Lehigh Valley rental market more competitive than Philly

If you think it’s hard to find a good apartment in the Lehigh Valley, you’re not wrong. 

A recent survey by RentCafe shows that the Lehigh Valley continues to have an extremely competitive rental market, more competitive even than Philadelphia, it said. 

The survey analyzed 139 U.S. rental markets using metrics like occupancy rates, the number of renters per vacant units, and lease renewal rates.   

The survey showed that in the Lehigh Valley as many as 18 prospective renters competed for the same vacant apartment during the peak rental season. That’s significantly higher than the 10 applicants competing for each apartment in Philadelphia. Furthermore, apartment seekers in Lehigh Valley had limited options to choose from, as a staggering 78.8% of renters chose to stay put. 

Developers are trying to keep up with the demand, building new apartment units, but despite a slight increase of 0.81% in recently built apartments, the occupancy rate in Lehigh Valley remained extremely high at 96.8%.  

Under these tight market conditions RentCafe said apartments were snatched up within 35 days, which is two days faster than the national average of 37 days.  

On a national scale, the rental market was moderately competitive during the peak rental season, scoring a Rental Competitiveness Index (RCI) score of 60. In stark contrast, Lehigh Valley had a RCI score of 118 out of 130.  


Lehigh Valley has 16 renters eyeing each available apartment

If you think it’s hard to find a good apartment in the Lehigh Valley, it’s not your imagination. 

A report from RentCafe shows that the Lehigh Valley has the seventh most competitive market for apartments in the country among small markets. 

In fact, the Lehigh Valley falls into the category of “highly competitive markets” with an average of 16 potential renters eyeing each available apartment. 

In fact, the Lehigh Valley has a Rental Competitivity Index (RCI) that is higher than the city of Philadelphia. 

Lehigh Valley’s score is 112 out of 130, while Philadelphia is 66. 

RentCafe said that while there is a significant challenge for renters searching for apartments in the Lehigh Valley, the good news is that the region has seen a modest decrease in competitiveness due to the construction of new apartment buildings. In the Lehigh Valley there was a 1.34% growth in available units in recent months, though not enough to keep up with demand. 

The need for new apartments is reflected in the region’s high occupancy rate of 96.3% and most available apartments are filled within 41 days. 

The competitiveness is good for landlords’ retention. The survey showed that about 81% of renters are choosing to remain in their current apartment rather than searching out a new place to live. 


Serfass to build 118 luxury rentals in Allentown’s Dream Grand Plaza

Allentown-based Serfass Construction Co. Inc., a family-owned business firm specializing in multi-unit residential and commercial projects, has been retained by DLP Capital to construct 118 market-rate luxury rental units within the 350,000-square-foot Dream Grand Plaza building in Allentown.

The Class A office building is in the city’s central business district at 835 Hamilton St. The project involves converting five of the eight floors into a residential community “that will redefine luxury living in the area,” a release said.

When transformed, Dream Grand Plaza will offer 118 apartments spanning floors two to six, with select residences featuring two floors accessed by spiral staircases, creating a unique and spacious living experience, Serfass said.

There will be an array of resort-style amenities, including well-appointed media rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a dog wash, and a package room to streamline deliveries.

“We are thrilled to be working alongside DLP Capital on this exciting project,” Matthias Fenstermacher, vice president of Serfass Construction, said in the release. “… Together … we will bring this vision to life and set a new standard for living in Allentown.”

Added Don Wenner, founder and CEO of Allentown-based DLP Capital, a private real estate investment and financial services firm: “Allentown has been undergoing a renaissance of economic activity, with the vitality (of) downtown attracting new businesses, residents and visitors alike. Dream Grand Plaza will be at the forefront, offering the epitome of modern apartment living in a very central location – and offering area workforces great options for a dynamic live-work environment.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Apartments starting to spring up from site of former Boyd Theater

Signs of life are beginning to return to the site on Broad Street in Bethlehem where the former Boyd Theater and surrounding properties were demolished.

