Survey: Nearly Half of Rental Units are in Properties with Four or Fewer Units

December 6, 2022

Of the 49.5 million rental housing units in the U.S., nearly 46% are located in rental properties of one-to-four units, according to the latest Rental Housing Finance Survey (RHFS) data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

For these small rental properties, 70% (15.9 million) are owned by individual investors, and more than one-third (8.1 million) have a mortgage or similar debt.

"The Rental Housing Finance Survey provides insight on the financial, managerial, and physical characteristics of rental properties nationwide," said Solomon Greene, HUD's principal deputy assistant secretary for policy development and sesearch. "Given that the survey was in the field during 2021, it will help the Administration to better understand how rental property owners responded to the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Rental Housing Finance Survey is funded by HUD and is collected every three years by the Census Bureau. The RHFS is the most comprehensive survey of rental housing properties in the United States, covering topics such as property configuration, ownership and management, rental income and expenses, financing, and capital improvements and expenses.

Below are highlights from the national level findings among the 19.3 million rental properties, which contain 49.5 million rental units.

Rental Property Configuration

  • About 86% of all rental properties contain only one rental unit.
  • About one-third of all rental units are in properties with one rental unit and another one-third of rental units are in properties with 150 or more rental units.

Ownership and Management

  • About 70% of rental properties, representing 38% of all rental units, are owned by individual investors and 15% of rental properties with 40% of units are owned by limited liability corporations or partnerships. For properties with 150 or more units, 67% are owned by limited liability corporations or partnerships.
  • About 22% of small rental properties (1-4 units) are managed professionally while 84% of properties with 150 or more units are managed professionally.

Rental Income and Expenses

  • The median monthly rental receipt per rental unit is $1,000 compared with $750 in the 2018 RHFS.
  • The median monthly operating expense (not including debt service) is $380 per rental unit.

Property Purchase, Value, and Financing

  • The median estimated market value per rental unit is $175,000.
  • The median purchase price per rental unit is $99,000 (not adjusted for inflation).
  • About 41% of all rental properties have a mortgage or similar debt, compared with 35% of all rental properties that had a mortgage or similar debt in the 2018 RHFS. For properties with a mortgage, the median debt per rental unit is $180,000 at mortgage origination (not adjusted for inflation), compared with $119,200 in the 2018 RHFS.


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