Report: Boston has seen the third-largest drop in rental prices amid the pandemic

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Since March, rent prices in Boston have dropped 18.2 percent, according to a report released Monday. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It’s no shock that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the rental market nationwide, but according to a report the Apartment List website released Monday, prices in Boston have taken one of the hardest hits.

Since March, rent prices in Boston have dropped 18.2 percent.  That’s the third-largest price drop for a city in the United States, lagging behind only San Francisco and Seattle, which are down 24.5 percent and 19.1 percent, respectively. 

“Boston is in a category of cities that have been most disrupted, at least in terms of what we’re seeing happening to rent prices,” said Rob Warnock, research associate at Apartment List. In addition to the aforementioned metros, this group includes New York and Washington, D.C. “These are all cities where there’s a high concentration of renters. They’re all cities that are very expensive for renters,” Warnock explained. “They also have a younger and very technology-friendly workforce that has adapted to the remote work culture a little bit more than other cities.” 

Boston cracked the top three — effectively pushing out New York — in November, during which its rents dropped 5.2 percent. It was “one of the most dramatic drops” Warnock said Apartment List has seen, and the second-largest decrease that month, trailing Seattle’s 5.6 percent decline.

And paired with plummeting rents is an increase in vacancies. “Boston is one of the examples of cities where we’re seeing rents move in one direction and vacancies move in the other,” Warnock said. “At least to some degree, it’s people who are leaving, and it’s people who are not coming who are contributing to this excess vacancy.” 

But while large cities are seeing dramatic rent decreases, their smaller counterparts are seeing a boost. According to a recent report by the apartment listing website Zumper, Providence was among a group of seven smaller metros that are now considered “high-growth cities” by the site.

In the past month, the median price of a Providence one-bedroom apartment saw a 3.1 percent drop, but the cost of a two-bedroom rose 1.7 percent. One- and two-bedroom apartments in the Rhode Island city are roughly 11 percent more expensive compared with this time last year.

Both Apartment List and Zumper gathered data from listings on their respective sites to produce reports. Apartment List used rental transactions, while Zumper made its calculation with asking prices.

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