Wellington, FL Rents to Grow as Community Expands

Wellington, FL has seen tremendous growth in the past 50+ years. In 1960, the population was 4,622 and the estimated population in 2015 was 62,560. This population growth includes families with children under the age of 18, with children making up over a quarter of the population in 2010.

wellington-apartment-rental-market

Map of the Wellington, FL apartment rental market area.

Aside from the availability of housing and good schools, Wellington looks to see strong job growth in the coming future. Currently they are seeing job growth at 3.94%, but that should jump up to 43.7% over the next ten years.

It has been reported that heavy investment in the South Florida area is helping to drive demand for apartment complexes. This point is further highlighted in an article explaining the recent sale of the Solara at Wellington Apartments:

More than $1.2 billion was spent on the acquisition of apartment complexes throughout the tri-county area during 2015, with demand being driven by the belief that rental rates will continue seeing steady growth.

For many younger residents in South Florida, the lack of affordable homes to purchase has kept them in the apartment rental market. As population growth continues to a steady clip here, demand for rental housing will increase. As demand goes up, rental prices should continue to increase on existing apartment rental units in the area.

wellington-fl-apartment-rent-trendsIn the case of Wellington, more developments should continue to take place with the presence of good schools and cheaper land due to its inland location. The presence of increased demand can be seen in the increased rents for apartments within Wellington. In the chart showing apartment rental trends in Wellington, rental rates have gone up year over year. Higher end rates should be noted in particular because of their dramatic spike starting in July of 2015.

 

Using RentHub.com as a resource, you can also see what the apartment rental market summary is for the past 60 days in Wellington.wellington-fl-average-apartment-rents

 

How are Oil Prices Affecting Apartment Rents?

An Update on Three Oil Towns

In January of this year, we at RentHub wanted to see how apartment rents were trending in three distinct rental markets where the local economy is driven by the oil industry. At the time, median rents in each case were declining substantially. The median rents in these three markets have continued to decline, while oil prices have somewhat stabilized. Crude oil prices are still nowhere near the $100+ per barrel during the peak, but the floor is not falling out from under the industry as it seemed to be doing when we last addressed this topic in January.

The Current Situation

As you can see by the chart, oil prices have rebounded from January when they were below $30 a barrel. As of October 25, U.S. crude oil futures were trading at $49.35. This is roughly a $20 increase since that time, but nowhere near the days where the price per barrel was over $100.

us-traded-crude-oil-prices-wsj-10-25-16

source: WSJ.com

The U.S. oil industry is proceeding on a more careful footing after the price collapse that occurred. Global production levels are in flux, along with demand for the type of crude oil the U.S. produces being in low demand.

Current Rental Trends

As stated, apartment rental trends for these three markets have continued to decline. There are a few factors that this may be attributed to this decline. Below are the housing rental trends for each:

Odessa, TX

odessa-decreasing-rent-trends-renthub

Midland, TX

midland-decreasing-rent-trends-renthub

Williston, ND

williston-nd-decreasing-rent-trends-rendhub

Going Forward

Uncertainty in the oil business will continue to translate to uncertainty in the housing sector in each of these oil towns. Williston, ND has seen greater declines in rents due to the dominance the oil boom had on that local market. Odessa and Midland, both have had a longer history of oil development. The oil boom that occurred in Williston brought on temporary housing. Because of the rapid nature of apartment development that was needed to meet the demand during that boom, more apartment rentals have come online while the local government works to remove the temporary housing.

New Development Continues

image_asset_11386

Housing development continues to take place in Williston, ND.                 photo source: eenews.net

These boom markets are still working towards stabilizing. Though the local economies are now constricting, to an extent, since the days of $100+ per barrel, development, and specifically housing development continues to take place. Instead of only reacting to the rapid influx of workers, each market is preparing for longer term solutions to housing oil workers and the job sectors that help to serve those people.

In April of 2016, The Odessa Housing Finance Corp. was working to develop 181 units of rental housing.

Tax credits units in the apartment buildings would serve people who make $23,000 to $36,540 a year… About 63% of the renter population earns less than $40,000 per year in a rental market where less than 10% of rental housing is affordably priced according to the (Odessa Housing Finance Corp.)

