Is this the Reversal of Exodus-Triggered Plunges & Spikes of Rents? Mmmm-maybe

The market psychology behind “asking rents”: price discovery in uncertain times. But they’re not actual rents and don’t go into CPI.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

“Asking rents,” a measure of the apartment rental market, is the rent that landlords advertise for their available rental units. Computers grab these asking rents from all major online sites. So the median asking rent is not survey based. But it does not indicate if those apartments were actually rented out at those rents, or if they’re still vacant. And those asking rents are now showing a peculiar effect.

So there’s Newark, NJ, a small city across the Hudson River from the largest apartment market in the US, New York City, which is also one of the most expensive. Last year, it was said that a gazillion people left New York City either to rent or to buy somewhere else, because now they could work from home and could live anywhere, leading to massive home-price spikes in cities and towns further out across the area.

By December 2020, to the amusement and bafflement of WOLF STREET readers, the median asking rent in Newark had spiked 50% from July 2019, and 36% from July 2020, to catapult the market to the 9th most expensive rental markets in the US. And that spike, according to data from Zumper today, totally collapsed by June:

Landlords must have figured that these gazillions of people abandoning New York City would come flooding into town, and asking rents could be jacked up. Landlords checked everyone’s apartment listings and saw that others were jacking up their rents too, and so they jacked them up further to try and see if they could get tenants at those rents.

Try-and-see: basic price discovery in uncertain times.

Maybe at first, the apartments got rented out at those higher rents, but as rents were hiked into the stratosphere, driven by the psychology of higher prices begetting higher prices, potential tenants started losing interest. Like: You want me to pay what for that?

It could be that few leases were actually signed late last year and early this year; and we don’t know at what rents those leases were signed. But by February, landlords began to realize that if they wanted to fill their units, they’d have to come down with their asking rents.

The other end of the psychology of asking rents.

At some point, the idea spread that the exodus had ended. Turns out, it wasn’t a gazillion people after all who’d left New York City. And some of those people who’d left were coming back because they were frustrated and bored out in the suburbs or further afield or in Newark and because they had to go back to the office a few days a week.

Landlords in New York City started perking up their ears, and soon they started hiking their asking rents, whether or not they could fill their vacant units at those rents. So the median asking rent started rising in February.

In June, the median asking rent for one-bedroom apartments, at $2,570, was still down 16% from July 2019, but up from the low in January:

In other expensive markets too.

The same phenomenon occurred in other expensive rental markets. In San Francisco and Silicon Valley, among the most expensive rental markets in the US, rents had plunged last year and earlier this year, while rents skyrocketed in much cheaper cities an hour or two inland – Sacramento and Fresno for example. And now those trends in asking rents have started to reverse.

OK, sorta. The median asking rent for 1-BR apartments, at $2,790, is still down 25% from July 2019:

In Sacramento, an example of cheaper cities that San Francisco rent refugees fled to, the massive jumps in asking rents last summer hit resistance recently or maybe even began to unwind:

San Jose, a big part of Silicon Valley, also showed some efforts by landlords to get more for their units. This happened in January and February this year, but then fizzled again, and it happened again in May, but in June fizzled again, with the median 1-BR asking rent at $2,160, down 15% from July 2020.

In the San Jose chart above, note the big jump in asking rents in March and April 2020, when the city was locked down solid, and few people looked at apartments. But it was a good time to raise asking rents because few people were going to sign a lease anyway. That too is part of the psychology of asking rents. They’re a reflection of a try-and-see market.

Fresno, an example of cheaper cities for Silicon Valley rent refugees, is closer to Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park than Silicon Valley. The median asking rent started soaring in early 2020 and then spiked earlier this year. Between January 2020 and May 2021, the median asking rent for 1-BR apartments soared 24%. But in June, that phenomenon reversed:

This phenomenon is playing out across the country, with asking rents reversing their plunge in big expensive coast markets and reversing their spike in smaller markets further inland.

But these are asking rents. They’re a way for landlords to find out what the market will bear. If the unit sits vacant long enough, they’ll drop the asking rent.

Asking rents are not actual rents paid and don’t go into CPI.

The rent component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is based on the Housing Survey that follows a very large panel of rental units, including rent-controlled units, across the US over time. The tenant in the unit at the time is asked how much they pay in rent, and this is compared to what a tenant in the same unit said during the last survey.

Tenants are not asked monthly, but with much longer time spans in between. In addition, landlords might raise rents on their tenants only once a year, or less often. As a result, the CPI for rents doesn’t move quickly, unlike asking rents. Changes in rents filter only gradually into the CPI for rent, which for the US overall, despite big year-over-year plunges in asking rents in some of the largest markets, was up 2.2% year-over-year in May, while the overall CPI shot up 5% year-over-year, and the three-month annualized CPI shot up over 8%, the most since the early 1980s.

