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Inflation Has Hit Tenants Hard. What About Their Landlords?


Geography also matters. Even among the largest landlords, those with a presence in Sun Belt cities such as Miami, Tampa, Nashville and Phoenix saw far faster rent growth than high-cost coastal markets like San Francisco, where rents fell substantially during the pandemic lockdowns as white-collar workers fled for remote locations.

Mid-America Apartment Communities, a publicly traded owner of 101,000 units concentrated in Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina, has benefited from all these trends. Its new tenants make $91,319 on average and are in their mid-30s. In the first half of the year, its new and renewed leases increased 17.1 percent over their previous rates, driving the largest increase in its dividend per share in decades.

“We feel very good about the opportunity for pricing going forward and still believe now is the time to push rate versus volume,” said Tom Grimes, the company’s chief operating officer, explaining to investors on a quarterly earnings call that he’d rather raise prices than worry about turnover, which remains low. “Demand is good, and our priority is for growing rents.”

It’s harder to track the finances of privately owned real estate portfolios, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand units — midsize landlords, in relative terms. But interviews suggest that even if they remain profitable, rising expenses have weighed more heavily on their bottom lines.

Take Swapnil Agarwal, whose Houston-based Nitya Capital has grown swiftly to encompass 20,000 units. He says insurance premiums, payroll costs and maintenance have combined to push his expenses to $7,000 per unit this year from $5,500 in recent years.

“It’s ironic, because our net operating margins have not gone up — actually, they’ve gone down,” Mr. Agarwal said. The picture may improve as he renews leases at market rates. “Yes, the rent growth is there,” he said, “but it has to sustain there for a while because of the costs going up.”

Many midsize landlords are also in the business of acquiring, renovating and building apartments. Rising interest rates have made that much more difficult.



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