Entering August, we find even more of what we’ve seen the past few months with unwavering strength in the job market, cooling inflation and even more interest rate hikes. In this month’s update we will discuss weakness in the Utah real estate market, more cooling in rental rates, and several legislative hurdles facing rental property operators in the coming year.
July Jobs Report - The July jobs report shows nonfarm payrolls grew by 187,000 jobs, slightly below the projected 200,000, but an improvement from the revised June count of 185,000. The unemployment rate remained steady at 3.5%, lower than the anticipated 3.6%, marking its lowest level since 1969. Average hourly earnings rose by 0.4% for the month, resulting in a 4.4% annual increase, surpassing expectations. Despite slightly slower job gains, the labor market remains strong, and the economy continues to demonstrate resilience against various challenges, with GDP growth projections remaining positive and recession fears waning in financial circles.
Weekly Jobless Claims - In the week ending August 5, initial jobless claims in the US surged to 248,000, a significant increase of 21,000 from the previous week's level of 227,000. This spike brought the 4-week moving average to 231,000, up by 2,750 from the prior week's average. Locally, Utah reported 1,788 advance claims, up by 454 claims from the prior week. Could this be the beginning of the long anticipated slowdown in the labor market? We will be watching these numbers closely as initial unemployment claims are often a leading indicator of what is to come in future jobs reports both locally and nationally.
Consumer Price Index - The Consumer Price Index (CPI) report for July reveals that consumer prices increased by 3.2% compared to the previous year, falling slightly below expectations. Core CPI, excluding volatile food and energy prices, rose by 4.7% over a 12-month period, and both overall CPI and core CPI increased by 0.2% on a month-over-month basis. The primary driver of the monthly inflation surge was a 0.4% rise in shelter costs, contributing to a 7.7% year-on-year increase. Real wages, adjusted for inflation, saw a 0.3% monthly increase and a 1.1% rise from the previous year. Although inflation has eased from its mid-2022 highs, it remains notably above the Federal Reserve's 2% target. The report's data suggests that while a pause in interest rate increases seems likely, the elevated inflation level will probably delay any potential interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in the foreseeable future.
Fed Meeting - The Federal Reserve approved another interest rate hike, raising benchmark borrowing costs to the highest level in over 22 years with a quarter percentage point increase to a target range of 5.25%-5.5%. This is the 11th rate increase since March 2022. Economic resilience is evident with positive inflation and consumer sentiment, although certain inflation measures exceed the 2% target. Economic growth has held up, with second-quarter GDP at a 2.4% annualized rate and a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.6%. Despite expectations for two more hikes this year, markets are uncertain, and Chairman Jerome Powell stressed data-driven decisions and potential rate stability when they meet again in September. The post-meeting statement maintained a vague approach to future moves, emphasizing data assessment, but perhaps yet another positive CPI report will convince them to hold rates steady.
The Rise in Regulation Targeting Single-Family Rental Investments
Historically, industries emerge in an “anything goes” environment. These new horizons have few guardrails (think about artificial intelligence today) and this often leads to the few taking advantage of the many. However, as problems slowly build over time, regulation inevitably steps in to eliminate questionable behaviors and offer a greater balance. In housing, the image of the all-powerful “Monopoly Man” complete with his tuxedo, top hat, and monocle eventually erodes as legislation like the National Housing Act, GI Bill, and Fair Housing Act seek to create opportunity and level the playing field. Today, and especially since COVID, it feels like the national conversation seeks to rectify an imbalance in the landlord/tenant relationship.
Recent legislative developments reflect a dual focus on both tenant protections and investor regulations. The landscape is evolving with two significant legislative actions in the housing sector: a proposed Senate bill targeting single-family rental investment and federal housing agencies' emphasis on informing tenants of their rights. These measures, though distinct, underscore the complex interplay between ensuring tenant well-being and shaping investment practices within the housing market.
Senate Democrats have introduced the "Stop Predatory Investing Act," a bill with potential implications for the single-family rental market. Authored by Sen. Sherrod Brown and co-sponsored by several senators, the bill aims to limit tax deductions for investors owning 50 or more single-family rental homes. Specifically, it restricts the deduction of interest and depreciation for properties acquired after enactment with limited exemptions made for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit-financed properties and build-for-rent single-family homes. While the bill's intention centers on fairness and protection, it could inadvertently impact smaller property owners since it identifies single family homes as anything with 4 or fewer units and could unfairly capture small landlords despite it’s intent to reign in large operators.