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  113 comments for “Is this the Reversal of Exodus-Triggered Plunges & Spikes of Rents? Mmmm-maybe

  1. Peanut Gallery says:

    Wolf, do you have any data on Seattle and Spokane WA?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I have the data for Seattle (chart below) but I don’t have the historic data for Spokane for a chart (I would have to hand-piece it together). But it’s similar as other pairs: As Seattle asking rends started rising, but Spokane 1-BR rent dropped 5.2% in May from April (after having surged 22% in the 12 months through April when Seattle rents were plunging):

    • Trucker guy says:

      Spokane/CDA area has spiked to insane levels for any form of housing. Wages are moving up but not enough to cover it. It’s like a lot of booming urban flight recipients such as austin, Phoenix, Boise etc.

      • Depth Charge says:

        They don’t call it Spokecompton for nothin’.

        • OutWest says:



          A new word you just made up..


          Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

        • SnakeEater says:

          As an Idaho native, and having family that lived in “spokecompton”, I can say that when I last visited in the 2010s, going downtown was where you went to get stabbed. It has an abnormally high crime rate for it’s population size. I wonder if things have changed…

        • Clete says:

          @OutWest: I’ve seen SpoCompton elsewhere too…so maybe DC gets around the web.

        • Trucker guy says:

          I’ve yet to ever hear it referred to spocompton since I’ve lived in the area. I work in Spokane alone at night pretty often.

          It’s not anymore dangerous than most small cities. Lots of drug addicts and poverty but that’s about it. It isn’t Baghdad or Baltimore. I’ve only seen a few street fights and the typical homeless encampments.

          Also, last time I was in Compton I only saw working class Asians mostly. Didn’t seem too rough to me. Besides, if you’re worried about violent crime in supposedly “scary” Spokane, you can always carry a gun. It’s legal in WA as far as I know unlike Cali or NYC.

        • Depth Charge says:

          “A new word you just made up..”

          I didn’t make it up, I heard it from my nephew who went to Gonzaga. Sorry to burst your bubble. I seem to trigger you a lot. You hurt, bro’?

        • Peanut Gallery says:

          I’ve definitely heard SpoCompton.

          I’ve also heard:


        • Bill says:

          According to the website “neighborhoodscout.” Spokane’s crime rate is greater than 98% of all cities. On the other hand, Compton’s crime rate is greater than 90% of all cities.

    • JoAnn Leichliter says:

      Perhaps those Blue State refugees are returning to their places of origin. It’s a win/win situation, if so. Flyover country could breathe a sigh of relief.

  2. Bobber says:

    The rent increase in rents might be attributable to the huge increase in housing prices this past quarter. Many renters won’t consider buying a house at these prices, and landlords know it.

    • Depth Charge says:

      Many renters won’t consider renting at these prices, either. They move back in with the family, double or triple up, etc.

    • Lynn says:

      Or new owners who’s gamble may not pay off

      • MiTurn says:


        Good point. When those prices inevitably (?) Come down, a whole lotta folks are gonna be underwater, which creates its own dynamic on the market. FOMO will be replaced with regret.

  3. Micheal Engel says:

    1) A top floor balcony diner party with chicken and a bottle of wine,
    for family and friends, without air conditioner, or fans.
    2) After 40Y of tropical sun, daily rain, high humidity, winds and
    hurricanes, one of the top floor balconies lost it’s grip and plunged
    on the balcony below.
    3) The balconies hypothecation parties suddenly collapsed overnight without warning.
    4) The Fed cleaned the debris and after few years a new smaller co-up building was built on the site, without hypo balconies, without buybacks and executive perks, to survive the tropical sun.
    5) When Mini-A-police plunged on Portland, the debris fell on NYC.
    6) The hypo party plunged in a big thud and the whole world was stunned.
    7) After few decades a new more sustainable structure will be constructed on the site, without global balconies.

    • ME, using the Surfside disaster for a financial comment on corporate globalization? Pass the bong. Site was sinking 2mm per year per University of Florida study done in 1990’s and nothing was done to mitigate the situation. Where is Big Brother when you actually need him??

      • Swamp Creature says:

        I wonder what the sale price of your condo is if you owned one in that building?

        • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

          saw a listing Surfside had 1,2,3 room and penthouses. Sale prices were ~$350k 1 bedroom, ~$600k for three bedroom and up to $1.5M for the penthouse as recent as last year

          Sad to see that happen. Looks like what you see anywhere but here. But truth is stranger than fiction

        • Bobber says:

          Insurance might cover it.