Originally opened in 1921, the theater had been vacant for many years and despite a number of attempts to revive it, storm damage ultimately left the theater and surrounding buildings too damaged to save.

But now, Serfass Construction, which is managing the construction of the $50 million project at 44 W. Broad Street for developers DLP Real Estate Capital and Monocacy General Contracting, has started work on the 205-unit apartment building that will fill the space.

“We’re setting the steel, which is a pretty major milestone,” said Project Manager Kevin Serfass. “Now that we’re out of the groundwork, the building will start taking shape over the next few months or so.”

Besides studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, the six-story building will feature underground parking, a media room, a pool, a courtyard and first floor retail space.

Bringing the project to life is a large endeavor. While Serfass currently has about 30 people working at the site, he estimates that there will be up to 200 workers on site further on in development.

It’s also a challenge. While Serfass has a great deal of experience managing construction projects in dense urban areas, such projects need special considerations.

“We need to schedule deliveries for just in time delivery,” he said. “We need to get the trucks in and out and unload them right away.”

He said it’s also challenging to set up large equipment on the site.

“It takes time and coordination to get things up to the sixth floor,” he said. “We don’t have much to work with, just about a sidewalk’s width of space.”

He said at times such a project looks like they have a conveyor belt of trucks coming through dropping off supplies and equipment as quickly as possible.

That means they have to schedule deliveries down to the hour, which takes a great deal of planning and looking weeks ahead on what the project is going to need at which stage of construction.

It doesn’t help that supply chain issues are not easing in the construction industry, which means ordering equipment even farther ahead than before.

He said something as simple as an electrical switch gear can have a 52-week lead time and for many pieces of mechanical equipment there is a 40-week lead time.

“It’s really just being aware of how long the lead time is going to be,” he said.

As he sees the structure begin to take shape Serfass said he is very proud to be part of the project. He is keenly aware of the history of the site and is excited to seeing the building open and seeing people enjoying it.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction when you reach that milestone,” he said.

And that milestone is coming faster than you may think. Plans are to have the first units ready for tenants by mid 2024.

Apartment rents and vacancy rates rising in Allentown

May rents in the Allentown metro area were higher than in April but still slightly less than a year ago, as they continue to settle from a pandemic high.

Vacancy is also rising, though it still isn’t close to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the latest national rent report from Apartment List, Allentown rents rose 2.6% last month. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $1,158; for a two-bedroom unit, it was $1,507.

The overall median rent of $1,454 is 0.2% less than it was in May 2022 and 30.2% more than before the pandemic.

Nationally, Apartment List’s rent index grew 0.5% over the course of May. This is the fourth straight monthly increase in rent prices, the report said, but “rent growth is flattening out at a time of year when it’s normally picking up steam. Rent growth this year is coming in slower than average, and even though prices are trending up again, a combination of sluggish demand and increasing supply is keeping prices in check.”

Year-over-year rent growth is at 0.9%, its lowest level since March 2021. It’s well below the 2.8% pre-pandemic average rate from 2018 to 2019 and “could possibly even dip into slightly negative territory in the months ahead,” the report noted.

On the vacancy side, Apartment List’s national vacancy index has been climbing since bottoming out at 4.1% in October 2021, in the midst of COVID-19.

From last September through May, it rose an average of 21 basis points a month and is at 7% in the most recent rent report. That’s higher than the pre-pandemic vacancy rate average of 6.6% from 2018 to 2019.

In the Allentown metro area, the vacancy rate was 4.33% in May. That compares with a pandemic low of 1.64% in September 2021 and a pre-pandemic high of 6.67% in December 2019.

Apartment List predicts that the vacancy rate will continue to climb nationally.

New apartment construction is recovering from pandemic-related disruptions, the report said, and there are now more multifamily units under construction than at any point since 1970. “As this new inventory continues to hit the market over the course of the year, we are now entering a phase in which property owners are beginning to compete for renters to fill their units, a marked change from the prevailing conditions of the past two years, in which renters have been competing for a limited supply of available inventory.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Final phase of Lehigh Hills apartments complete

Lehigh Hills in Fogelsville PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The final phase of a new Upper Macungie apartment complex is now complete. 