In Midland it is reported that development of new commercial and residential uses is still set to take place, despite the drop in oil prices.

Several oil companies have recently built office complexes in the area, and drilling continues, albeit at a more sluggish pace. The city plans to build a new convention center, and construction of a municipal courthouse is underway. Several more hotels, apartment complexes and eateries are expected to open this year

In that same report, the driving force behind this development in Midland, and it can be applied to both Odessa and Williston, is because:

The prolonged bustle is partly because the city is playing catch-up, recovering from a period of frenetic growth during the recent boom, when housing was impossible to find…

 

Comparing Rents in the 10 Best Places to Raise a Family

It is quite an accomplishment to be featured on a livability list at Livability.com and something that apartment owners should make note of when gauging rental prices and rental housing demand. In the case of the list we are featuring, the 10 best places to raise a family are featured. Assuming most families seek out homes with two to three bedrooms, those will be the focus for each of these ten rental markets. Using the RentHub data for average rental prices and average square feet for apartments, the vast differences of each apartment market can be seen.

The following is a brief description of how Livability.com ranks their cities:

We crunched the data. We looked at the quality of the schools, the crime rate, and measures of the quality of healthcare and economy. We gave points to communities that are walkable, diverse, have lots of parks and active children’s sections in their libraries. We favored communities with shorter commute times (so working parents can be home more and on the road less) and larger populations of other kids to play with.

We will highlight some of these community characteristics that will hopefully help you understand the livable fabric of each.

10. Palo Alto, CA

2 Bedroom – $3,500 per month / 1,100 sf
3 Bedroom – $8,750 per month / 2,324 sf

Palo Alto, CA is home to Stanford University. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the city is a center for Silicon Valley and the highly regarded technology companies that are found there.
Based on the US Census, over 80% of the residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Just over 45% of the households are renter occupied. There are over 66,000 residents, to which +23% are under the age of 18. The median household income is $126,771 (in 2014 dollars). Housing demand in Palo Alto, being driven by university employees and technology sector, along with higher household incomes, are heavy drivers of the apartment market rents here.

9. Bowling Green, OH

2 Bedroom – $665 / 774 sf
3 Bedroom – $782 / 882 sf

The City of Bowling Green, OH is home to Bowling Green State University and the 18,856 students who attend school there. The median age of the city is 23.2 years, with 43.2% of residents being between the ages of 18 to 24. It can be surmised that the student population is the largest driver of demand for apartment rentals and the local economy. A small population found in a central location has presented the city the opportunity to have a walkable downtown with regular customers for the businesses found there. The lower rental rates are better understood when fully realizing the proportion of students that make up the total housing rental market.

bowling-green-oh-rent-drivers

8. Homewood, AL

2 Bedroom – $1,045 / 1,093 sf
3 Bedroom – $1,425 / 1,400 sf

A suburb of Birmingham, home to Samford University, Homewood, AL has a total population of 25,708. For a smaller city from this top ten list, Homewood has several parks that helped increase the livability factor. You can also find the Hollywood Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

homewood-al-rent-drivers Continue reading

Top 10 Trending Neighborhoods in Major US Cities

It’s summertime in the city which means rents are high, workplace productivity is low, and all inhibitions are out the window. Not only is it prime vacation season, it’s also peak time for finding a new place to live. Apartment rates have been known to increase anywhere between 15% and 20% beginning April and ending around October. So we’ve decided to use our real-time rental data and Heat Map to pull together a summary of what neighborhoods are trending and and who’s flocking to them. While a few of the established submarkets are just now seeing a spike in listings, other’s are outliers experiencing a surge in new multifamily developments and gentrifying demographics.

The following summary was generated by RentHub’s real-time rent analytics in conjunction with census reporter data.

10. 

Current Rent Median: $2,650
Last Year Median: $2,450
Increase: 8%
Rent Drivers: Parking, Gym, Secured Entry
Median Age/Income: 30yrs/$40,013
Avg. % of Income Spent on Rent: 79%

9.

