For consumers weathering the storm of high home prices and tight mortgage credit, there's little financial sanctuary in the rental sector.
Even with more condos dumped on the rental market, the swell of refugees from the owner occupied sector is putting upward pressure on rents.
Perhaps only landlords are enjoying the state of the nation's current housing market.
The National Association of Home Builders' second quarter 2007 Multifamily Market Outlook said the nation's median asking rents for all rental units completed during the third quarter 2006 was a median $1,052 per month, breaking the previous high of $1,025 set during the second quarter of 2004.
The new record is $115 higher than in the second quarter of 2006, and $125 higher than in the third quarter of 2005.
The Northeast, West, and Midwest have the highest median asking rents -- all at more than $1,150 -- but this is the first time Midwest rents levels were so high.
Asking rents nationwide for existing apartments were also at or near all-time highs -- $665 during the second quarter of 2007, $6 higher than in the previous quarter and $40 more than a year ago.
Based on moving averages, asking rents are $21 higher than the previous all-time high of $973 set in 2004, according to NAHB.
NAHB said some of the increase is due to local economic conditions, including the tight owner-occupied market, but some of the increase is due to more spacious rental housing -- larger units costing more to rent.
NAHB reported, "New units completed in 2005 were slightly larger than their 2004 counterparts. Median square footage rose from the then-record level of 1,105 square feet in 2004 to 1,143 square feet in 2005, and to 1,172 square feet in 2006."
During the first quarter of 2007, the median square footage jumped another 19 square feet and now stands at 1,191.
As more renters move in, vacancy rates are falling.
The vacancy rate for buildings with five or more units was 10.1 percent for the three months ending June 2007, down from 10.7 percent during the first quarter of 2007, and down from 10.4 percent during the second quarter of 2006.
The vacancy rate for all rental properties (of which 30 percent are single-family homes) stood at 9.5 percent in the second quarter of 2007, down from 10.1 percent in the previous quarter and down just slightly from 9.6 percent during the second quarter of 2006.
Upward pressure on rents and occupancy levels also comes from the formation of new households, 600,000 in the second quarter alone, half of which were renter households.
The rise boosted the multifamily households to 35.1 million, higher than at any time since the second quarter of 1998, and within 600,000 of the all-time high of 35.7 million set back in 1994.
"This recent sizeable upswing suggests that the rate of multifamily household formation is once again on the rise after a long period of essentially treading water," the NAHB reported.
"Interestingly, the recent growth in renter households over the past year-and-a-half has been accomplished with virtually no growth in the number of home owner households," NAHB also reported.
The home builders' association also reported greater rental pressure from a condo sales slowdown that "may not have bottomed out." Condo owners and investors who can't sell often attempt to put their properties on the rental market.
In June this year, condo sales were down 6.3 percent from May and 6.6 percent from a year ago and the decline in sales was widespread through all four regions when compared to both a month earlier and a year ago.
The largest year-over-year decline of 18 percent occurred in the West, followed closely by a 13 percent decline in the South. Sales declined 7 percent year-over-year in the Midwest, and were down 0.3 percent in the Northeast, NAHB reported.