Rental Market

Area Rents Are Cooling, But Not By Much

Rent levels have dropped since last year, but overall median rents are still $1,864 in Sarasota County and $1,738 in Manatee County.

By Kim Doleatto October 17, 2023

A residential high rise in downtown Sarasota.

Sarasota made national headlines when it saw some of the biggest rent increases in the nation at the beginning of 2022. Over the course of a year, rents grew by 47 percent in Sarasota County and 42 percent in Manatee County, compared to just under 18 percent nationwide.

The latest data published monthly by Apartment List, a national online marketplace for long-term residential rentals, shows those numbers have cooled—but barely. 

Sarasota County's overall median rent now stands at $1,864, while Manatee County’s is $1,738. In Sarasota County, that's a 3.3 percent decline from 12 months ago, when rents were $1,927. Currently, the county's overall median rent for a one-bedroom unit is $1,476; a two-bedroom unit is $1,814. 

In Manatee County, overall median rent is $1,738–$1,404 for a one-bedroom unit, while a two-bedroom unit is $1,639. One year ago, the overall rent for Manatee County was $1,810—$1,462 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,707 for a two-bedroom unit. Those overall median numbers show a 4 percent drop over the course of the last 12 months.

“A lot of this comes down to new supply. There are more units in the construction pipeline and it’s having an impact,” says Chris Salviati, senior housing economist with Apartment List. “Also, demand has cooled compared to a couple of years ago when remote work options were on the table."

To Salviati’s point, Sarasota is seeing a surge of new developments in the pipeline, but despite both new city-level and statewide incentives for developers to build affordable housing, few affordable units are part of what's to come.

As for the declines in rent, Salviati says they're not at a level of “significant reversal of that astronomical area rent growth, which took off in 2020. The region still has some of the fastest rent growth that's not reversing.”

May of last year was the second month median rents went down in Sarasota and Manatee counties, but the dip was just 1.3 percent. Before that, Sarasota County rents had been on a steep and steady incline for almost two years, since September 2020. In fact, Sarasota County’s median rent levels surpassed Miami-Dade County’s in February 2022, when they hit $2,249 a month—a significant comparison since Miami-Dade is historically the most expensive county in the state. 

The current marginal dips in prices do little to alleviate a persisting affordable housing crisis, which Salviati says is slowing household formation. “Fewer people are striking out on their own," he says. "The pressures of the broader economy, like inflation and prices for non-rent items chip away at folks' budgets."

He adds that mortgage interest rates, now roughly 8 percent, are also having a huge impact. "The real estate market is deadlocked. Homeowners don't want to give up those lower rates they secured when they bought and the volume of what's for sale is cratering, leading to more people staying in rental units longer until it's a better time to buy a home." 

As of the latest estimates, 58 percent of renter households in the North Port metro (which includes Sarasota and Manatee counties), are cost-burdened, up from 54 percent in 2019. That means they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. And 31 percent are "severely" cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their income on rent.

So what about that new supply of units on the horizon? Salviati notes they're expected to undergo construction throughout the next 12 months, but that longer-term, there may be a shift going into 2025 and 2026, now that those high-interest rates are also hitting developers and stalling their projects, too.

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