Current Rent Median: $1,700
Last Year Median: $1,571
Increase: 8%
Rent Drivers: Laundry, Garage, Granite
Median Age/Income: 35 yrs/$77,512
Avg. % of Income Spent on Rent: 26%

8.

Current Rent Median: $2,400
Last Year Median: $2,200
Increase: 10%
Rent Drivers: Secure Entry, Stainless, Lounge
Median Age/Income: 33 yrs/$50,336
Avg. % of Income Spent on Rent: 57%

7.

Current Rent Median: $2,650
Last Year Median: $2,385
Increase: 11%
Rent Drivers: Stainless, Secure Entry, Gym
Median Age/Income: 37 yrs/$61,000
Avg. % of Income Spent on Rent: 52%

6.

Current Rent Median: $3,262
Last Year Median: $2,895
Increase: 13%
Rent Drivers: Garage, Granite, Pool
Median Age/Income: 37 yrs/$55,959
Avg. % of Income Spent on Rent: 70%

Austin Apartment Deals: A Renter’s Cheatsheet

Kwelia provides price-transparency for the apartment-rental industry. By analyzing millions of data-points, Kwelia can uncover the best deals available for renters, intelligently price apartments for property owners, and predict upcoming real-estate trends for investors.

 

In our last posting, we reviewed Austin’s top apartment deals. Unfortunately (for renters) many of last week’s deals are no longer available, giving testament to Austin’s highly desired real estate market; In 2013, Austin showed above a 95% occupancy rate for apartments,  leaving little room for future renters. Fortunately, Kwelia is here to save the day with yet another iteration on this week’s top  apartment deals in the Austin area.

Sabina

If you’re a renter who prefers a quieter, more homely (the “cozy” definition, not the “unattractive” one) neighborhood, check out Sabina properties, located in North Austin’s Hancock area. Sabina offers a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,080 square foot apartment with monthly payments of $1,950; Sabina throws in a free month’s rent, reducing the renters’ overall monthly payments to $1,787/month. As a result, Kwelia ranks the Sabina a cool 85/100.

Why this deal wins

Not only does Sabina offer a quiet, safe neighborhood but the apartment comes furnished with luxury granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and in-unit washer & dryer. Access to an elevator makes moving-in easy to the newly renovated apartments. Additional value is derived from Sabina’s 1-month free promotion when you sign the lease.

 

Berkshire SoCo

If you’re not a fan of the north, head south and check out Berkshire SoCo. Berkshire is currently offering a 1,221 square foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bath luxury apartment for $1,694/month. Berkshire’s offering has been rated a 65/100 by Kwelia’s algorithms.

Why this deal wins

While Berkshire SoCo is not as highly ranked as Sabina, the property offers a huge advantage – a garage. With a car, a renter will still need to drive 16 minutes into town but will have the flexibility for weekend getaways and explore the beautiful, more rural parts of Texas.

 

Falcon Ridge

If you enjoy Berkshire SoCo’s location, you might want to also check out Falcon Ridge – a 2 minute drive further south. The additional 2-minute drive will yield a 1,120 square foot apartments with 2-bedroom and 2 bathrooms priced at $1,266 (after 1-free month lease signing). The deal offered at Falcon Ridge is almost too good to pass up, scoring a Kwelia rating of 74/100.

Why this deal wins

Not only does Falcon Ridge offer luxury apartments with elevators for easy move-in, but Falcon Ridge offers many outdoor activities including, but not limited to, access to Williamson Creek, a volleyball court, two swimming pools, jogging trains, and public BBQ grills – perfect for some fun in the sun!

Coming up next week…

Grab these apartments while you still can because, like our last posting, most apartments are only on the market for a week! None the less, the team at Kwelia will be your eyes-and-ears keeping you up-to-date on the best apartment deals within the area.


If you’d like to learn more about Kwelia, sign up for our mailing list or login to find other apartment deals throughout the area.

Does “Apartment Chopping” Make Sense?