Developers KRE Group and the Silverman Group said that the upscale Lehigh Hills is now complete with 39 new rental residences to the community at 100 Aviv Street in Fogelsville.  

The units include one- and two-bedroom floorplans in a new, garden-style building, about one mile from Route 78. 

The completion of the new units brings the community to its full size of 273 residences. 

Monthly rental rates start from $1,760 for one-bedroom residences, and $2,040 for two-bedroom residences. “We are thrilled to announce the opening of the final phase of residences at Lehigh Hills,” said Jonathan Kushner, president of KRE Group. “Our team has worked tirelessly to create a vibrant and welcoming community that offers outstanding amenities and modern living spaces. We look forward to welcoming new residents to the community and completing the exceptional living experience for all who call it home.” 

The residences at Lehigh Hills are housed in seven mid-rise buildings. All apartments include features such as in-unit washer & dryer, luxury vinyl tile flooring, large closets, ceiling fans, central AC, gas heat, cable ready connections, and tile flooring in the bathroom.  

The community also has a centrally located clubhouse. Among the amenities are a fitness center with yoga room, numerous lounge areas, a screening/gaming room, and a conference room. 

The property also has a pool, a landscaped terrace, three-season fire pit, sun loungers, BBQ grills, dining areas, shuffleboard. 

Additional amenities include a tot lot playground, dog park, dog washroom and package lockers. 

Groundbreaking held for project replacing Boyd Theater

Architectural rendering of the six-story mixed-use building planned for West Broad Street in Bethlehem. –

Nearly one year after receiving approval from Bethlehem City Council, developers have broken ground on a mixed-use apartment building on Broad Street that is replacing the former Boyd Theater. 

The theater has been vacant for many years since the roof collapsed and the building sustained major damage. 

Previous efforts to rebuild the property as a theater had failed, mostly because of the severity of the damage to the theater and surrounding properties. 

What is replacing the once prominent theater is a six-story building that will have more than 200 apartment units. The project will also include a pool, fitness center, and an outdoor private theater for residents as well as first-floor retail. 

The property is being developed by DLP Capital and Rocco Ayvazov of Monocacy General Contracting. 

Apartment rents in Allentown up 5% over last year

Rent growth in Allentown has slowed considerably, although it still stands at 5% year over year.

That’s according to the most recent report from Apartment List, which showed that median rents in Allentown are $1,101 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,400 for a two-bedroom unit.

Year-over-year rent growth in Allentown is well under the state average of 8.3% and the national average of 10%.

“Allentown was once a city experiencing some of the fastest rent growth in the country,” Rob Warnock, senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email.

“Last September, annual rent growth stood at 20%. But since then, the market has slowed dramatically and annual rent growth in Allentown has decelerated to just 5%. This is half the national average … and lower than other large Pennsylvania cities like Philadelphia (7.7%) and Pittsburgh (7.3%). This means prices are still rising, but they are rising at a much slower rate than they were a year ago, and they’re rising at a rate that looks much closer to pre-pandemic patterns.”

Allentown’s rents are easier to afford than those in many large U.S. cities. For example, metropolises like Miami, New York and Dallas have seen rents skyrocket 18.7%, 16.6% and 13.8%, respectively, over the past year.

San Francisco has a median rent of $2,680 for a two-bedroom unit, almost 1.5 times that of Allentown.

Nationally, the Apartment List rent index rose 0.5% in August, half the rate of growth in July.

“This year, rents have risen slightly faster than they did before the pandemic, but significantly slower than they did in 2021 when rent inflation was at its peak,” the report said. “So far in 2022, rents are up 7.2%, compared (with) 14.8% at this point in 2021. The year-over-year growth of 10% is down from a (peak) of nearly 18% at the beginning of the year.”

