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Corporate SFR Owners Dealing With Volatility After Profitable Rent Hikes

Institutional investors have been buying up single-family homes, pushing overall pricing skyward.

Single-family rental homes, which tend to be scattered assets, have provided their owners more stable rents over the last four years than build-to-rent homes, which tend to be more concentrated, according to a report by John Burns Research and Consulting.

Both classes of single-family assets, as well as multifamily assets, responded to the 2021 surge in household formation by raising rents. BTR and apartment rents went up quickly, while SFR, whose owners tend to be long-term, noncorporate investors, raised rents at more historically normal rates, according to the report.

Nationwide, BTR rents peaked at 16.2% growth year-over-year in the summer of 2021, and multifamily rents peaked in early 2022 at 14.5% annual growth, according to indexes compiled by John Burns.

By contrast, SFR rental growth peaked at 7.8% annually in mid-2022, according to the company's index for that sector.

Since then, all of the rental indexes have fallen, with BTR and multifamily down the most. As of April, BTR rental growth compared with a year earlier was only 1.3%, and multifamily rental growth was 3.5% over the same period. Rental growth has contracted as household formation has cooled and new supply has come online.

SFR rental growth as of April was 4.7% year-over-year, according to the company.

Rents aren't expected to bounce very much in the near future, especially for build-to-rent.

“We expect BTR operators in some submarkets and metros will have to give back some of the astronomical gains realized in 2021 and 2022 as competition increases from incoming supply and market conditions soften due to inflation’s impact on household budgets,” the report says.