I just read a thought-provoking article over at The Brooklyn Reader reporting that across Brooklyn property managers are chopping up existing apartments to add additional bedrooms. The basic logic of this makes sense–the more renters an apartment can support, the more potential income to be spent on increasing rents. However, the apartment will also become more cramped and less valuable on a “per renter” basis.

Naturally, I wanted to take a more data-driven look at this. I decided to use Bed Stuy as a case study, since it was one of the neighborhoods mentioned in The Brooklyn Reader’s article. Here are some median rent statistics for Bed Stuy in the last 60 days taken from our Competitive Intelligence product (click to enlarge):

bed_stuy_rent_stats

The spread in rent between one and two bedroom apartments in Bed Stuy is currently at $305 dollars. So, it seems at first glance that if you can inexpensively add a bedroom to an existing one bedroom, you should definitely do so. But, number of bedrooms is not the entire story in terms of apartment value. One bedroom apartments are more attractive to renters, at least in terms of what the market signals in terms of rent per square foot: $2.12 for one bedrooms vs. $2.00 for two bedrooms. So, you can expect to lose around 5.6% in per square foot value after converting a one bedroom to a two bedroom apartment in Bed Stuy, since the total number of square feet is not going to change.

Furthermore, the converted two bedroom is likely to have to closer to 800 sqft (the one bedroom median) than 1,000 sqft (the two bedroom median) since, after all, it used to be a one bedroom. Let’s split the difference and assume it’s a bigger one bedroom at 900 sqft.: that’s still 10% less than the median two bedroom, so we’re not going to end up with a full-sized two bedroom apartment.

Taking those adjustments into consideration, we can expect the actual increase in value to be much lower: $1,924 – (5.6% of $1,924) – (10% of the previous result) = ~$1,645. That’s only $26 more than the one bedroom average, and almost certainly not worth the cost of the conversion.

This is obviously a simplistic analysis, but I was skeptical that you could take an existing apartment that’s presumably been designed for a certain number of occupants, shoe-horn in an extra bedroom and get something substantially more valuable. The basic reason for this is that it does not take into account the fact that you’re not really adding value from the renter’s perspective, and what the renter is willing to pay for an apartment is all that really matters. You’d be better off adding nicer finishes, which do add a lot of incremental value (but that’s another post.)

This analysis is also specific to Bed Stuy, and it may actually make sense in other areas where the numbers look different–say where two bedroom apartments have a higher or similar per square foot value than one bedroom apartments, or where the difference in size between typical one and two bedrooms isn’t so pronounced.

If you want to dig deeper into this kind of data & analysis, check out the free trial of our Competitive Intelligence product!

 

Why the Zillow-Trulia Merger Is Meaningless for Real Estate Innovation

The NY Times (and others) are reporting today that Zillow is going to acquire Trulia for $3.5 billion in stock. This is a massive merger that will no doubt effect massive change in the real estate media landscape. This news is not surprising given Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff’s goal of “[creating] a portfolio of real estate properties, becoming more along the lines of an IAC/InterActiveCorp.”

The comparison to a media holding company such as IAC is a good one. Zillow’s primary innovation has been to bring real estate marketing online. Now, their path to future growth is to get more eyeballs on their content via acquisition.

And by all accounts, the new Zillow has a healthy market opportunity in front of it:

“The revenue of the merged company — $341.2 million last year – represents only a small part of what he [Rascoff] reckons is the $12 billion the real estate industry spends on marketing each year.”

However, this isn’t going to do much to affect the way actual real estate business is conducted.

Zillow is a real estate marketing company, but the real estate industry is not primarily a marketing business. Zillow may be content to own this niche, but there are much bigger opportunities out there to innovate in real estate.

Property management is a $69 billion annual business in the US alone. A big chunk of what property managers do could be conducted online, but currently isn’t.

Real estate development and investment is a order of magnitude larger than that, and is vastly under-served by the incumbent software and data offerings.

And yet, relatively few startups have attempted to serve these markets.

At Kwelia, we’re excited to capitalize on Zillow’s missed opportunity. We’re building the data platform that powers true innovation in real estate, and we’re starting with rental housing data. If you’re ready to join the next wave of real estate innovators building on our platform, drop us a line.

