The spring rental season deflated as it was about to take off when the March kickoff collided with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Nevertheless, rents are up in Fairfield County's priciest rental zip code.
Typically rent prices increase in March, but according to the nationwide listing service RENTCafé, rental housing searches on its site dropped by 25 percent from March 11 to March 17. Last year in the same week traffic was down 4 percent.
The national year-over-year rent increase in March (2.9 percent) was slower than the one in February (3.2 percent), pegging the average price at $1,474.
Connecticut’s largest cities did not fall in line. Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury and Stamford all registered faster annual rent increases in March than one month previously.
Here are highlights from RENTCafé's March Connecticut rent report:
East Hartford saw the highest year-over-year rent increase — a solid 7.8 percent, with its average reaching $1,066. Meanwhile, Rocky Hill ($1,357) recorded the only rate decrease in the state — a steep -4.8 percent.
The average rent in Hartford reached $1,223 after a 3.3 percent annual rent growth. Connecticut’s capital is the second most affordable large city after Waterbury.
Stamford remains the most expensive city for renters, with an average price of $2,434, while Waterbury ($957) is home to the most budget-friendly apartments. Stamford did see an average rental price increase in March of 7 percent over last year.
"April will be interesting," said Ryan Kundrat, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty in Ridgefield.
Kundrat, however, has not seen a dramatic change in the number of rental units being filled. The Stamford data is based on average costs of rent, not available inventory or the number of units closed, he stressed.
Rental inventory is becoming stagnant with people isolated at home "just hanging out" until this health crisis is over.
"Stamford, as we know, is sort of an epicenter of this whole outbreak," said Kundrat. "The mentality there might be different than 10 miles away in other areas."
People looking for rentals started to get nervous a month or so ago.
"We don't have a full month of April. The data will be very telling. Places are closed. People are furloughed or laid off. As coronavirus cases begin to taper off, those who put off moving in the early spring will flood the market. The remainder of this month of April will be an important data point," Kundrat said.