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Apartment Rents Stagnate In Atlanta, Surge In The Suburbs

Atlanta's urban apartment rents may have hit a plateau. But that does not mean no landlords will be seeing gains.

Ashford Indian Trail apartments recently purchased by RADCO

Since the start of 2017, apartment rents increased 0.4% each month, according to data compiled by Abodo. As of July, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $1,455/month in Atlanta, while a two-bedroom hit $1,877/month. As of August, those rates are $1,461/month and $1,873/month.

That is a far cry from when average apartment rents rose 8% year-over-year as of last February marketwide, topping the national average of nearly 6%, according to a Yardi Matrix 2016 report.

Abodo's Sam Radbil

To Abodo's Sam Radbil, this may be Atlanta's new normal. And that may, in part, be due to the onslaught of new apartments coming to market inside the Interstate 285 loop.

"I think we're hitting a point where the new developments last year are coming to market and things will start evening out,” Radbil said.

Abodo tracks rents based on the listings on its website, which is focused on the Atlanta market within I-285. Its research hides the fact that rents outside the city's center are having a quite different experience, RADCO founder Norman Radow said.

RADCO Cos. CEO Norman Radow

“There's a tale of two markets,” Radow said.

RADCO invests mainly in Metro Atlanta's suburban apartment landscape, where garden-style, Class-B properties predominate. Most recently, RADCO purchased Indian Trail Apartment Homes in Norcross, a 467-unit, value-add project in the Gwinnett County submarket. It is in the suburbs where RADCO sees the best rent growth in recent months, Radow said.

RADCO plans to infuse more than $9M into what it renamed Ashford Indian Trail, some $20K/unit. The investment will “reset the economic clock” on the property, Radow said, and it follows the strategy Radow uses on its value-add buys. The average same-store rent growth for RADCO this year is 14%.

But those kind of percentage increases are possible when you start with rents in the $800/month range, Radow said.

“I see no slowness at all, and in some cases, I'm actually seeing [rent growth] accelerate,” he said.

Many publicly traded apartment REITs have seen strong performance in Atlanta.

“Apartment demand continues to be strong, driven by positive demographics and a secular shift to rental housing as part of the sharing economy,” Camden Property Trust CEO Ric Campo said during a quarterly call with stock analysts last month

Camden officials said same-store rent growth in Atlanta was 4.8%.

Other firms reported similar performances during Q2 analyst calls, including Independence Realty Trust, which reported year-over-year revenue growth in Atlanta, Raleigh, Memphis and Louisville was 5.2%. AIMCO saw revenue growth from 3.5% to more than 4% in Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta.

With 13,700 new apartment units expected to hit the market in the coming year, the market will continue to see only moderate rent growth all around, according to a recent Colliers International report.

“Look for overall rent growth to settle between 3% and 4% next year while occupancy rates stabilize around 94%,” Colliers officials said in the report.

Radow and Radbil see a flight by apartment renters to the suburbs as rents in the urban core skyrocketed in recent years.

“It's everyone's dream, especially millennials, to live in the city,” Radbil said. "But no one wants to pay New York prices for an apartment in Atlanta."

NexPoint Residential Trust Managing Director Matthew McGraner said rents are moderating in the city not only because of new supply, but also because developers are pushing concession packages to lure renters into the newer projects. By and large, that is not happening in the suburbs, he said.

“That's going to be challenging for folks who are owning Class-A luxury deals in those urban areas,” McGraner said.

CORRECTION, AUG. 9, 7:43 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story misstated the name of RADCO's apartment property. It is Ashford Indian Trail. The story has been updated.