Kwelia Rent Price Trends vs. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index

Introduction

As Hamlet probably said while perusing Danish real estate: “to rent, or not to rent, that is the question.” Prospective renters (or homeowners) can attest that the decision to buy or to rent involves a complex consideration of a number of factors, including the time horizon for the living arrangement, expected changes in rental and home prices, and mortgage rates (fortunately, both the New York Times and Trulia conveniently provide tools to assist with some of the math). While the market dynamics and personal factors that inform the decision to buy or to rent are complex, we’d like to briefly explore one of the factors mentioned above: the evolution in rental and home prices, and then investigate the relationship between the two.

Background

In order to compare home prices and rental prices, we first need yardsticks for both. For home prices, we used the 20-city indices from the Case-Shiller 20-city composite index, and for rental prices we used our Kwelia data (of course), as well as some nationwide Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for rent of primary residence.

The Case-Shiller Index–Useful for Tracking Home Values

As mentioned last time in our piece about correlations between search interest and rental prices, the Case-Shiller index provides a benchmark measurement for home values in the U.S. There are multiple indices, including the national index (using quarterly single family home values), and the 20 and 10-city composite indices (as well as an index for each of the 20 cities), using monthly home values. The indices use a “repeat-sales” methodology by including homes that have sold at least twice in order to quantify an appreciation in value. Lastly, the Case-Shiller methodology involves measuring changes in price while keeping quality constant, i.e., ignoring physical changes to homes in order to measure the real appreciation in price (for example, a home increasing in price by 20% because an addition was added is not the same as a home gaining 20% in value with no improvements).

Not quite apples-to-apples…apples-to-pears?

For the rental data, we used a monthly average of the weekly median rental prices in the same 20 cities as the Case-Shiller data. However, it should be noted that while the Case-Shiller home price index provides a “real” (i.e., constant quality) measure of housing prices from month to month, the rental data is not quality adjusted. That said, the duration of the comparison for each city is generally one to two years, over which period the impact of quality changes in rental stock should be relatively minor on a city-wide basis.

Are Home Prices and Rental Rates Related?

Note: while others have written in detail about prices and rents, this exploration should be treated as more of a “lab-exercise” to illustrate an effect empirically rather than as a formal study.

The hypothesis (“Here be Economics”)

Purchasing a house or an apartment instead of renting can be a more economical choice depending on the time horizon under consideration. For a very short timespan, it is often cheaper to rent, but for longer timeframes there is a breakeven point (at which you would be indifferent between buying and renting) after which it is cheaper to have purchased the house or apartment rather than renting. For example, it might take a decade for a house to become the cheaper option compared to renting for the same period of time. How long it takes to reach this breakeven point depends on the conditions of the market, including tax rates, interest rates, expected capital returns, the risk premium in the housing market, etc. For instance, low interest rates make ownership more attractive, while a risky housing market and high interest rates incentivize renting instead of purchasing.

Are rental rates and prices related in theory? In a classical frictionless market, the total cost of ownership for a house is comparable to an equivalent rental rate. This is called the owner’s equivalent rent, or the amount which an owner would pay in a competitive rental market to rent his own home. Any home has an associated hypothetical rental value, and any rental has an associated hypothetical purchase value. As such, in a competitive market in the long run, the discounted returns to renting an apartment should be equivalent to the total purchase value.

Therefore, we would hypothesize that rental values and home values are positively correlated (i.e., the two would move in the same direction in general). If rental rates and prices were to deviate too much, then arbitrage opportunities would act to bring the two closer together. For example, if rental rates were very high and housing were very cheap, then one could take advantage of this price difference by buying a house and renting it out. This would have the effect of: 1) Increasing the supply of rentals, bringing down rental rates and 2) Decreasing the supply of houses, increasing the price of purchasing a home. The opposite would also hold true.

However, because there are frictions in the market and buying and selling is expensive, one would not expect complete arbitrage (i.e., price differences would persist). Furthermore, although rental rates and prices are related in theory, there are other independent factors in both the rental and housing markets that determine prices for each. Because of this, we would expect only a moderate positive correlation on average in the long run. Does the data bear this prediction out?

