KING COUNTY, Wash. — The COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of houses available for rent to drop and rent prices to rise. Fewer people seem to be renting out homes, while more people are looking for homes over apartments or townhomes to rent.
“After the pandemic, nobody wants to be in a tiny apartment or condo anymore,” explained Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “So, there’s all this demand for single-family homes, whether it’s for sale or for rent.”
According to Redfin, the average monthly cost of rent for a single-family home in King County rose $345 from May 2020 to May 2021. Rent increased $300 during that same time in Pierce County and increased $200 in Snohomish County.
A breakdown of average single-family home rental prices for the three counties is below:
- May 2020: $2,650
- May 2021: $2,995
- May 2020: $1,800
- May 2021: $2,100
- May 2020: $2,250
- May 2021: $2,450
Fairweather explained there are two main factors: The real estate market is hot, and houses are selling for a lot more money than pre-pandemic times, and there are still eviction moratoriums in place because of the pandemic.
“Why the eviction moratorium matters is because if you were going to take on a new tenant during the pandemic, it was kind of a risky time to do it because in the back your mind you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know this person, what happens if they don’t pay their rent and I have no means to evict them?’ And then you’re looking at the single-family home for sale market and how high home prices are going. A lot of people do that calculation and think, 'the rental market is too risky, I’m going to put my home up for sale,'" said Fairweather.
While the eviction moratorium ending will likely put renters who were unable to pay in a challenging position, it may help alleviate the rental market crunch.
“There is a benefit to the eviction moratorium ending, which is that investors will have more confidence in entering the rental market,” said Fairweather. “We’re seeing an uptick right now in investors picking up single-family homes in a lot of cases for the purpose of renting them out. So, the more that investors feel confident that if they get a tenant, it’ll be a situation where that person will pay rent, and they’ll be able to do something about it if they don’t pay rent, we’ll see more investors take on that market.”
For those needing to rent now, Redfin’s advice is to look farther or look smaller.
You may need to consider moving out of your desired neighborhood to find a home the size you want, or you can look for something smaller like a townhouse or condo, which there is much more availability.
“Are you really committed to a single-family home? Like, maybe you’ll have more luck in a townhome or a large condo,” said Fairweather. “I think that that’s going to be less competitive than a big single-family home with a yard with room for a home office. I think that’s what everybody wants right now, and that’s where it’s going to be the toughest.”