San Diego apartments are among the most competitive for rent in the United States, according to a RentCafe report

San Diego Harbor skyline.

SAN DIEGO — After peak apartment rental season, San Diego has become the most competitive rental market in Southern California for the first time in years, according to a new report.

The report, conducted by real estate website RentCafe, analyzed data — including vacancy rates and the number of renters applying for the same apartment — from more than 130 markets across the country to identify the top places to rent in the country from April to June of this year.

Nationally, competitiveness declined between last year’s peak season and this year, with more than half of the markets analyzed experiencing a “slowdown.” According to the report, this trend is driven by an increase in new apartments and the lingering economic effects of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, San Diego’s competitiveness in the rental market has increased, outpacing Orange County for the first time in two years. The two areas ranked as the 18th and 19th busiest markets this year, respectively, among all the metro areas analyzed.

According to the report, the increase in competition is largely due to a severe housing shortage amid strong population growth in the metro.

In San Diego, about 96% of units are occupied, leaving about 17 apartment seekers to compete for the same available rent. On average, these available units remain on the market for a little over a month – about 33 days – before they are occupied.

This deficit is due in part to the limited supply of land for new development, which hinders new construction. Of all the units occupied during this year’s peak season, the report found that only about 0.2% were newly built.

In order to meet housing needs, it is estimated that the city alone will need to build about 108,000 new units by 2029.

Orange County, on the other hand, saw an uptick in new construction between 2022 and the 2023 peak season, but that wasn’t enough to expand options for renters in the area.

The county’s occupancy rate is about 95.7%, prompting about 61% of renters to stay during peak rental season. For those available rentals, it takes about 40 days to fill a vacancy, the report found, with 13 potential tenants competing for the same unit.

Outside of Southern California, Miami emerged from the summer months as the most competitive rental market in the country this year. Markets in the Midwest were also among the hottest places for apartment seekers — with three in this part of the country making the top five nationally.

For example, Milwaukee, Wisconsin has jumped from seventh to second place in terms of rental competitiveness since the start of peak rental season.

A complete list of the most competitive rental markets during this year’s peak season can be found below.

Screenshot of graph showing the most competitive rental markets from the RentCafe study.

To compile the report, RentCafe’s research team analyzed Yardi Systems’ apartment data across 139 U.S. rental markets. The data came directly from large-scale, market-rate multifamily properties with at least 50 units, according to the website. Affordable multifamily properties were completely excluded from the analysis.

The markets were then ranked by the degree of market competition, which was calculated based on five metrics: apartment occupancy rate, average total days vacant, and potential tenants per vacant unit; Rent renewal rate, the share of new apartments completed during the same time frame – and their averages for the April-June period.

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