        • Anthony A. says:

          ^^^ Insurance won’t help the dead people.

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Look for them blame the collapse on climate change. Actually, there is some evidence that the foundation was sinking 1 to 2 inches per year, paritially due to the increase erosion of the shoreline. Not too much of a stretch to translate that into global warming of the oceans.

          I wonder how may people that own condos on the ocean might be calling their RE agents and getting out of dodge.

    • Saw the mayor of Surfside on PBS, and he didn’t seem to take too well to the notion that he was being bullied by the left wing media. Half the nation has a persecution complex and the other half is oblivious to the malaise. We have a serious mental health issue in this country. Buildings fall down, we are not a third world country? Nobody said you were. There is a certain pleasure in watching them squirm. Sadomasochistic pleasure, which applies to the stock market as well.

    • Seneca’s Cliff says:

      Back in the 80’s my wife was working as a civil engineer at a big engineering consulting firm. She was designing a concrete wall or something in South Florida and the senior engineer ( crusty old guy) warned her that many of the sleezy contractors in Florida mixed their concrete with seawater so she should use double the normal safety factor. Good concrete with rebar has a very finite lifespan due to corrosion . Poorly made concrete, in a seaside environment, on a sand island means a short lifespan . I think many people will be surprised when they start looking at similar buildings of similar age. I expect much of the Florida RE investment community to be monkeyhammered by this one.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        EXACTLY correct SC,,, and as a former ”estimator/PM” in the FL condo repair and restoration biz, along with starting in ’50s working as laborer, ditch digger, etc., and then up to inspector and program mgr for guv mint,,, I can testify that the problems exposed by him i cane Andrew were just the very tip of the iceberg,,,
        Went to a manual labor job opening referral, east coast of FL, early 1980s, and then left when the contractor instructed me to take out every 5th piece of rebar that the engineer had designed, ”by order of the owner.”
        Told him he was crazy to have his name as GC on the project on my way down and out from that project; he said he been doing that for many years with ”no problem”…

        • Anthony A. says:

          Did they also tell you to “short” the Portland in the sand and gravel mix?

      • IAV8 says:

        The intrusion of salt water into the fresh water aquifer in Dade County is well documented fact. Entire subdivisions are now getting unpotable water from their taps. But unpotable water is still safe for use many ways including construction.

        Please don’t spread fear.

      • Swamp Creature says:

        I visited Homestead AFB right after hurricane Andrew torn the place to shreds. I never saw such poor construction. Every home was slapped together with no support for the roofs trusts. No one was ever held accountable.

  4. The artist formerly know as Marcus says:

    In my Philly high rise, there was an exodus driven by students staying home and young professionals buying in the burbs. This place was like a ghost town. Since January, there has been a reversal. Today, the building is nearly back to capacity and bustling with people. It feels normal.

  5. Back when I had tenants ( 32 units ), instead of squatters,
    my dumpster _never_ overflowed ( after a stomp down ).
    Not once in 9 years, before March 2020, Seattle.

    This week, the dumpster was emptied twice,
    instead of the usual once; both times,
    it _overflowed_ again, minutes later !

    Four times a week wouldn’t be enough ! because
    the tweakers are running illegal pawnshops here,
    stealing anything & everything, just to get laid.

    Pandering Politicians are _literally_
    feeding the rats & squatters.

  6. topcat says:

    just one question – how can anyone young enough to be able to survive in a 1-bed appartment afford to pay $3000 a month for it ? That is 36K of after tax income just for the rent.

    • Turtle says:


    • Wolf Richter says:


      Yes, it’s a lot. And that’s part of the problem.

      In response to your “…young enough to be able to survive in a 1-bed apartment…” If you’re solo, there’s nothing wrong with a 1-BR apartment, especially if it has a nice view, which many places in San Francisco have (due to the hills). You can “survive” just fine. It’s easy to take care of, and you can spend your time doing other things. Many people don’t want to live in a house with a yard and extra bedrooms and what not. They could but refuse to. That’s why people live in big cities.

      • Phoenix Rising says:

        As an aside to your point Wolf, there are plenty of people – especially singles of all ages – who would be perfectly content in a nice 500 sq-ft home built on a small tract of land. Could even be one of the new-technology 3D-printed homes. But the zoning regs in most municipalities throughout the country require homes of at least 1,000 sq-ft. Lots of reasons for this, but it’s a barrier nonetheless to the building of right-sized homes for a sizeable segment of the population.

        • Depth Charge says:

          Those zoning regs are 100% designed to increase the county assessor’s tax haul. The bigger the house, the more slop for the pig.