In a parallel development, federal housing agencies have emphasized the importance of tenants' rights and landlords' responsibilities. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with other agencies, has underscored the necessity for landlords to provide written notice to tenants regarding their rights. This mandate stems from the Fair Credit Reporting Act and covers scenarios where tenant-related decisions are based on consumer reports, like rental background checks. The requirement includes informing tenants about decisions such as rental application denials, rent increases, and security deposit adjustments. By ensuring that tenants are well-informed, this initiative seeks to address issues arising from outdated or inaccurate information in background checks, ultimately fostering a fairer rental process for residents.
These distinct actions converge at a critical juncture in the housing landscape. The proposed Senate bill reflects an attempt to regulate and shape investment practices to ensure a level playing field but there is a vast difference between an institutional investor with a national portfolio of thousands of single family homes and a mom and pop landlord who funneled their retirement savings into 4 plexes over a long career. Any legislation needs to recognize that imbalance as well. Simultaneously, federal housing agencies emphasize transparency and tenant empowerment, acknowledging the significance of accurate information for a fair tenant screening process. An important priority indeed, but our communities also benefit from the safety and stability produced by quality tenant selection. By pushing for policies that ensure accurate information while also keeping our regulations reasonable, we create solutions that work for everyone. Just as new industry is usually overweighted in one direction, established industries with overregulation simply create new problems on the other end of the spectrum.
Utah Real Estate Market
The U.S. housing market has managed to avoid a crash, maintaining pre-pandemic growth rates in home values, and this narrative aligns well July’s data for Utah. The median sold price of $590,000 shows no monthly change, and is only down 1.67% year over year. Demand did soften a bit as the sold count fell by 9.86% from the previous month and is 9.56% lower year over year. Also, with sales likely falling due to high interest rates, the average number of listings in Utah climbed by 37.29% on a monthly basis. This would be very concerning, but when taken in context with last summer’s listing count, the average number of active listings is only slightly higher (3.91%).
Median Sold Price*
Average # of Listings*
Monthly Change: 0.0%
Monthly Change: Down 9.86%
Year Over Year: Down 9.56%
Monthly Change: Up 37.29%
Year Over Year: Up 3.91%
* all graphs/data are for single-family homes in Salt Lake, Utah, and Davis Counties.
As both national and local trends point to reduced rent growth due to sluggish demand and increased supply, the rental market is undergoing significant changes. Every metro we track shows negative year over year rent growth, led by Salt Lake City’s near 4% drop. Month over month, nearly 60% of cites showed additional declines after being mostly flat last month. It appears we have not yet reached equilibrium, but we can hope that rents stabilize soon.
Month Over Month
Year Over Year
North Salt Lake
Salt Lake City
*Rental data provided by apartment list.
HUD Makes $30 Million Available For Fair Housing Enforcement - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allocated $30 million in funding through the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) to local and state partners. This initiative aims to support and advance fair housing enforcement nationwide. The funding facilitates collaboration between federal, state, and local agencies to address housing discrimination, promote public protection, and conduct investigations. The program also focuses on educating the public, housing providers, and local governments about their rights and responsibilities under both the Fair Housing Act and local fair housing laws. HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge emphasized the importance of this funding in the fight against housing discrimination and the agency's commitment to combatting unlawful practices.
Multifamily Demand Remains Steady Despite Slower Rent Growth - With a 95% occupancy rate and low rent rise in most major cities, the multifamily market is still steady. The lowest growth rate since 2011, excluding the pandemic year, is at 1.8% for year over year rent growth. To offer a variety that represents different regions, the Top 30 metro areas have been updated. Rent for a single-family home increased by $5 in June to $2,103, but the growth rate from a year ago dropped by 80 basis points to 1.3 percent. Despite the Federal Reserve's efforts to temper the employment market and the ongoing refinancing problem, the multifamily market remains resilient, but growth is viewed as fragile.