top 5 multifamily markets

Nighthawk Equity released an in-depth rankings study on the top multifamily markets to invest in. Our report was the result of a rigorous analysis of seven important metrics: population growth, job growth, median household income, median house values, crime, rent growth, and finally median cap rate.

We took all of these metrics and analyzed them not just over changes in the last 12 months — which is subject to “noise” and volatility in the data —  but rather over the long term to develop real sustainable trends with outputs that can drive smart investing decisions.

“Demographic trends happen in decades not days” said Nighthawk President, Drew Kniffin. “We want to follow these trends and let them act as economic tailwinds to drive our investment decisions.”  

“We use this data to form the baseline of our investment analysis. On top of that we overlay things such as, Where do we have strong relationships with property management? What markets do we already know well? And, What markets are easy for us to get to if we need to go see the property in person?  These are all additional metrics that are important and that we try to layer over the data driven metrics.”

NightHawk will continue to update this ranking regularly as the data changes so that we stay abreast of the latest information to drive our investments.

1 — Atlanta, GA

Atlanta continues to flex its muscle as both the cultural and economic capital of the Southeast.  It ranks third in the U.S. for metropolitan population growth rate, expanding by more than 90,000 in 2020-21 to over 6.2 million people.In the next thirty years, Atlanta expects to add an additional three million people.  To put that in perspective, that is like adding the entire metropolitan area of Denver on top of Atlanta!

This growth is fueled by Atlanta’s reputation as a great place for business.  There are 15 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city, including The Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, and NCR. In addition, many international companies have located their US headquarters in the city.

This prosperous environment has led to a tight real estate market. Single-family homes are in short supply and soaring prices for them have led to a sharp increase in apartment rentals in recent years.

Multifamily housing in Atlanta has maintained a 94% occupancy rate for nearly three years. Rents are growing exponentially. In 2020 they went up by 5.7% and in 2021 they are nearing 9%.

2 — Tampa, FL

Tampa has been a steady beneficiary of people, businesses and jobs coming to its area.  As a result, it is one of only three areas to receive a perfect score.  But its large size (3 million persons and growing) gives it the tiebreaker and wins top rankings.  

Tampa is the 2nd most populous metropolitan area in the state of Florida, home to roughly 2.9 million residents. Previously ranked as the 5th best outdoor city in America by Forbes, there is no shortage of things to do for inhabitants and tourists alike. The city is home to a handful of professional sports franchises, most notably the Buccaneers, Rays, and Lightning — combined, these franchises bring the city more than $700 million in revenue. 

Home to many fast-growing industries, the financial and professional services industry in particular has seen year-over-year growth of 3.9%. This industry is highlighted by Fortune 500 firms Raymond James and Franklin Templeton, each headquartered in Pinellas County. Citibank employs 5000 workers in Tampa and is poised to continue as a titan of the financial services industry.

As a real estate market, the Tampa metropolitan area is experiencing high growth in rent values. According to Roofstock, home values in Tampa increased by 10.4% last year and are expected to rise by 8.5% over the next 12 months. Rents in Tampa also increased by 2% last year. 44% of the households in Tampa rent rather than own.

3 — Huntsville, AL

Huntsville is named the “Rocket City” and for good reason. The city was built on the World War 2 rocket program and has since turned into a bedrock of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs.  Major tech companies, as well as major Defense companies, all have robust presences in this town.  Two recent highlights include the FBI moving thousands of jobs out of (expensive) Washington DC and the Space Force (the newest branch of the military) choosing Huntsville as its headquarters. 

Huntsville is a fresh, up-and-coming market that is quickly becoming one of the hottest economic centers in the country. More than a dozen major projects will bring 6000+ jobs to North Alabama in the next few years, paving the way to a projected $4.1 billion of economic growth coming to the region. Huntsville is home to the largest NASA center in the United States, as well as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the new U.S. Space Force. The three major industries of Aerospace, Defense and Technology played a large role in the 12,000 new jobs created in the area between 2018-2019, and also contributed to Huntsville being ranked the 3rd best city in the U.S. for high tech jobs.

Huntsville's rents are rising at one of the fastest rates in the nation, showcasing record-setting effective rent growth (over 6% each year for the past two years). MultiHousing News ranked the metropolitan area as the #2 market for occupancy growth. The Huntsville MSA also enjoys the highest sustained occupancy pattern — 94% for two consecutive years. Despite the explosive rent growth in this region, Huntsville remains ranked by U.S. News as the #1 Best Affordable Place to Live in the entire United States in 2019. 

4 — Columbus, OH

Columbus has been a great midwestern growth story for a decade.  All of its datapoints point in positive directions: income growth has been strong, crime is going down, jobs are available.  Importantly, Columbus also has the least expensive real estate of our top three cities; its cap rates are about 50 basis points than either Tampa or Sacramento.  

In 2019, the Columbus metropolitan area’s population increased by over 18,000 new residents, earning it the rank of the 25th-fastest-growing metro in the nation, with 0.9% population growth. According to clevelandfed.org, Columbus boasts a significantly higher concentration of employment in the professional and business services industry than the national average.

Over the last 10 years, the unemployment rate in Columbus has significantly decreased from about 9.5% in 2010 to just 3.6% in 2020. Similarly, employment growth in Columbus is 1.04% year-over-year. This is powered by the five Fortune 500 companies that are headquartered in Columbus: American Electric Power, Cardinal Health, L Brands, Nationwide, and Big Lots. However, it’s not just the corporate giants there that are thriving here — CommercialCafe named Columbus as one of the 20 best cities in the U.S. for startup companies.

5 — Nashville, TN

Belying its southern charm, Nashville has been the Belle of the Ball in the mid-south for the last decade.  It's become a destination for high-paying Amazon jobs, and in general has become an attractive market for corporate relocations. 

In fact, Nashville has got so much glitz that the 40th -floor penthouse at the Four Seasons will be listed for $25 million!  Perhaps more impressive though is that the median income has nearly doubled (from $56K to $96K) in the last decade.  In other words, essentially everyone in Nashville has more disposable income than before.  And with that, of course, comes higher rents.

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