        • Phoenix Rising says:

          Absolutely DC. Plus the whole not-in-my-backyard syndrome. I suspect the housing affordability crisis will need to get a whole lot worse before many of those self-serving barriers become self-defeating.

        • 728huey says:

          I looked at those 3D printed homes, and while they seem to be a great idea for creating affordable housing, others have said to take the estimates of building a modest abode for $10,000 with a grain of salt. That’s just for the bare bones of the house but does not take into consideration the installation of electricity, plumbing, windows and doors, interior framing, p!us the proverbial kitchens and bathrooms, which could easily add up to five times the cost of the 3D printed house when materials and labor is factored in. Otherwise, I would have been looking for abandoned trailer parks to construct these 3D printed homes.

      • cas127 says:


        Thanks for continuing to put in the hard work assembling the charts, etc.

        On a semi-related note, where are you getting the historical rent data from? (Zumper? Does it offer historical downloads or are you yourself keeping a running tally?)

        I ask because I used to rely on rentjungle for historical rent data by metro but it looks like they have gone under and stopped publishing online.

        Apartmentlist also tracks by metro but access has gotten harder/more convoluted.

        DepartmentofNumbers repackages the stale ACS numbers (which are old but better than nothing).

        For one reason or another, it looks like getting accurate current/historical apt rent data may be getting harder (although Zumper is hanging on).

        This would be a true pity since housing costs probably have a real world impact far in excess of many economic stats.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes from Zumper. It’s a lot of manual work. I go back and look at each report and pick out the data by city. A few years ago, I asked them to send me the historical data for a couple of cities, and that was like pulling teeth, and it didn’t cover the cities I now want to focus on.

        • Cas127 says:


          Just a thought in case apt rent data access continues to deteriorate.

          In the bad old days before dedicated rent surveys, I used to use the apartment listing sites (, apartment guide, etc) sort all apt complexes by metro and price, then generate my own median.

          Would not want to do this for 100 metros though.

          Alternatively, ACS reports by metro (with long lags) and ACCRA cost of living surveys also report rents by metro (with lag for free access reports)

          Hopefully Zumper will hang in there.

          (At one point, ApartmentList had downloads for 100++ metros including historical data…but last time I checked (months ago) they started hiding the data.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Zillow has pretty good rental data back to 2014. But it’s always late. Their June data will come out sometime mid to late July. Also, it’s not raw asking rents. It’s “smoothed” asking rents, meaning they removed the outliers that cause medians to be so jumpy. That approach has its pros and cons. I’ve been weighing whether or not to use it, and I might.

    • Heinz says:

      Unless these aspiring urbanites have a well-paying job or are a trust fund baby, young renters paying through the nose for a roof over their heads are likely living paycheck to paycheck and building zero wealth for a brighter future. But the landlords are happy, all things considered.

      As someone mentioned, young renters often double- or triple up with friends or roommates to share rents and utilities. They usually can expect to say goodbye to those lean years as their work career progresses.

      Meanwhile, they eat lots of Ramen noodles and peanut butter-jelly sandwiches to help make ends meet.

      • Turtle says:

        People focus on the disadvantage of being young and not having tremendous means but there’s an advantage too, which you mentioned – and that’s to multiply roommates and reap the benefits. One of my relations did that in his younger years with a duplex and it worked out real nice for him, eventually ending up with multiple properties. Those years of stepping over people sleeping on his floor paid off. Granted, he’s a huge extravert. I couldn’t do it.

        • Bill says:

          Heard a similar story from the landlord of my employer’s location. He too had bought a house and rented rooms to others. It must have worked out well for him, his name is on the building where Stanford’s basketball team plays.

    • Artem says:

      tech pays 80K+/year and up so it’s not a problem if you work in tech, especially if your spouse works in tech as well.

      • Turtle says:

        Why are folks always saying things like, “if you work in tech”. There are many well-paying industries and not every tech job is well-paying. I feel like this is just something people are hearing about San Francisco then repeating generally. Where’s the data behind these statements?

      • Heinz says:

        So as usual learn to code is the solution. What was the problem again?

      • Depth Charge says:

        A person making $80,000 per year gross cannot afford a $3,000 per month rental.

    • CZ says:

      I lived in rented studios up into my 40’s. Granted I was single with no kids. It’s an “edited life” as they say, but cheap and flexible.

      A young person living in a $3,000 apartment either makes a lot of money, or saves little, or both.

      BTW 20-something’s making $120K plus are not at all rare in places like SF.

      • 728huey says:

        Yet some young adults may actually want to date people romantically and/or sexually without having to worry about where their roommate is or is going to be and *gasp* may actually want to marry someone before they get too old. Living in an overpriced cramped studio apartment with Spartan amenities isn’t conducive for budding relationships, let alone starting families. And with fewer younger adults forming families, the fewer current workers are available to fund Social Security and Medicare.

