time to rent?

Houston sees one of the most dramatic drops in rent prices during the pandemic

Houston rent prices drop dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic

Houston, Aris Market Square, December 2017, Two bedroom apartment
Houston rents are actually dropping, according to a new report. Courtesy photo

Americans are under siege as the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout continue to overwhelm renters across the country. So grave is the issue that the Trump administration has halted evictions nationwide through December for people who have lost work during the pandemic, as reported by NPR.

Just how hefty are rents in Houston? Rental resource Apartment List released its September 2020 national rental survey, and the results may surprise locals.

Rents in Houston are dropping. The study finds that rents are also down 1.5 percent since the start of the pandemic in March. That dip is the No. 10 fastest decline among the nation’s 50 largest cities. Overall, rents have decreased by 0.1 percent month-over-month.

Meanwhile, according to Apartment List, year-over-year rent growth in Houston currently stands at -1.0 percent. That’s the lowest rate in July of any year since the start of the survey’s estimates. 

Houston's year-over-year rent growth also lags the state average of -0.1 percent, as well as the national average of 0.3 percent.

As of now, median rents in Houston stand at $835 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,022 for a two-bedroom, according to Apartment List. Those rates are relatively cheap compared to Sugar Land, where a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,260 and a two-bedroom is $1,540. Interestingly, Sugar Land has seen rents fall by 2.2 percent over the past year, the biggest drop in the Greater Houston surrounding area.

For some perspective, San Francisco has a median 2-bedroom rent of $2,956, which is more than two-and-a-half times the price in Houston, according to the study. Rents in the Bay Area have dropped by 4.7 percent since March, the largest drop in the nation.

Houston isn’t the only Texas city to make the top 10 in Apartment List’s ranking, which finds that rents in Austin have fallen by 1.7 percent since March, the eighth-largest decrease among big U.S. cities. Capital City rents have declined 0.2 percent over the past month, and are down by 1.1 percent — in comparison to the same time last year. Currently, median rents in Austin stand at $1,173 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,448 for a two-bedroom.

This is the fifth straight month that the city has seen rent decreases after an increase in March, according to the survey. Austin’s year-over-year rent growth lags the state average of -0.1 percent, as well as the national average of 0.3 percent.

Austin renters will generally find more expensive prices there than most other large cities. For example, Detroit has a median two-bedroom rent of $902; Austin is more than one-and-a-half times that price.

Rents aren’t falling everywhere in the U.S., however. Phoenix has seen an increase of 1.7 percent, while renters in Memphis, Tennessee have seen a growth of  1.2 percent.

To crunch these rental numbers, Apartment List starts with reliable Census numbers, then extrapolates them forward using its listing data.