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Inquiries Dive, Concessions Jump as Landlords Try to Fill Vacancies

[Updated: Aug 17, 2020 ] Jun 05, 2020 by Marc Rapport
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Landlords across America are making concessions to attract and keep tenants in place in a housing market whacked by the coronavirus pandemic, according to one listings site.

Rental Beast reported rental inquiries in March and April fell off by as much as 90% in some of the 14 major markets it tracks across the country and that concessions in five markets it assayed soared dramatically from last year.

Drawing from the more than 8 million off-MLS rental properties in its database, Rental Beast's Data Services Group said it saw the largest drops in rental inquiries occur in April in Atlanta (-90%), Boston (-81%), and Miami (-74%).

Shelter-in-place orders help cause inquiries collapse

That was of course, when shelter-in-place orders were in full effect across America, so "it's not surprising to see swift declines in rental inquiries corresponding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," Rental Beast founder Ishay Grinberg said in the May 21 report.

Rental Beast -- which monitors inquiries to its site and at its partner sites such as Facebook Marketplace and -- argues that such a wide departure from inquiries in the same months in the past is a better indicator of future activity than average rent.

The report also addressed rental concessions being offered to tenants in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia, which saw inquiries drop by as much as 90% in March and April.

Even Boston sees jump in rental concessions

Here's how Rental Beast defines the term: "Rental concessions are compromises landlords make to original rent terms in the hope of filling a vacancy more quickly. Rental concessions can include a monetary compensation, a discount, or various goods and services."

Rental concessions are tracked directly from property owners and managers, Grinberg said, and jumped year over year by 78% in Boston, 262% in Miami, and 581% in Philadelphia, the Rental Beast report said.

"Boston has been starved for rental inventory for more than a decade, with landlords enjoying a high volume of tenant interest as soon as properties enter the rental market," the report said. "Accordingly, Boston landlords rarely offer rental concessions. Rental Beast recorded a jump in concessions coinciding with Boston's March 24 stay-at-home advisory and mandatory closure of nonessential businesses."

Meanwhile, Miami was hit by the collapse in travel and its impact on short- and long-term rentals. "Many Miami landlords began offering concessions, oftentimes a free month's rent, and in several cases two full months' free rent -- a concession unheard of in regular markets," the report said.

Pandemic-induced soaring unemployment in Pennsylvania also negated the spring rental boom in Philadelphia, prompting concessions from many landlords there, Rental Beast said.

Gotta live somewhere

Grinberg did end the May report on a somewhat optimistic note.

"While we have seen significant declines in rental inquiries, it's notable that the rental market has not completely shut down," he added, citing a RentCafe survey that found 56% of renters still planned to move despite the pandemic.

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