The Results

City

Correlation between monthly Kwelia rent values and Case-Shiller index (r)

t

r-squared

Boston

0.989

16.389

0.978

Denver

0.978

11.395

0.956

Portland

0.963

8.738

0.927

San Diego

0.947

7.246

0.897

Chicago

0.925

5.981

0.856

San Francisco

0.915

7.531

0.838

Los Angeles

0.915

5.547

0.837

Seattle

0.899

5.039

0.809

Miami

0.896

4.947

0.803

Phoenix

0.846

3.883

0.715

Las Vegas

0.826

3.591

0.682

Minneapolis

-0.804

-3.316

0.647

Dallas

0.786

3.115

0.618

Charlotte

-0.634

-2.008

0.402

Atlanta

0.616

2.593

0.379

Cleveland

-0.542

-1.580

0.294

DC

-0.384

-1.610

0.147

Detroit

0.380

1.005

0.144

Tampa

0.289

1.316

0.084

New York

-0.288

-1.345

0.083

From a quick look, we can observe that 15 out of 20 of the cities showed a positive correlation between rental rates and home values. However, by looking at the t-values to determine which of these correlations is significant, we can eliminate the bottom 5 cities (whose correlations are not statistically significant), leaving us with 13 out of 15 correlations both positive and statistically significant. Excellent. Not only are the majority of the correlations positive and significant, but most of them have r-squared values above .6, indicating that a significant amount of the variation in the data is accounted for in the model.

But what about Charlotte and Minneapolis, which both have statistically significant and negative correlations? We thought about this for a while (and welcome any ideas!), and after investigating a few hypotheses, have settled on one theory for now: it’s an accident. The timeframe for the data used in both of those cities is just under a year, which is necessarily a short-run analysis. If rental rates and home values were to drift apart over the course of a year, the market wouldn’t have time to take advantage of the price difference and bring them closer together.

Ok, that sounds fine in theory, but data talks–does this long-term positive correlation between rents and home prices exist? To find out, we compared the 10 and 20-city Case-Shiller composite indices against the Consumer Price Index data for rent of primary residence (which is a real-valued index), from January 1st 2000 until now. Unfortunately, the CPI is not segregated by metropolitan area, but rather an index of national rental values. Nevertheless, as most rentals are in cities, we compared the CPI to the 20 and 10-city composite indices rather than the national Case-Shiller index to get the most fair comparison.

Although one can clearly see the explosion (and subsequent bust) in home values surrounding the mortgage crisis, there is as predicted a moderate (r~.3), statistically significant (t~4), positive correlation between rental values and home values over a long duration. This helps add evidence to our theory that the observed negative correlations were essentially an artifact of the short-run analysis, and that given sufficient long term data, a positive correlation would prevail as prices adjust.

The trend in Denver was positive as well.

Concluding Thoughts

While the evidence from this little experiment suggests that rents and prices are in fact positively correlated, it’s important to remember not to overstate the significance of the result. First, as noted above, the lack of a city by city “real-valued” rental index makes one-to-one comparisons with the Case-Shiller index difficult. Furthermore, the limited timeframe under consideration also prevents one from drawing too strong of a conclusion. Lastly, it is worth mentioning once more that the determinants of prices in both markets are diverse, and that the correlations found here serve more as an illustration of a specific connection between rentals and homes, rather than indicating a strong causal effect in determining prices.

That said, it is still interesting to “verify” these theoretical relationships with some actual data. Those interested in seeing the graphs for the remaining 18 cities can see them below, and those curious should check out some relevant papers at the end of this post. Finally, the scope and depth of our data is constantly growing, so we hope to provide even more robust analyses in the future!

Tampa   

Seattle 

San Francisco 

San Diego

Portland

Miami                    

Los Angeles

Las Vegas

Detroit              

D.C.      

