Wednesday, February 7, 2024

2024 Multifamily Housing Market: A Year of Cautious Optimism and Stabilization

By HFO Investment Real Estate Research


Following partner meetings with dozens of institutional multifamily owner groups at the National Multifamily Housing Conference in San Diego last month, it appears the multifamily housing sector is entering a period of cautious optimism in 2024. For the most part, institutional owners, whose multifamily assets are typically valued at $20 million and up, feel the prices of multifamily real estate are finding their floor. Key factors contributing to this outlook include better clarity on interest rates, operational costs, and the balance between supply and demand, suggesting a more predictable market landscape. There's also a growing acceptance that distress among institutional-grade properties will be minimal, with many issues likely to be resolved privately or through debt restructuring.


The financial dynamics of multifamily properties are evolving. Expense growth is expected to surpass revenue increases in some markets this year. Property values are approaching a low-water mark, with capitalization rates stabilizing. These dynamics suggest a cautious market, with big-ticket investors adjusting their expectations. The cautious market is expected to keep joint venture and institutional equity mostly sidelined, with the bulk of capital investment in housing this year coming from family offices and private individuals. A surprising and significant increase in expenses the rental housing market faces is a surge in fraudulent rental applications. According to an NMHC report released in mid-January, more than 70% of major apartment landlords report increased applications, highlighting a growing and significant issue impacting operational costs and market integrity. This trend complicates rental management and contributes to higher costs, ultimately affecting availability and affordability.


With loan rates and expenses up, construction starts are declining nationwide, including throughout the Portland metro. Most of the area's new apartments will be delivered this year, and there is very little slated for completion in 2025 compared to other markets in the western region. This decline in new construction is occurring despite a critical need for more housing. A strong job market, increasing wages, and growing consumer confidence further increase demand. With completions up in the near term, the strategy of "heads on beds" emphasizing occupancy over rent increases still reflects the competitive landscape, with operators willing to adjust prices to maintain high occupancy rates. However, that strategy will end as construction deliveries slow later this year. CoStar Analytics is now forecasting that rent increases will begin again in the fourth quarter of 2024.


The government at all levels now appears serious about addressing the need for additional housing. Last week, the City of Portland issued largely temporary "regulatory relief" on 15 zoning and permitting requirements that take effect March 1. At the state level, Governor Tina Kotek recently announced she would seek $500 million during the current legislative session for housing-related infrastructure and land-use expansions.  At the federal level, a new bill introduced in Congress on January 31 would spend $300 million to enhance the supply of affordable housing.

In summary, the multifamily housing market in 2024 is navigating through a phase of adjustment and cautious optimism. Demand remains strong, but the challenges of supply, construction, and operational dynamics persist. The introduction of legislation to bolster the affordable housing supply and the need to address fraud in rental applications are critical aspects of the broader effort to stabilize and improve the market for renters and investors.

HFO Investment Real Estate is celebrating its 25th year in business. HFO offers brokerage and advisory services to multifamily owners in Oregon and Washington. Call (503) 241-5541 or visit to learn more.




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