Pittsburgh renting rates rising quickly

If it seems as though rental prices in Pittsburgh have been in a bull market over the past several years, that's because they have.

While large metro areas like New York and San Francisco have grabbed headlines for their sky-high rental prices, Pittsburgh's rental market is actually rising at a faster rate than New York's, according to a study from personal finance website NerdWallet.

"We were looking at growth rates, rather than cities with the highest rents, and Pittsburgh is in a rapid economic growth period now," said Divya Raghavan, a senior analyst for NerdWallet in San Francisco. "While New York and San Francisco are already well-established top cities in the U.S., Pittsburgh is considered an up and coming city."

New York renters saw a $196 a month jump in their median rent from 2007 to 2012. But the $120 a month increase for Pittsburghers during that time frame represented a larger percentage increase.

PG graphic: Rent hikes in large metro areas
(Click image for larger version)

Pittsburgh's growth is rooted in its diverse economy, which includes higher education, health care, banking and a growing technology industry. But that growth also has pushed up rents.

New construction of rental products is a factor in the rising rates, said Tom Hosack, president and CEO of Northwood Realty, based in Wexford.

"The new buildings today are much nicer and have better amenities and they are more expensive," Mr. Hosack said. "In Cranberry alone, there are five new projects with 300 to 400 units each. They are beautiful with swimming pools and all."

Then there is the boom driven by drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

"The second reason for the rising rents is the increase in demand due to the oil and gas industry," Mr. Hosack said. "So many people are coming to work here and not staying permanently. It has increased the demand and dramatically increased the rental charge."

Ms. Raghavan said while New York City has been an economic superpower for the past century, burgeoning cities such as Pittsburgh, Austin and Denver are now growing incredibly quickly.

For example, Google just signed a lease to expand its Pittsburgh offices, and Carnegie Mellon's Robert Mehrabian Collaborative Innovation Center counts Apple, Disney and Intel Research Lab as tenants. "The city's status as a budding tech hub has attracted workers," Ms. Raghavan said.

"The presence of several high-quality universities in Pittsburgh, which steadily churn out educated job seekers each year; a comparatively low cost of living for a big city; and the presence of other growing companies have attracted businesses to the area as well.

"In the future," she added, "Pittsburgh residents will likely see a rise in rent prices to correspond with future economic growth."

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591.

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