According to the U.S. Census Bureau, rental vacancy rates during the fourth quarter of 2021 fell to 5.6%, the lowest since 1984.
"Without a lot of rental vacancy that landlords are accustomed to having, that gives them some pricing power because they’re not sitting on empty units that they need to fill," said Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist.
Subsequently, in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, median rent rose an astounding 19.3 percent from December 2020 to December 2021, according to a Realtor.com analysis of properties with two or fewer bedrooms. In addition, rental costs rose 0.5 percent in January from December, the Labor Department said last month. That may seem small, but it was the biggest increase in 20 years.
And with increased prices, experts say it has forced many people, including those who were finally ready to move away from family and friends they stayed with during the height of the pandemic, to reevaluate their living situations.
"With prices being so high, we’re also seeing a little bit of trend back toward people moving in with roommates or consolidating households again, because they just can’t afford to live by themselves," Carberry added.
So, will rental prices continue to accelerate?
Carberry noted that prices historically increase the most during the summer months, but overall, prices should start to level off this year. "I do think that rent prices are going to continue to go up, but I think that the rate of increase is not going to be as severe," he continued.
Hale echoed this sentiment. She expects rents to continue to rise in 2022, but at a slower pace, thanks to increased construction. "Improving supply growth should help create more balance in the market," she noted, forecasting rents to rise 7.1 percent in 2022.
"I don't think prices are going to go down any time soon, but I think they are going to start to level off. Everything is relative, but it's going to seem a little more comfortable for renters," Carberry added.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.