Dallas  

Cleveland        

Chicago 

Charlotte

Atlanta             

Phoenix  

New York

Minneapolis     

Appendix for the curious

Outside Data Sources:

Case-Shiller data:

http://us.spindices.com/indices/real-estate/sp-case-shiller-20-city-composite-home-price-index

Rent CPI data:

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CUUR0000SEHA

Relevant Literature:

“The Long-Run Relationship Between House Prices and Rents,” Joshua Gallin.

http://www.federalreserve.gov/Pubs/FEDS/2004/200450/200450pap.pdf

“Run-up in the House Price-Rent Ratio: How Much Can Be Explained by Fundamentals?,” Kamila Sommer, et al.

http://www.bls.gov/ore/pdf/ec100090.pdf

Philly’s Best Neighborhoods for Deals: An Analysis of Amenities and Price

If you’ve been following our coverage of the Philadelphia rental market, you already know which of Philadelphia’s rental neighborhoods are the hottest in May and in the summer. However, there’s more to consider when looking for an apartment than just the price and the location; amenities are important too. To shine some light on this aspect of the rental market, we first asked: which amenities are available, and what fraction of apartments feature them? After selecting a number of luxury amenities to investigate, we looked to the data as usual for some insights into the distribution of rental amenities throughout Philadelphia.

Is “luxury” actually rare?

Overall, the single most frequently listed amenity throughout the rentals was “stainless”, as that amenity was present in nearly 11% of the listing observations (“stainless” likely refers to stainless steel kitchens).  Listings for rentals with doormen were the least common, comprising roughly 1% of the listing observations. Nevertheless, between one-fifth to one-quarter of all rental listings had at least one luxury amenity.

Next, we looked at how the term “luxury” is used compared with more specific feature descriptors–while the presence of granite, stainless, or a doorman are all objective and verifiable, the scope of what is considered “luxurious” could prove a bit more subjective. Did the use of the term “luxury” line up with how often we would expect to see it, given what we’ve observed about the frequency of luxury features? It would appear that, yes, there is some truth in advertising–only about 4% of apartment listings indicated that the unit had “luxury” features, suggesting the term is used judiciously.

Is there a better time to look for a luxury apartment? From the chart above, we can see that the proportion of listings with any luxury amenities stayed between one-fifth and one-quarter for the past ten months. Although the winter months saw a slight decline in the frequency of luxury apartments, the impact of seasonality appears to be relatively low, at least in this year.

Let’s talk cost/benefit

Ritzier amenities tend to come with ritzier price tags, however. Lest we forget, apartment rentals, like anything in life, demand tradeoffs. With that in mind, which neighborhoods have listings with the most “bang for the buck?” Given the information on neighborhood amenities newly in hand, as well as our previous coverage of Philadelphia rental neighborhood prices, we only had to combine the two to produce a ranking of the “best deal” neighborhoods in Philadelphia:

Best Deal: Mill Creek

A quick note on methodology: the “best deal” ranking above is derived by taking the price per square foot in the neighborhood and dividing by the median frequency of having any luxury amenity (lower ratios are better). This metric provides insight into the most affordable places to find apartments that also have luxury features. Lastly, to keep the rankings relevant to current market conditions, the prices and amenity frequencies used are the three-month moving average of their respective monthly median values.

The top-five “best deal” neighborhoods overlaid on our rental price heat map

The map and the rankings show that there are a number of neighborhoods with affordable but well-equipped rentals, especially West and North of Center City. In fact, the majority of apartments listed in Mill Creek and Haverford North (numbers one and two, respectively, on our list) have at least one luxury amenity. While Mill Creek has consistently posted high figures for the proportion of its rental stock with a featured amenity over the past ten months, the fraction of such listings in Haverford North has increased dramatically since the fall of 2012, especially since this April:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

The impressive increase in the median frequency of luxury listings in Haverford North over the past five months has not come without a catch. As this screenshot from our Competitive Intelligence product shows, the rise in the proportion of luxury listings has been mirrored by a dramatic increase in median rental rates. From April to June (and persisting into August), the median rent per square foot in Haverford North roughly tripled.

Wrap-up

There’s definitely more than one angle to look at all of this data, and plenty more data to analyze, so check back for more on rental markets around the country.