arlington

        Hey, you’re back from weight watchers, any holiday recipes ya wanna share? Did you get those snow tires for your bicycle we were talking about?

        • mehoo

          Yeah, I’ve got a great recipe for a peppermint nutmeg latte, but why make it yourself when you can get it at Starbucks for $8.50?

          Only wusses use snow tires. Or motorcyles.

          Got any good recipes for luftwaffles? Or papusas? You must be able to smell those in your over-priced rental apartment from all those dirty immigrants crowding you out, huh?

          • The Pope of South Arlington

            How’d you hear about my Luftwaffles? You’re more than welcome to pedal on over and try ’em. Speaking of smells, I got this Korean chick 3 doors down and whatever she’s cookin is taking the paint off my walls.

          • The Pope of South Arlington

            3 outta 4 teletubbies agree – Luftwaffles smell better than Korean food!

  • John Andre

    Rents aren’t the only housing costs that are rising. My monthly condominium fee is rising by 5% in 2011.

  • NJMetsfan

    Its insane to raise any rents to more than 1-2% honestly. The apt places should want to keep tenants, not drive them out.

    • Arlington Dude

      The apartment owners know that there are a lot of people who want to rent an apartment in Arlington. So if people move out because they don’t want to pay so much just to rent, someone else will just move in. There are a lot of people a few years out of college who feel like they have to live in Arlington because their friends do, so there isn’t a shortage of tenants.

      A 1-2% increase a year is really low in this area.

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    From the above postings, it seems like Crystal City landlords are the main culprits in raising rents.

  • MC

    I am always struck by the so-called “affordability crisis” in Arlington. There is no denying Arlington is an expensive place to live, by somehow many people who choose to move here seem unaware of this, and find they need to move out within a few years. According to the County, the 50% of entire population of Arlington turns over every 5 years. That means that half of Arlington residents have been here less than five years, and will not stay more than that. While it is wonderful to have a dynamic population with lots of new people moving in, it indicates as well that Arlington is not considered a place to stay by many residents, and I have to believe a misperception of real costs is a big part of that. Renting is a sensible option for many people, but it does distance oneself from the underlying components of housing costs like taxes that homeowners face. I think if a proper economist did an econometric analysis of the rise of housing costs for both home buyers and renters over the past decade the increase in absolute property taxes would be an essential component of that. The loin’s share of the County’s growing expenditures is financed by property taxes, and renters pay for that indirectly.

    • jan

      I see at least 3 reasons for the high turnover. First, most Arlington apartments are sized for singles and couples. Once children come along, an Arlington apartment will no longer be comfortable.

      Second, there are many for whom the metropolitan area is only one stop the their career paths.

      Then there are the retirees who move to be closer to their children, or to live in warmer climates, or less congested or cheaper areas. I wonder how the median age of Arlington has changed over the years?

  • CW

    Also, everyone seems to be treating this as a micro-scale issue where all the variables at play are within the bounds of Arlington County. It’s not. The greater DC area has served as a dumping ground for every college grad in the eastern side of the country for the past 2 years, aided by the thousands of Forbes/CNNMoney/etc. articles talking about “best places to start a career”, etc. Personally, I had been planning on getting an engineering job in Boston when I graduated with my master’s in 09, but all the big private companies were on hiring freezes. Like myself, no one else living in this area is actua

    • CW

      wtf auto comment submit?

      Anyhow, no one is from actually around here and a lot of people are just riding out the recession before going “home”. I don’t intend to be one of those people because I love D.C., but I know a ton of Philly, NYC, and Boston folks itching to head for the hills when the job market normalizes.

      So what I’m saying is that, yes, in the short term, we have these issues, but I am curious as to what will persist once things smoothen out economically and everyone no longer needs to hide under the federal government umbrella.

      • mehoo

        That was strange. Your comment got cut off in mid-se

        • mehoo

          ntence!

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