Central Pa. rents rise slightly but overall trend down from pandemic highs

Central Pennsylvania rents inched up slightly in November but are still less than they were a year ago, according to the newest report from Apartment List.

This drop from pandemic highs follows a national trend.

In the three-county Harrisburg metro area of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, median rents rose 0.4% from October to November while falling 0.9% over the previous 12 months.

The latest median rents in the region were $1,040 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,337 for a two-bedroom unit, the report said.

Rob Warnock, a senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email, “Like most other parts of the country, central Pennsylvania has experienced a swift slowdown in rent growth during 2022. Prices today are slightly lower than they were one year ago, following dramatic increases the year before that.

“While it is a welcomed relief, rents are still up more than 30% since the start of the pandemic (March 2020), so the current market slowdown is not undoing much of the affordability concerns that have developed over the past couple years. The slowdown has been attributed to broader economic worries and lower consumer confidence, as people have been putting off big, expensive decisions like moving, buying a house or starting a family.”

Apartment List’s national rent index fell by 1% in November, the third straight monthly drop and the largest single monthly dip in the history of the index, which dates from 2017.

As Warnock noted, reasons for the cool down appear to be tied to economic factors, rather than just the typical seasonal trend.

Over the course of the year, rent growth continues to outpace pre-pandemic levels, but by smaller and smaller margins, the report said. Through November of 2022, rents are up 4.7%, “which is much closer to the … rates we saw in 2018 and 2019 than it is to the astronomical 18% growth that we saw at this point last year.”

Accompanying the slowdown in rent growth is a rise in unoccupied units. Nationally, the Apartment List vacancy index is 5.7% through November, after gradually climbing from a low of 4.1% last fall.

“Today’s vacancy rate still remains below the pre-pandemic norm but could get back to that benchmark as early as next spring, if the current rate of easing continues,” according to the report.

From April through August, vacancy ticked up 0.2 percentage points, from 5.1% to 5.3%. But from August through November, the index rose 0.6 percentage points, reaching the current 5.7%.

“After a prolonged period of skyrocketing rent growth, and with non-housing-related costs also getting more expensive as a result of broad-based inflation, it seems that some Americans are moving back in with family or roommates, or delaying striking out on their own,” Apartment List explained.

Meanwhile, new apartment construction is getting back on track after encountering delays during the pandemic. “This combination of slowing household formation and rising inventory,” the report noted, “is driving the recent shifts that we are seeing in both our rent growth and vacancy indexes.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Migration report shows Lancaster and Hershey attracting new residents

Bucking a statewide trend, two central Pennsylvania cities/towns are seeing more people moving in than out so far this year.

Lancaster and Hershey rank first and second in moveBuddha’s 2021-2022 Pennsylvania Migration Report, with search data showing 159 moves into Lancaster for every 100 moves out.

The info was collected from Jan. 1 to Oct. 10 of this year, encompassing searches nationwide by individuals who were planning to move themselves or hire a moving company in 2022.

For its report, moveBuddha looked at only cities or towns with at least 25 inbound and 25 outbound searches, identifying 55 in Pennsylvania that were the most popular.

While Lancaster came in a clear first, Hershey edged out Kennett Square for second, with 132 moves in for every 100 moves out.

The vast majority of cities and towns on the list, however – 38 of 55 – showed the opposite trend.

A blog post on moveBuddha said Pennsylvania has the 13th worst migration ratio of the 50 states so far in 2022, with 83 people arriving for every 100 leaving.

What makes Lancaster a destination, moveBuddha said, is its history and diversity, plus its proximity to the more rural areas of the county. “It provides more space for folks looking to leave the denser Philly metro area,” for example.

Hershey was praised for its small-town atmosphere, which “is attractive to many.”

Some other highlights from the report:

· Florida is the top destination for those moving out of the commonwealth, followed by California, Texas, North Carolina and New York. One possible factor cited for Florida’s top ranking is its lack of income tax.

· Lebanon, Levittown, Monroeville, Norristown and Pottstown are all seeing two times more moves headed out than in this year.

· Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has seen negative net migration. Better job opportunities in other states and the shift to remote work are cited as potential reasons.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lancaster, Harrisburg top nation’s best places to retire

Central Pennsylvania has long been known as a retirement mecca, and the latest rankings from U.S. News and World Report show why.

In the publication’s ratings of the nation’s best places to retire, Lancaster and Harrisburg come in at No. 1 and 2, with York close behind at No. 4.

U.S. News analyzed data from the country’s 150 largest metro areas for the rankings, assessing how well they met Americans’ retirement needs and expectations. Criteria considered included the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and health care quality.

The indexes that determined the overall rating were desirability, value, job market, quality of life and net migration. Lancaster, Harrisburg and York scored best in the value and quality of life categories, which carried the most weight.

Here’s some of what U.S. News said about why the local metros ranked so high:

· Lancaster “offers a balance between natural and commercial spaces that residents appreciate,” the magazine said. “Expansive farms rub elbows with manicured suburbs, which lead right into the bustling city. A short drive can take one through each of these environments. Each area boasts its own unique groups of inhabitants: farmers, families, college students and young professionals.”

· State capital Harrisburg was lauded for its access to “the great outdoors. … Bikers and runners take in the scenery of the Susquehanna River on the trails of Riverfront Park, which also hosts many of the metro area’s annual festivals and events. Residents also enjoy hiking the famous Appalachian Trail or camping and mountain biking in the many nearby state parks and forests.”

· York earned praise for its historical “punching power. … The region’s bragging rights include being the onetime home of the Continental Congress, the birthplace of the Articles of Confederation and even the capital of the U.S. for a brief period.”

The data sources used to compile the rankings included the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. News’ internal resources.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer