2019 Multifamily Outlook

As we previously reported, 2018 was a banner year for multifamily housing, with a 44% increase in sales accounting for more than 30% of the total U.S. real estate investment sales. What is the health of the 2019 multifamily housing market through the first two quarters, and where will it go from here? Freddie Mac has answered these questions and more in its Multifamily 2019 Midyear Outlook. Overall, the outlook is positive, showing signs of sustainability and growth for the remainder of the year and beyond.

According to Freddie Mac, “In our research, we find that strong economic growth and the robust labor market continue to support the strength in the multifamily market. Last year ended much stronger than anticipated with near record absorptions and stronger rent growth compared with the prior few years. The first two quarters of 2019 saw mixed results, with slower growth in the first quarter, but preliminary second quarter information indicating the spring leasing season is off to a strong start. Along with the strong fundamentals, lower interest rates continue to drive origination volume higher throughout 2019.”

Low Unemployment is Having a Favorable Impact

It is anticipated that the labor market–with low unemployment and wage growth–will continue to drive housing demand, benefiting multi-family properties. As the report states, “Pending any broader economic event that would impact the labor market, there is no real estate specific headwind on the horizon that could disrupt the favorable outlook for multifamily through the rest of this year and into the next.”

Loans Increase While Absorptions Dip

Multifamily originations–or fees associated with processing a loan–are continuing their upward trend from 2018 through the first two quarters of 2019. Originations have increased by 8% to $336 billion. “The 10-year Treasury reached 1.75%, a decline of 150 bps (basis points) from last November,” the report says. “Rate declines generally drive origination volume higher, and with a drop of this magnitude to very low levels, forecasts must be decisively higher than earlier in the year.”

Absorption rates, by contrast, saw strong gains in 2018 only to stall thus far in 2019. “The first quarter of 2019 saw absorptions wane and high levels of new supply entered the market, but strong gains in the second quarter suggests the trends for multifamily are not yet turning.”

“In our research, we find that strong economic growth and the robust labor market continue to support the strength in the multifamily market.”
– Freddie Mac

Higher Demand and Lower Supply

Multifamily demand is outpacing new supply, as there is a shortage of housing compared to households. Total housing completions over the past three years have averaged 1.1 million housing units each year, while the number of households have increased on average 1.4 million. Per the report, “The continued increase in multifamily construction when the overall housing market continues to remain unbalanced is not necessarily an oversupply concern as the economy struggles to build enough housing.”

Steady Growth Ahead

The multifamily market is bright. Freddie Mac projects overall growth for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020 with high-demand spurring on new construction. “As this supply enters the market, we expect vacancy rates to increase throughout the year, but only marginally, up to 5.2%. We anticipate that rent growth will remain healthy at around 4% in 2019.”