Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Apartment rents have dropped dramatically in Orlando -- at least that's what HUD says

But here on the ground in O’town, things look different. The stories you hear around the proverbial water cooler are about landlords jacking up rents because, while people keep streaming into this boomtown, the stock of available apartments has been reduced by a flood of condominium conversions, a slowdown in new construction and, oh, yes, the lingering effects of last summer’s hurricanes.

The Orlando Sentinel reported on April 4 that metro Orlando’s landlords had hiked rents to the highest levels in five years. On May 14, the Sentinel quoted Jim Lewis, president of a research company that tracks the market: "If you’re looking for an apartment, it’s going to be tough and it’s going to cost more. There is now a shortage, and over the next year or two it’s going to get worse." (Sorry, no links, the Sentinel charges for its archives.)

But HUD’s 2006 Fair Market Rents are lower in Orlando, even though 92% of the counties in the United States have higher four-bedroom rates in 2006 than 2005. In Florida, only the Orlando MSA (Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties) will see decreases. Everywhere else in Florida, fair market rents will increase for 2006. Check out the fair market rents elsewhere in Florida and across the United States here.

If I’m following HUD’s calculations correctly, here’s how it happened: In 2005, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $838. Using HUD’s normal method of updating, which is based on the regional Consumer Price Index, the 2006 fair market rent would have been $862. But a telephone survey of "recent movers" found a rent of only $782. The disparity was a problem because, in HUDspeak, the $862 figure is "outside of the 90% confidence interval for the forward-trended RDD result." So HUD used the survey results instead of the regional Consumer Price Index to determine the 2006 fair market rents in Orlando.

In a metro area with the highest apartment occupancy rate in more than five years -- 95.1%, which is considered virtually full by industry standards -- I have to wonder who were the "recent movers" and whether their reports more accurately reflect the situation in Orlando than the Consumer Price Index.

The 2006 fair market rents are:

0 bedrooms $630 -- $45 less than 2005
1 bedroom $684 -- $49 less than 2005
2 bedrooms $782 -- $56 less than 2005
3 bedrooms $979 -- $70 less than 2005
4 bedrooms $1153 -- $82 less than 2005
I browsed through the Sunday classified ads and found only about a quarter of the apartments were priced below HUD’s fair market rents, including 11 of 49 two-bedroom apartments and 5 of 26 three-bedroom apartments.

Read HUD’s overview of fair market rents here and HUD’s explanation of the Orlando calculations here.


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