Record Number of New Inventory Slows Seattle's Rent Growth

With new apartments opening across the city at a high rate and a slew of new units still to come, Seattle is seeing a shift in its rental market.

According to Apartment List, Seattle was among the top six metro areas in the country for rent growth each year from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, Seattle had the fastest growing rent (a 5.2 percent increase) of the nation’s 25 largest cities. However, in the past year (ending June 1, 2018), Seattle experienced the largest drop in rankings, going from first to 22nd, with rents decreasing by 0.9 percent.

Record Number of New Inventory

There are currently 25,164 apartment units under construction in buildings with over 50 units, and an additional 34,800 units in planned buildings with over 50 units. Among the neighborhoods with the most units were South Lake Union with 3,384 units under construction, 3,561 units planned; downtown Seattle with 2,696 units under construction, 9,390 units planned; and Central/South Seattle with 2,618 units under construction, 4,665 units planned.

Largest Projects Under Construction

  • 843 units at 120 John Street
    Estimated completion date of November 2019
  • 532 units at 2309 S. Jackson Street
    Estimated completion date of June 2020
  • 461 units at 111 Terry Avenue North (formerly 970 Denny)
    Estimated completion date of August 2018
  • 436 units at 121 Boren Avenue North
    Estimated completion date of April 2019

Largest Planned Projects

As new apartments continue to open and developers stick to their prices, there has been an increase in vacancy rates. About 25 percent of units in downtown Seattle are vacant, nearly 14 percent in South Lake Union, and 11 percent in Central/South Seattle.

Rather than discounting prices, buildings are turning to alternative methods to draw new tenants. The Seattle Times recently reviewed online apartment ads where they found 157 different apartment buildings in the city of Seattle offering deals for those willing to sign a long-term lease. The most common offer being free rent, offered by 112 different buildings, ranging from two weeks to two months. Other offers included specials on deposits, free parking, gift cards, gym memberships, Uber credits, and more.

Despite the rent slowdown, the city’s for-sale inventory remains tight as home prices continue to be the fastest growing in the nation.

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