  7. Micheal Engel says:

    Bank’s assets on Collins Ave are impaired.

  8. Rent, don’t buy now at the post-top of the real estate market. Even with crazy rental price patterns, put your excess stuff in storage (if you can find a unit!), and just pay the Landlords in full and on time. If you are now operating a home office, even part of the time, you should be able to deduct the month’s rent as a percentage of the total rental’s square footage that your home office space occupies. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE PUSH THE BUY BUTTON TODAY.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Buy NOW!! Before the prices go up more. That’s what the Realtors are all saying.

      • Turtle says:

        The disconnect between median household income and median sale price in HCOL areas like SoCal is a doozy.

        Family in North Texas makes $70K, buys at $300K and it’s quite nice.

        Family in SoCal makes $80K, buys at $600K and it’s sucks big-time.


        • SocalJim says:

          $600K in SoCal? That price level will land you a place in gang infested Compton … with barb wire. That sure does suck.

        • QQQBall says:

          Totally agree with SoCal Jim. The multiples of median home price to median HH income are in the teens, not <8x in your example.

        • RE: SoCaJim, my house has an ocean view, garden, fruit trees. Older ranch style, just a bit long on the commute. My neighbor was driving to SD every day, now WFH. With a self driving EV it would be a snap. No barbed wire, just chain link. Same price

        • Turtle says:

          I was going to say $700K but then I couldn’t say it would suck big-time because there are still a few places in SoCal that are pretty nice at that price, like Temecula and Murrieta.

          I checked a $600K listing in Compton (most are less) and it said, “Stop the car! and checkout this…” My first though was, “No! Don’t stop the car! Not even at a stop sign!” ;)

        • Depth Charge says:

          For the first time ever I agree with SocalJim.

  9. The Bob who cried Wolf says:

    Rent control laws in California regulate how much rent can go up based on CPI. It’s interesting to note that CPI has rent as a component of it. Isn’t there some sort of conflict in using an index to regulate an industry when the index is partly determined by one of the components it regulates? I hope that makes sense. This is one of the many reasons that CPI has lost all of its credibility. Tell anyone living on Social Security that their benefits match what’s happening to the prices they pay for anything. These people buy the same things month after month and know what’s happening.
    With regards to San Diego, asking rents here are at least 10% higher than a year ago, and landlords seem to be getting their price (if not asking for stupid high amounts)

    • Artem says:

      Inflation (and deflation) has these self-sustaining features built-in. The more CPI moves, the more you can justify price hikes.

  10. Clete says:

    “Isn’t there some sort of conflict in using an index to regulate an industry when the index is partly determined by one of the components it regulates?”

    Well, you can just kiss that Bureau of Statistics job application goodbye…

  11. Petunia says:

    If you live and work in NYC and move to Newark, NJ, you add a new taxing authority to your life. If I remember correctly you then pay NJ taxes and NY commuter taxes as well. Since these are two of the highest taxing states, it doesn’t seem worth it to move that far out, for not much of a discount on the rent. Between the extra taxes and commuting expenses you might as well stay in NYC.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Don’t forget about paying the tolls to cross the bridge or go through the tunnel daily.

      • matt says:

        That’s the least of your problems. The bigger one is time and hassle of changing modes. Usually have to get to PATH, take the PATH, then take whatever mode of transportation you need in Manhattan (subway, cab, uber, whatever). Then if you want to spend the evening in the city because restaurants and nightlife are the reason you live there in the first place you have to get back before everything closes down for the night.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      If you moved to Fla and visit you old dentist in NYC get ready to fork over taxes for the time you were there even if it was only one week.

  12. Petunia says:

    Regarding increasing rents in general:

    The rent moratorium will end at some point with landlords in a financial hole. If tenants get sued for the loses, this will impair their ability to rent in the future, and also impair the market for rentals. If landlords don’t rent to people with bad credit and evictions, they will have a high vacancy rate and will have to lower rents. But lowering rents doesn’t resolve bad credit or previous evictions. So expect more homelessness and lower demand for rentals.

    You can also extrapolate this to the mortgage moratorium. Demand for new homes will drop for the same reasons.

    • Heinz says:

      “The rent moratorium will end at some point ,,,”

      It was set to expire, June 30, but CDC extended to end of July. That is likely the final expiration date.

      Administration officials said extension was needed to provide more time to distribute $21.5 billion in emergency federal housing aid funded by ARPA legislation this year.

      We will see how this all plays out, but current mood and intent in Washington is to bend over backwards to ensure no one is hurt or inconvenienced by consequences of this extreme and historic rent eviction moratorium (i.e. all those billions of $ of back rent are now due).

