Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rent Party

I've reconciled myself to renting an apartment in New York for the foreseeable future. As I listen to Chicago-based friends with visions of down payments and adjustable rate mortgages dancing in their heads, I will be wondering exactly what size of cardboard box a young associate's salary will buy in Manhattan.

Unlucky for me, Ezra Klein of The American Prospect notes that rental prices have stayed steady during the housing boom/bust:

In theory, the run-up in costs should've made it relatively more profitable for landlords to sell, thus depleting the rental stock, and forcing renters to stay competitive by paying more. That didn't happen, though I'm not sure why.

Kevin Drum takes a gander as to why:

A couple of guesses here. First, part of the housing bubble was caused by low interest rates, something that doesn't affect rental rates. In fact, low interest rates generally help to keep rental rates low. Second, the housing bubble took a lot of renters off the market: home ownership rates went up a couple of points and rental rates went down a couple of points. That kept pressure on landlords to keep rents low. Third, there might be a psychological effect, at least in the short term: as long as property prices are rising smartly, landlords might be willing to accept lower rental rates. You're more likely to accept a lower cash flow ROI if you think there's a big capital gain coming your way a few years down the road.

I have no idea either. Then again, urban property (like the condo two conversions within a block from my apartment) hasn't felt the housing bust nearly as much as the exurbs. For the moment, the cost of everything is rising so fast that a steady rent keeps a lot of people feeling more secure then homeowners at the mercy of interest rates.

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