Supersize Apartments Are Back in Demand
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Supersize Apartments Are Back in Demand

Developers across U.S. try to meet millennials’ needs and accommodate the shift to remote work.

By Sami Sparber
Wed, Jun 30, 2021 11:25amGrey Clock 3 min

Apartment sizes are getting bigger across the U.S., just as more people are looking for additional space while spending more time working from home.

In 36% of U.S. cities, apartments under construction are larger on average than those built over the previous five years, according to a report from RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment-search website. Units in 33 of the 92 cities studied rose nearly 50 square feet on average, the report said.

The demand for larger units follows several years when apartments were shrinking in size, in part because smaller units are more profitable for property owners. In dense urban areas and around universities, many developers continue to build smaller apartments to offer more of them and meet high rental demand, according to Yardi Matrix, a real-estate market-intelligence firm that provided data for the RENTCafé report.

But the percentage of bigger new apartments is the highest it has been in five years, reflecting recent tenant preferences, said Doug Ressler, Yardi Matrix’s manager of business intelligence. Older millennials have reached the typical homebuying age, but many are unable to find a home they can afford. Instead, they are looking to rent larger apartments for themselves and their families, Mr. Ressler said.

While the urge to upsize apartments predated the Covid-19 pandemic, some real-estate executives suggest it will continue as the health crisis puts a new premium on space. Developers say they are building units that offer more space to work and relax in, as a way to accommodate residents who are moving out of high-density cities and into suburban areas across the country.

“We’re doing little things like adding built-in offices and areas where people can work from home in nooks and crannies,” said Michael Van Der Poel, founding partner of Asia Capital Real Estate, a private-equity firm that specializes in multifamily-housing development and investment.

J. David Heller, chief executive of the NRP Group, a developer of multifamily buildings, said his firm is offering a den that can be used as a home office in both its one- and two-bedroom apartment plans.

NRP, which develops communities in St. Petersburg, Fla., and San Antonio, among other cities, has expanded a number of its floor plans by 30 to 50 square feet, Mr. Heller said.

Some multifamily developers in northern New Jersey are taking a similar approach, replacing one-bedroom apartments with one-bedrooms plus a den, said Brian Gretkowski, president of Sparrow Asset Management.

The extra space that U.S. developers are offering is incremental, but “in a 600-square-foot apartment, 50 square feet adds up,” said Justin Brown, president and CEO of Skender, a Chicago-based construction firm.

RENTCafé’s report, which it released in early June, analyzed apartment data in the 92 U.S. cities where floor-plan-size information was available as of last month for projects under construction.

One-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are increasing in size in almost half of the cities RENTCafé analyzed. Those units are adding to their average size 28 square feet, 39 square feet and 105 square feet, respectively, according to the report.

Everett, Wash., is leading the trend. Developers there are building apartments to be 267 square feet larger than those built in the past five years, the report said. Other leaders include Kirkland, Wash., with 211 additional square feet, followed by Scottsdale, Ariz., with 208 more square feet, on average.

The report didn’t address whether the shift to add space will affect rent prices. Not all developers are convinced the trend will stick, citing affordability challenges.

“We’re unsure if long term, average unit sizes will increase because that would ultimately mean higher rents,” said Omar Rihani, head of multifamily development at Project Management Advisors.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 29, 2021


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The home building market is on the rebound as building approvals rise, new data reveals.

Information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the total number of dwellings approved in August was up 7 percent seasonally adjusted, with apartments leading the way.

Private sector house approvals gained 5.8 percent in August while private sector residences excluding houses were up 9.4 percent. This follows on from a decrease of 14.6 percent in July and indicates a solid recovery in the Australian construction sector as the end of the year approaches.  

Approvals for total dwellings were strongest in the two largest states, with Victoria recording a rise of 22.2 percent and NSW 12.5 percent. Western Australia also saw a significant rise of 12.3 percent.

In Queensland, the results were less positive for the sector, with total dwelling approvals falling by -26.9 percent. Tasmania also experienced a drop in approvals in August, down -10.1 percent and South Australia -6.9 percent.


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