The national rent index jumped another 2.1 percent this month, a slight dip from September’s 2.5 percent increase, but still far ahead of the typical monthly growth in  pre-pandemic years.

To put that into context, the month-over-month growth rate from July to August was 0.2 percent in 2018 and 0.3 percent in 2019, making the 2.1 percent observed this month more than eight times the average of those two pre-Covid years.

So far this year,  the national median rent has increased by 13.8 percent, according to the latest July rent report by Apartment List, a national online marketplace for residential, long-term renting.

In Sarasota and Manatee counties, those rates are turbocharged.

From July to August, Sarasota County rents have jumped 5.1 percent; Manatee County's have jumped 4.7 percent. Since the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, Sarasota County rental rates have grown by 25 percent; Manatee County’s by 31 percent.

According to the Apartment List report, the median price for a two-bedroom apartment in Sarasota County is $1,878 and $1,469 for a one-bedroom. Six months ago it was $1,522 and $1,191, respectively.

In Manatee, median rental prices are $1,599 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and $1,344 for a one-bedroom. Six months ago it was $1,263 and $1,053, respectively.

“A jump of 30 percent growth in such a short time is definitely excessive,” says Chris Salviati, senior housing economist at Apartment List. “The entire Tampa region is a really hot market right now. Even preceding the pandemic, it was already booming.”

Statewide, Tampa and Jacksonville made the top 10 list of cities with the largest rent increases since March 2020.

Last summer, many cities experienced an increase in vacancy rates coinciding with a sudden decrease in demand as renter households consolidated. This summer, that’s no longer the case. Aspiring homebuyers face a low-inventory, high-demand market, marked by a 48 percent drop in inventory from last year. Since many are priced out of the for-sale market, they continue to rent.

Locally, a similar scenario is playing out. Jessica Bow, a real estate agent with the Golden Group at Re/Max Platinum in Sarasota, doesn’t typically deal in long-term rentals, but amid heightened demand, she helps clients when she can. 

“We still have low inventory for people to buy at a reasonable price and when they get priced out, they rent in the meantime. But even with renting, the inventory is similarly very low,” she says.

Salviati points to the relative affordability of Sarasota and Manatee counties versus other major markets, like New York City or San Francisco, and the remote work option herding workers toward more laid-back suburban-type settings. He doesn't see that abating.

“I think we'll see widespread adoption of hybrid work options, and for folks no longer making a daily commute, it makes what would have previously seemed like a long one more reasonable if it’s just twice a week. For example, for people with jobs based in Tampa, we’ll see more people in surrounding areas willing to commute there,” he says.

The bottom line? Rents won't be declining anytime soon.

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