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Are Austin rents really skyrocketing?

Depends on who you ask

Word ‘rent” painted in white on a red brick wall Christopher Paquette/Flickr

Given that most 2018 year-end and early 2019 rent reports pegged Austin rent as flat—and that March data seems to do the same—it’s a bit of a surprise that at least some data sites put Austin as high as fourth in their lists of U.S. cities with the highest rent growth in the past year.

How do March’s local numbers compare among rental-data sources? While each differs and has its own sets of limitations, they can give us a sense of what’s happening across the city.

Abodo

Abodo, which bases its numbers on analysis of its listings, showed an expected slow rise in rents nationally. One-bedroom units rose 1.45 percent March to a median price of $1,050—up $10 from February. Two-bedroom apartments almost doubled that gain, with a 2.99 increase in March, to a median of $1,311, up from February’s $1,299.

Austin, meanwhile, saw median one-bedroom rents of $1,278 (a 1.11 percent rise) in March, with two-bedrooms at $1,621 (up 0.62 percent). That puts it near the bottom of Adobo’s 25 cities with the highest median rent increases since February.

Apartment List

Apartment List’s numbers track by city limits, and unlike a lot of listing site data, its numbers are weighted with census data to compensate for a skew toward luxury listings. It still attempts to track what a new renter or apartment-hunter could expect to pay for their pad, though, as opposed to what the typical renter is currently paying.

AL’s March data show Austin rents remaining flat over the month (as has been the case more generally for 2019 so far). According to AL’s March report, median one-bedroom price is at $1,150, with two-bedrooms at $1,420. The site puts the national average for a two-bedroom apartment at $1,174.

The study does show a marked 3.1% year-over-year increase—putting it in fourth place for fastest rental rate growth among the nation’s large cities, according to AL’s numbers. For comparison, the site’s national rent index grew by just 0.9% over the past year.

Since 2014, rents in Austin have grown by 17.2%, outpacing the national average of 13%, according to the report.

Zumper

Zumper, which can skew toward luxury and uses only its listings when calculating stats, creates a national rent index for 100 cities every month. It reported the median March rent for one-bedroom units in Austin increased 0.9 percent, to $1,180, while the price of two-bedroom units grew 2.1 percent to $1,490. Zumper’s and 1.4 percent, respectively.

In the same period, national one- and two-bedroom rents both fell 0.4 percent, settling at medians of $1,208 and $1,437, respectively.

Zumper ranks Austin as the 32nd most expensive city to rent in, but puts its year-over-year change in rents as flat for one-bedrooms and at only 1.4 percent for two-bedrooms—significantly different numbers from those of Apartment List’s study.