The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. is adding 2.8 million people each year (and that is predicated on an assumed low net-in migration scenario). New residential building permits have averaged less than 600,000 per year for the past 48 months. Admittedly, there was residual excess inventory from the housing bubble, but that has been absorbed. As a result, rental rates are going up. How much rents are increasing is a function of the local market and comparative supply and demand.
Marcus and Millichap has just released their latest Q3 2012 updates on 39 local markets. These reports contain many added details, and I encourage you to at least read the one for your local market. Each of the 39 markets are forecast to have increasing rents in 2012. Ditto effective rents (which is calculated by subtracting rental concessions from the actual contract rent paid). Only one market, Minneapolis, is forecast to have an increase in vacancy rate in 2012, though only rising to 2.9 percent as a result of new construction becoming available.
Marcus and Millichap also has a highly-detailed national apartment market summary, including trends in capitalization rates, prices, rental cohorts and absorption.
The bottom line is that apartment rental rates are going up, a trend that will support rising home prices.
Side Note: Each of the major commercial brokerage companies post market research reports online. While you do have to complete a profile to access these reports, I have never been placed on mass email lists by these firms. In an upcoming blog I will list these Web Sites. Many even include global markets.