2021 was an incredible year for residential real estate for so many reasons. 

The most obvious being the accelerated rent growth coming out of a fierce recovery from pandemic lows — highlighting the asset classes’ incredible resilience, and amplifying the demand for single-family homes, which performed better than almost every other segment. The recovery was so strong, that it actually overshadowed another phenomenon this year — consolidation. 2021 brought along mergers, acquisitions, and investments that will change the face of residential real estate as we know it.

Below are some of the highlights from residential real estate in 2021 as it relates to resilience, single-family homes, and consolidation.

The residential market’s resilience

The cost of rents dropped in cities nationwide amid the pandemic. But in 2021 we saw record-breaking rent growth, as the rental market started to bounce back from the initial impact of COVID-19. According to Zumper, rents are 11.6% above where they were last year nationally, with some markets like South Florida increasing up to 30% YoY in 2021. 

A number of things impacted these metrics — a stronger job market, confidence in the (hopefully) waning pandemic, and the return of remote workers to expensive major metros. According to RealPage, occupancy now sits at a record high of 97.5% — proving that demand has somehow kept up with staggering rent increases. The rental housing market has been resilient in the past 18 months, and the craziest part is — some project similar increases in 2022

The rising popularity of single-family homes

Another asset class that had an incredible year was single-family homes. When COVID struck and people left metropolitan areas, many renters opted to stay outside of the major cities even after the pandemic began to subside. The combination of privacy, space, and affordability accelerated the age-old “move to the burbs”. 

Molly Boesel, an economist at CoreLogic summed this up perfectly: “Converging economic trends are driving a surge in single-family rent prices, and consumer confidence has driven an uptick in demand for both renters and buyers. The ongoing preference toward more living space — and slim for-sale inventory — is forcing would-be buyers back into renting, putting significant strain on the single-family rental market.”

A woman on the porch of her new single-family home rental. She is smiling.

Single-family rentals have always offered traditional investors reliable, long-term renters and consistent asset appreciation — but the surge in demand brought on by COVID has also led to a massive influx of institutional capital in 2021. According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, 2021 saw upwards of $30b in institutional equity investments. Institutional investors are not only attracted to the massive demand in the space, but they also see single-family rentals as an awesome hedge against rapidly increasing inflation. This is also likely why so many massive multifamily players have increased their investments and scaled up their SFH branches (see: Invesco’s $6B investment into Mynd). Much like the multifamily rent growth — single-family shows no sign of slowing down in 2022 and will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Rapid consolidation for an improved overall market 

Something that flew under the radar in 2021 was the incredible consolidation in the multifamily rental sector. 

We saw monumental mergers from the likes of CFRES and Roscoe, and IRT and Steadfast. We also saw game changing acquisitions — Asset Living bought over 30,000 units between JMG and CityGate and Blackstone just announced their purchase of BlueRock Residential REIT for $3.6B.

These mergers and acquisitions are strategies to achieve greater operational efficiency, elimination of competition and most importantly, access to new markets. Specifically in the property management space, acquiring companies as a means to open up new markets has been more and more common, as companies trade at relatively low multiples. It allows for the purchasing company to increase their overall market share and opens up their potential customer base to a wider and wider audience.

What’s next for the residential rental market?

Looking back, 2021 was a preeminent year for residential real estate. It saw the return of in-person operations — something that is undoubtedly crucial for everyone who operates in residential real estate. The market rebounded from the pandemic, and we saw the demand for single-family rentals skyrocket. So what’s next?

While it feels harder to predict the future than ever, rising costs of goods and inflation along with surging renter demand make it feel like rent growth is not slowing down anytime soon. With the exception of another serious shutdown, many folks predict 2022 to be another stand-out year for both multi and single-family real estate.

David Berardi

David Berardi is a Business Development Team Lead at Rhino. He has partnered with property owners across the country to offer Rhino in nearly two million homes nationwide. David knows what renters want, and what landlords need to take renting to the 21st century.