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Real Estate - Residential

Fierce Competition: 12 Renters Vie For Each Rental In Wilmington Area, According To Study

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 5, 2023

Competing for apartments and other types of rental dwellings in parts of the region can be a chore.

Although stories describing the difficulties of securing rental housing in the Port City abound among potential residents and on social media, a new study quantifies it. According to a Yardi Matrix study shared by RentCafe, 12 renters competed for each vacant apartment in Wilmington in 2022.

With about 95% of rentals already occupied in Wilmington, the city ranked fourth in North Carolina in RentCafe's Most Competitive Rental Markets in 2022 report. Asheville ranked first, followed by Fayetteville and Greenville. 

The results, however, are based only on those properties (apartments, rental houses and townhomes with 50 or more units at the same location) in New Hanover, Pender and Columbus counties that use Yardi to vet its applicants through proprietary software. The company declined to share how many local rental communities use its services or why Columbus County was counted in the study rather than Brunswick County.

RentCafe.com is a nationwide apartment search website and part of software corporation Yardi.

Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence for Yardi Matrix, said numerous factors contribute to the Wilmington area’s popularity, which in turn raises the amount of rental competition. 

In addition to infrastructure like the Port of Wilmington bringing jobs to the area, Wilmington “has a high median income; it has access to schools. It doesn’t have the urban density that some other places do,” he said.

Other findings of the study include:

  • 66.1% of renters in Wilmington in 2022 chose to stay put and renew their leases. This is slightly more than the national average. 
  • The market added 3.6% more units to its inventory in 2022, the 2nd highest growth in the state. 
  • Rental competition in Wilmington increased by 2.5% during the peak rental season, when vacant apartments got filled faster and more units were built.

"It takes about 36 months after you put a spade in the dirt to be able to bring a property up to readiness to be occupied, and what we’re seeing right now is the new supply coming on board, especially for lifestyle renters, is growing in the Wilmington area," Ressler said. 


He said 1,400 rental units were added to Wilmington's inventory in 2022. "You've got the same amount coming this year," Ressler said.

For its rankings, which were topped nationally by Miami, the study looked at five metrics that affect a location’s competitiveness:

  • the number of days apartments were vacant
  • what percentage of rentals were occupied
  • the number of prospective renters competing for an apartment
  • what percentage of renters renewed their leases
  • the share of apartments completed this year

"Then based on these metrics, we calculated a Rental Competitivity Index (RCI), which shows how competitive the rental market was this year," according to a RentCafe blog on the study. "The national RCI score was 59.9 in 2022."

The Wilmington area scored 68.2 on the RCI.

But could the economy's slowdown have an impact?

“You’ve already got dirt moved; you’ve got people that have buildings in process," Ressler said. "They’ve got to bring those up to try to start realizing business profit from it.”

In recent years, apartment investors have found Wilmington an attractive place to grow earnings. Private equity real estate investment firm Lucern Capital Partners bought two apartment complexes, Oasis at Cedar Branch, 205 Cedar Branch Lane, and Oasis at Twinwood, 4013 Wilshire Blvd., in Wilmington in December 2021.

"Demand in Wilmington continues to be extremely strong, especially for conventional, market-rate apartments," said Frank Forte, chief investment officer of LCP. "Continued business and personal relocation are driving population growth and rental demand, especially given how both difficult and expensive it is to purchase a home in this environment."

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