      So I expect to see billions doled out to renters and their landlords to make them ‘whole’, provided landlords allow the deadbeat renters to stay in their apartments and are not kicked out to shift for themselves.

      • Turtle says:

        The various extensions keep getting shorter and shorter. They will end eventually. And so will the giveaways.

      • CZ says:

        Yep, politicians in power will pull out all stops to produce a soft landing — no one wants to be responsible for real estate driven recession. This will be extend-and-pretend on rents and mortgages, tax breaks and subsidies for landlords, until things revert to normal with minimal damage.

        Those out of power, of course, will try to sabotage the whole thing, induce widespread evictions and bankruptcies, and generally cause mayhem.

      • Depth Charge says:

        “It was set to expire, June 30, but CDC extended to end of July. That is likely the final expiration date.”

        Oh, really? What was the justification for the extension? Answer: There was none. Which is why they’ll probably do another, and another, and another…..

  13. Kreditanstalt says:

    The entire concept of “fleeing big cities to work from home in smaller locations” was a media-created meme to begin with.

    Apart from a few overpaid techies in trendy survey locations like S.F., how many REAL people could simultaneously sell a house in one (now “undesirable”) location, buy another elsewhere, quit or move a job while finding another elsewhere and move kids, belongings and schools…?

    They CERTAINLY couldn’t pay higher housing costs.

    Shame on the media…the lazy media

    • Peanut Gallery says:

      It may sound impossible to you but Wolf has reviewed data plenty of times that says otherwise.

      I did exactly what you just described (sold a house in HCOL area and moved my family of wife and two very small children to a LCOL area in the US).

      I am an ultra conservative person and I do think there are plenty of liberal liars on TV, but do your homework and study data. Go through intellectual rigor before you spread half truths or misinformation

      • Heinz says:

        “… but Wolf has reviewed data plenty of times that says otherwise.”

        I know Wolf has written about WFHA trends but where is the hard data to support meme that large numbers of people engaged in a huge migration event to and fro across country during pandemic– just to work outside of cities and in a larger house for more ‘office’ room?

        Color me skeptical that it was as large as some people want to portray. But that it happened to “some” degree though there is no doubt.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          There has been all kinds of data to show this, including change-of-address data from the USPS, data from moving companies, and population data in California (declined for the first time ever), for example. I reported on these somewhere along the line. And it has shown up massively in the local housing markets (buy and rent).

          The exact numbers may be in dispute, but that these shifts occurred is not in dispute.

          And it’s likely that some, not all, of those shifts will unwind.

        • RedRaider says:

          Hard data? How about the gain/loss in congressional districts.

          States that lost: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, W. Virginia

          States that gained: Texas, Florida, N Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, Montana

          And I don’t think the full effect of the lockdown is factored in the 2020 Census. If trends continue imagine what the 2030 Census is going to be like.

        • Ryan says:

          I live in a small ski town in Colorado and it feels like our town went from second homers to full timers. The influx of traffic has been dramatic. Its amazing to watch a resort town turn into a community. All my life I’ve wanted to see people live in these awesome houses that usually were occupied 6 weeks a year. I’m not sure if they’ll stay but it’s been fun to watch them try to adapt

    • Tom20 says:

      Yep, it’s all made up.
      I haul my excavation equipment from one imaginary site to another.

    • Turtle says:

      People make some pretty amazing contortions to pull off a move.

    • Pea Sea says:

      Lmao. Sure, “the media” created all those price spikes in single family dwellings in formerly LCOL areas. All by themselves, with no buyers!

  14. Walter Ego says:

    “At some point, the idea spread that the exodus had ended. Turns out, it wasn’t a gazillion people after all who’d left New York City. And some of those people who’d left were coming back because they were frustrated and bored out in the suburbs or further afield or in Newark and because they had to go back to the office a few days a week.”

    Awesome news! I’m a NYC landlord and grateful for the return of life to the city.

  15. Memento mori says:

    Rents have been going up by about 10 to 20% since January in the apartment complexes I follow is Southern California.
    Check rentals price history on Zillow and you will see the trend.
    The main problem is that there is a huge shortage of rentals right now and waiting lists everywhere.
    I suspect this is because of the moratorium eviction being still in place. You have lots of people that would have moved out creating more supply but they took the opportunity to stay.
    I have a feeling the shortage will get even worse and rents will increase dramatically.
    We are operating with zero vacancies and huge waiting lists.
    We got one available one bedroom on which we increased the rent by 20% and had over 80 applicants within one week. (this particular unit was in a nice location with some ocean view but still crazy, never seen such interest, should have increased rent more).
    I think people are being lied about what is going on, you cant name a single thing that hasn’t been going up in price significantly since the beginning of the year.

