Nightingale Commons apartments, next to Good Samaritan, sold to a new owner. The previous owner invested in significant renovations before selling the property. KAITLIN SCHROEDER/STAFF

Dayton apartment rents are increasing. Here’s why.

Apartment rents in Dayton are on the rise, though remain cheaper than the Ohio and national average.

Rental prices within the city of Dayton are up in April about 1 percent year-over-year, compared to the state average of 1.1 percent increase and the national average of 1.5 percent, according to Apartment List, an online apartment listing service and a rental market research company.

The average Dayton apartment rent is $650 for a one-bedroom apartment and $850 for a two-bedroom. The national average for a two-bedroom is $1,170, according to Apartment List.

“Renters will find more reasonable prices in Dayton than most large cities. For example, San Francisco has a median 2BR rent of $3,060, which is more than three-and-a-half times the price in Dayton,” the report stated.

The rental market, like the housing market, is an indicator of how healthy the economy is.

“You want to look at housing in total as a barometer of health. If you have a lot of vacancy in apartments that would be a disappointing indicator,” said Dave Lockard, senior vice president with CBRE.

Tracy Rutherford, an agent with Crest Commercial Realty, said there was a surge over the past two years in investors looking for rental properties in the Dayton area with deferred maintenance where they could fix up the units and then raise the rent and make a profit.

Investors were attracted to the lower prices and higher rates of return on Dayton-area apartments, but now most of those types of rentals are bought.

“So this boom happened probably starting two years ago. They’ve been coming in and purchasing so quickly that there’s just nothing left,” Rutherford said.

One of the hottest areas for apartment renters continues to be downtown Dayton.

Downtown Dayton apartments were about 97 percent occupied according to Miller-Valentine Group’s 2017 apartment survey.

“There’s a national trend of people, especially the younger demographic, moving back into the urban areas and we are seeing that trend as well,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Even with new constructed apartments adding to downtown’s supply like at the Water Street District, Gudorf said occupancy rates have held above 95 percent for the past five years.

Two real estate firms that research the Dayton market, CBRE and Colliers International, reported Dayton area apartment occupancy was at about 94 percent as of the end of 2017.

Dave Lockard, senior vice president with CBRE, said in 2017 the occupancy rate slightly declined from the year before while rent increased 2 percent.

“We’re in reasonable equilibrium between supply and demand. You see some steady increases in rental rate pricing that keep current with inflation and in some cases slightly surpass inflation which frankly is a sign of a healthy market,” Lockard said.

He said the results are in line with trends in other cities in Ohio.

Lockard said about 20 percent of Dayton apartment property owners had rent-increasing renovations in 2017 or planned for 2018.

While the average rental rate is lower than the Ohio and national average, housing can still be unaffordable for many resident, said Matt Currie, attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, whose specialties include housing.

He said according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition data, fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental in the Dayton metropolitan statistical area — Montgomery, Greene and Miami counties — is $764 a month, meaning a family would need to earn $30,560 a year to afford a two-bedroom rental at the fair market rent and an individual would need to work 72 hours a week.

“So it has become harder for low-income families to keep up with rent and utility costs, which means growing number families are one misstep or emergency away from eviction,” Currie said.