The trend was also backed by a Reis report that the apartment vacancy rate dropped to 5.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from 5.6% in the third quarter.
The higher demand has increasingly led to rent increases in most major rental markets.
That represents a potential boon for Canadian investors in the U.S., looking to maximize monthly cash flow. This latest report may also encourage other Canadian investors to look at properties south of the border in areas where home values remain as much as 30% to 40% cent off their 2007 peaks.
Still, the increased demand for leased accommodations has its downside for renters.
“The fact that more are entering the market continues to create a series of challenges for the potential renter, including fewer apartments to choose from, which can drive higher rent rates,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product management for Apartments.com.
Of those homeowners looking to rent in the poll, 26.3% said they are doing so because they believe renting is a more affordable option, and 21.2% prefer the flexibility of renting.
The survey also found a vast majority of renters are using online resources to judge potential apartments. There was a 9.2% increase in the number of respondents using review websites compared to last year. Additionally, 70.4% of respondents said online apartment classified listing websites were a top rental search tool.
The top apartment markets by vacancy rate include New Haven at 2.1%, New York at 2.4%, Minneapolis at 2.5%, Portland at 2.7%, and San Jose at 2.9%, according the latest figures from Reis for the fourth quarter of 2011.
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Some 33.6% of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are previous homeowners, up from 20.5% in 2011, according to the poll.