Rental Market Analysis

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When analysing a real estate market, aside from job & population growth which seem arguably the most important factors, how important is looking at a city's number of new commercial and multifamily construction in a given area (construction/community growth?) and how do you gauge this? I have seen ideas such as looking at the number of permits issued at a city/county permitting office but even they don't seem to have all of the info together to show the bigger picture of how a city is doing in terms of investment activity, best ways to approach this?

What do those numbers mean to a rental market?  If the numbers are high or low, does it mean good things or bad? Do any of them draw any conclusions that are consistent with any and every market?