Spring 2022 Single-Family Leasing Market: Who is Moving & Why

Posted By: Cory Brewer Investing,

Our brokerage (Windermere Property Management / Lori Gill & Associates) has about 1,700 homes under management, primarily single-family houses, throughout King & Snohomish Counties. We have a team of five leasing agents that account for about 80% of the leases at these properties in any given year. Just to set the table for the number of prospective renters that we are engaging with on a regular basis. Factor in the multiple calls, showings, and applications that come in on any given property and that’s a LOT of engagement with the prospective renting public.

So why are people moving? What prompts someone to call us about a house that’s for rent in Medina, Magnolia, or Mercer Island? In reviewing the bi-weekly leasing reports that our team has sent in over the past several months, here are some recent trends.

Tech workers coming to the Seattle area is nothing new, but it seems we are on the cusp of an absolute tidal wave of new techie hires flooding our market with housing demand. By the end of 2021, Meta (formerly Facebook) had leased five new buildings in the developing Spring District in Bellevue for a total of over 1.4 million square feet. Not to be outdone, Amazon is reported to eventually host 25,000 jobs in Bellevue. Let’s not forget about Microsoft, Google (more Kirkland campus construction underway as we speak), and any number of other tech companies that call the Seattle area home. The new development and job movement will be coupled with bringing workers back to the office in the wake of COVID-19. I’ve heard anecdotally about the thousands upon thousands of people that have already been hired by these companies who are currently working from home in other parts of the country (or the globe, really) and have not moved here yet. When they do, they’re going to need a place to live. Many of them are very intentional about their decision to rent for their first year in a new city, in order to learn the area before committing to a home purchase. Get ready.

To piggy-back on that thought, we’re also seeing people make a relatively short move from Seattle over to the Eastside in anticipation of their job moving across the lake.

Additionally, a fair number of homeowners are looking for a temporary rental while they remodel their primary residences. New construction is difficult due to the scarcity and price of buildable lots. Housing values have increased significantly over the past few years, allowing homeowners to take advantage of their equity and put it into remodels & renovations. Many of these were planned before the COVID-19 outbreak, which shut down construction businesses to varying degrees, and there is a backlog of projects to get on the schedule. That’s a lot of people looking for a rental before they can send in their contractor.

And finally, a significantly growing trend – particularly in Seattle – has been the number of people looking to find a new rental because the owner of their current rental is selling. I’ve written about this quite a bit over the past couple of years in various publications, and we continue to hear about it from our leasing team every week. It is no doubt a hot seller’s market, but we also know that many rental home owners are selling their Seattle properties due to the evolving legislative environment. It’s an unfortunate situation, and to any household struggling to find another available rental home because the previous one is being sold I say this: You can thank your city council.

With the exception of dense multi-family housing in the downtown Seattle core, all other markets in the Greater Seattle Area (according to my NWMLS research) have performed very well these past couple of years – particularly single-family houses, and in just about any neighborhood. As we distance ourselves from the pandemic, all the things that draw people to downtown Seattle will come back as well (jobs, dining, arts, sporting events, etc.). The demand is ever-growing throughout our region, and housing providers continue to offer something that meets a crucial need in our communities. As an industry advocate, RHAWA continues to support housing providers and showcase them as the assets that they are.