Residential Rental Market in 2021: Bounce Back, Single Family Homes, and Consolidation

David Berardi
4 min readDec 21, 2021

2021 was an incredible year for residential real estate for so many reasons. The most glaring being the incredible rent growth coming out of a fierce recovery from pandemic lows — highlighting the asset classes’ incredible resilience. The sharp bounce-back also amplified the demand for single family homes, which performed better than almost every other segment. This recovery and growth was so remarkable, 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.

Residential Market’s Resilience

The most obvious and perhaps important occurrence in 2021 was the sharp bounce back from pandemic lows to now record breaking rent growth. According to most reports, 2021 saw average rent growths of around 10.5%, with some markets like South Florida increasing up to 30% YoY. 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 97.5% — proving that demand has somehow kept up with staggering rent increases. The resilience of the rental housing market in the past 18 months has been quite the spectacle, and the craziest part is — some project similar increases in 2022! If residential assets can survive the greatest pandemic and uncertainty of our generation, what can’t it survive…. Right?

Single Family Home Growth

Another asset class that had an incredible year was single family homes. When COVID struck and people fled major cities, many ended up staying much longer than they expected. The combination of privacy, space, and affordability (ironic!) 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.”

SFR has 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 SFR 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.

Consolidation

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 ways 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?

Looking back, 2021 was an unforgettable 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 showed its ability to bounce back from a crushing pandemic to reach new highs, and we saw the spark that was single family rentals ignite into one of the hottest segments of the market. 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 shut down, many folks predict 2022 to be another stellar year for both multi and single family real estate. Goldman Sachs Predicts a 13.5% uptick from October 2021 to December of 2022. No one knows exactly what 2022 will hold — but it will undoubtedly be exciting to watch!!

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David Berardi

David is the Business Development Team Lead at Rhino, a fast growing startup based out of NYC.