Development

Charlotte apartments are bucking a national trend on one key factor

A rendering of the proposed 266-unit, mixed-use apartment project by ZOM on Barclay Downs Drive.
A rendering of the proposed 266-unit, mixed-use apartment project by ZOM on Barclay Downs Drive.

A new study from apartment-search site RENTCafe shows that the average size of new apartments in the U.S. is down significantly from a decade ago – but not in Charlotte or much of the rest of the Southeast.

1,147 square feetAverage size of a new apartment in Charlotte in 2016

1,104 square feetAverage size of a new apartment in Charlotte in 2006

You can read the full report and see more trends and individual city data online here (Atlanta ranks No. 1 as the city with the largest average apartment sizes, for those keeping track of Charlotte vs. Atlanta factoids). The study looked at new apartment buildings with 50 units or more, using data from apartment-tracking and research firm Yardi Matrix.

So why might apartments be getting smaller? Urban locations near downtown have become prime real estate in cities across the U.S., and buildings there are typically on smaller footprints with significant space constraints. Squeezing in more small apartments makes sense, especially because many renters are willing to trade square footage for location.

And since apartments are usually priced on a square-foot basis, shaving the size of units can keep rents palatable for prospective tenants while still allowing a landlord to reap the same higher per-square-foot rents they want from a new building.

934 square feetAverage size of all new apartments in the U.S., 2016

1,015 square feetAverage size of all new apartments in the U.S., 2006

So what’s different about Charlotte, and the Southeast in general? The RENTCafe study didn’t really look at reasons behind the regional variation. While downtown development and infill projects in established neighborhoods are booming in Charlotte, we still have a good chunk of greenfield apartment development. And even many of our infill projects aren’t on sites that are postage stamp-sized – three or four acres isn’t uncommon.

What else do you think might be driving this trend?

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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