    • Turtle says:

      For fun I checked the apartment I rented in San Diego 15 years ago. It has tripled! Incomes certainly have not in that time period. No doubt many are squeezed to their limit by housing costs in SoCal. The median household income is not spectacular and it’s plain mediocre after tax.

      • Jon says:

        I check the part mentioned rent i was living in 2009 in mira mesa San Diego
        In 2009 I was paying 1600 for 2b.. now it is available for 2500.

    • Bobby Dale says:

      Would recommend that you post “be prepared to show proof of rental payments for past 6 months” in your listings, 80 becomes 15 in a hurry.

  16. Brent says:

    #23. Intelligence officer: Snake? What snake? Only four of 35 indicators of snake activity are currently active. We assess the potential for snake activity as LOW.
    (from “Snake Model of Armed Forces” ??? )

    Well,if one only zooms in at the lowest rent-he might end up mildly disappointed.Or even go to Australia (down under).

    Other indicators:

    1. Random Garbage Everywhere
    2. Thick Graffiti
    3. Many Dilapidated or Abandoned Houses
    4. Bars on Doors and Windows
    5. Fences Around Houses
    6. Locks Everywhere
    7. Broken Car Window Glass in Parking Lots
    8. High Unemployment
    9. Lots of Homeless People
    10. Unattended Kids
    11. Strange Teenagers
    12. People Talk Loudly in the Street
    13. Noise Late at Night
    14. Irregular Police Presence
    15. High Crime Rate
    16. Gangs
    17. Illegal Activity
    18. Pairs of Tennis Shoes Thrown Over Electric Wires
    19. Most Popular Dog: Pit Bull
    20. Frequent Yard Sale
    21. Not Enough Basic Infrastructure
    22. Shot Out Street Lights
    23. Plenty of Check-Cashing Stores, Rent-A-Centers,Bail Bond Services,Pawn Shops and Payday Loans
    24. Bulletproof Glass on Local Stores
    25. Pizzas Are not Delivered to Your Houses
    26. Off-Brand Stores

    Raise High the Roof Beam,Carpenters !
    Raise Rent Sky High,Landlords !!!

    • Heinz says:

      Around here, that just describes some of the joys of city living.

    • Turtle says:

      Fantastic list. It describes some of the last “affordable” suburbs in San Diego where new construction is selling for $900,000. If you can just make it down that graffiti-smothered road and past the trailer park without running into more than three or four of these indicators, then you’ve got it made for dinner. Repeat daily.

    • Depth Charge says:

      Sounds like my last trip to LA – the nicer areas.

      • Brent says:

        @Depth charge


        If you dont mind your English vocabulary being enriched by the non-accredited teacher (which is me) FYI “ghetto diamonds” means broken car window glass.

        You may also take virtual tour via Google Street View,I highly recommend Gratiot (pronounced Gra-SHIT) Ave,Detroit,MI

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Good start B, but ya might need some help;;;
      ”Raise High the Rent might be a better analogue, or whatever we are calling it these days, eh?
      JDS definitely got my heart racing toward more of the ”equal” opportunity opportunities that appear to be part of the Constitution of the USA, or at least did appear to me that way then I dropped out of a general law school in ’73 to go to a law school focused on constitutional ”issues.”
      These days, IMHO it is literally anybody’s guess as to where and when and who and what and so on and so forth that any court of standing or anywhere might adjudicate any challenge…
      While I continue to applaud the OJ decision that proved that anyone with enough money, black, white, whatever, can get away with murder in USA, proving there is no racial animosity, just financial,,, IMHO, WE the PEONS, (thanks Unamused) have a long long way to go until there is some semblance of ”JUSTICE FOR ALL” if WE are not rich enough…

      • Petunia says:

        Money won’t protect you if you are a woman.


        • p coyle says:

          hah! brittney made the mistake of having the wrong initials. shoulda picked something that starts with an H.

      • Brent says:

        There was no Golden Age in the US.It was always about squeezing the small guy dry.
        Our Founders were all big time land speculators.
        One historian wrote a book in the 30’s “Economic Interpretation of the US Constitution”.It caused quite a shitstorm back then “HOW DARE YOU ???” But that shitstorm made him independently wealthy and he kept writing other books.
        This book is in public domain,you may look it up.

    • Petunia says:

      Re #20:

      Bad neighborhoods don’t have yard sales, they will steal everything you put out.

      • Pea Sea says:

        “I am not a particularly compassionate person”

        I never would have guessed.

  17. Artem says:

    1) Wolf, we moderate comments with lists.
    2) especially if I have to scroll.

    3) new line
    4) tldr;

  18. two beers says:

    Thank you for this, Wolf. “Asking rent” is different from “actual rent,” and that’s before we even consider “effective rent” with concessions factored in.

    Here are some random SF walkabout and internet browsing anecdata which refute the notion of the Restoration™ (presented as a list in homage to M.E.):

    1) Lots of move-outs in SF, spread out through the month;
    2) Move-ins mostly clustered in the first week;
    3) Ratio of move-outs to move-ins now about 5-1 (it was more like 20-1 last year at this time);
    4) Abandoned sidewalk bed art installations increasing again after mostly disappearing during the winter;
    5) Few legit “Rooms Wanted” posts on craigslist;
    6) Lots of “Roommates Wanted” posts on craigslist;
    7) Few offers of “free boxes” on craigslist, and few bundles of adandoned stacked boxes leaning against trees on the sidewalk (a few years ago, abandoned sidewalk box bundles were as common as abandoned sidewalk beds are now);
    8) Movers, postmen, UPS drivers, and anyone else with boots on the ground will tell you: a lot of people left, and more people are still leaving than are returning;
    9) Concessions are still through the roof on craigslist. What do you want, one month free? two? how about 10 weeks, or will a moving allowance and free parking entice you?
    10) On zillow, many units can be tracked over time with respect to price movement and prospective renter contacts & applications. Lots of units have sat for months, some nearly a year, with no price drops and corresponding few or no contacts or applications. Units with price drops get more contacts and applications, and aggressive price drops will rent.

    And a bonus item:

    11) A clerk at the Valencia St U-Haul store told me their location is currently selling more moving boxes than any other U-Haul location in the US. In case anyone doesn’t comprehend what that means, people who move in need to get rid of moving boxes; people moving out need to acquire moving boxes.

    And a bonus bonus:

    12) If anyone is curious about this, but isn’t able to get out on the streets during the day to see the daily moving van rodeo, you can see the white temporary residential moving parking permits all over the place struck on trees, parking meters, and traffic cones. Look at the dates. Most are later in the month, only a few early in the month. People generally move out later in the month, while they move in early in the month, for reasons that should be obvious.

    • two beers says:

      Leaving out the obvious:

      13) there’s still a historically-unprecedented number of For Rents up in the eastern neighborhoods, some of which have been up so long they’ve faded or fallen down and been replaced;

      14) there’s still a historically-unprecedented number of obviously-vacant units; who knows how many vacancies lurk that are off-street, are too high up to determine, have the blinds pulled, are on light timers, or are otherwise staged to appear occupied?

      • John Galt says:

        I can corroborate some of this. I’m down in the south bay(San Jose-ish area) and I routinely now get recruiters reaching out to me for jobs up in the city having to do with Welding and Metal fabrication. I’m a mechanical engineer, but do own a welding business on the side. To me this is very telling, as welders, Carpenters, plumbers etc and your typical “roughneck” skilled laborers are often the first people to leave a major city when it’s A:too expensive, or B:not safe for a truck/van/work vehicle and family members. The scary part is, what is this going to do to the services and skilled labor sector if employers/anyone can’t find a person to fix their plumbing, or service their Mercedes?

        • two beers says:

          “what is this going to do to the services and skilled labor sector if employers/anyone can’t find a person to fix their plumbing, or service their Mercedes?”

          That ship sailed years ago. Hundreds of fabrication shops on the east side lost their leases, and the properties were turned into bespoke luxury lofts with patronizing names like, “The Foundry,” or “The Ironworks,” not unlike American states and towns named after the native tribes displaced or slaughtered to make room for Anglo homesteaders. Hundreds of auto shops have also been absorbed in the Invasion of the Condo Snatchers, although I don’t believe there are any repurposed properties with cute, patronizing names like, “Ed’s Auto Body & Paint Luxury Lofts,” or “Mannys’s Wrench House Condos.”

          As you would expect, the surviving fabrication and auto repair businesses in SF command very high prices. I imagine many a local used house salesperson grumbling about the high cost of their Lexus’ oil change, blithely lacking the consciousness that their own livelihood was a key reason for the high prices they are paying.

        • Lynn says:

          My Carpenter friend who lives in SF ran out buck naked with a baseball bat and stopped several thieves who were making off with his bolted down toolbox in the middle of the night. He was far crazier than they were, scared the daylights out them. Held at least one there for the cops. I doubt they’ll be back. I guess that’s what it takes. Most people are not going to go there..

      • Lynn says:

        Homes not Jails must be having a heyday.

    • Ben says:

      +1 I appreciate this, keep it up. These are what numbers can’t measure. I know its bias/relevant for us living in sf or the bay, but thanks!

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