But this year’s pace remains faster than the years prior to 2021. For example, rent growth from January to August was 4.8% in 2018, 4.2% in 2019 and minus 0.2% in 2020.

Meanwhile, the nationwide vacancy rate for rentals is climbing. Apartment List’s most recent vacancy index is 5.1%, gradually easing from a low of 4.1% last fall.

Lehigh Valley has competitive apartment market, says study

The Lehigh Valley has one of the most competitive apartment markets in the nation according to a recent study. 

Using Yardi proprietary data, RentCafe looked at how many days rentals were vacant this year, occupancy rates, the number of renters competing for an apartment, share of renters who renewed their leases and how much the apartment inventory increased. 

It found that the Lehigh Valley ranked fifth nationally among the small rental markets, with few new apartments being built here in the first part of the year. It also noted that the renewal rate was “sky-high.” 

According to the report, the Lehigh Valley has one of the highest renewal rates in the country at 81%. Rent Café said this means that a vast majority of renters are opting to keep their current rental rather than venture out in search of something else. 

The occupancy rate in the Lehigh Valley is also above average, at 97%. At the same time there are 22 renters competing to rent the same apartment.  

It said it takes roughly 35 days for apartments in Lehigh Valley to get occupied. 

Rent Café said competition intensified everywhere nationally as more renters opted to stay put. Nationwide, almost two-thirds of renters renewed their leases. Amid a soaring 95.5% occupancy and a modest 0.7% increase in inventory, a vacant apartment was filled within 35 days on average, with 14 renters competing for it. 



New luxury apartments open in Forks Township

Sullivan Parke at 2250 Lafayette Park Drive in Forks Township. –

A new apartment building has opened in Forks Township. Already fully leased, with move ins starting this month, Sullivan Parke is located at 2250 Lafayette Park Drive. 

The new building, billed as luxury apartments, is the first of four under development by Ashley Development Corp. 

There are 102 units of open concept one-bedroom, one-bedroom with den and two-bedroom floor plans ranging from 806 to 1,315 square feet.   

The new building features a fitness center, a third-floor lounge with balcony, on-site parking, elevators and privacy-style landscaping with 45-foot-tall trees. 

Each open concept unit has a private balcony or patio, a washer/dryer and walk-in closets. 

“The demand for housing, including apartments, remains high for Northampton County, which is why we are proud to have developed this premier apartment community,” said developer Lou Pektor of Ashley Development. 

Ashley has also recently developed such multi-family projects as Birchwood Commons and Bethlehem Fields. 

Leasing for Sullivan Park is being handled by Amy Harris of House & Land Real Estate. 

CoStar highlights strength of Lehigh Valley’s multi-family housing market

CoStar writes that multifamily properties in the Lehigh Valley have been posting strong year-over-year rent growth, such as the Spring View Apartments in Allentown. PHOTO/COSTAR –

The strength of the Lehigh Valley’s multi-family housing and apartment market has caught the attention of CoStar, the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics, and online marketplaces.

CoStar Market Analyst Ben Atwood recently published a story about the Lehigh Valley, drawing attention to the fact that year-over-year rent growth in the Lehigh Valley is 10.5%, the highest level ever recorded in the region, and that in some parts of the Lehigh Valley rent growth is 15% to 20%.

“The data shows a near total absence of vacant units across the Lehigh Valley,” Atwood writes in the story, which was published on Sept. 2. “The market’s overall vacancy rate sits at 1.3%, which is also a record, and some of its suburbs are even tighter.”

Atwood wrote that there’s “also almost nothing underway to disrupt Lehigh’s rent-growth,” and cites several new and planned properties in the Lehigh Valley, including more than 300 units underway in northwestern Lehigh County and southeastern Northampton County.

“Looking at the data now, its hard to believe these projects will struggle at all,” he wrote. “Their success could prompt more growth and indeed, Lehigh looks primed for it.”

Below is an excerpt from the CoStar story, which was published on Sept. 2. The full story can be read here.

It is a good time to be an apartment owner in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

The market’s year-over-year rent growth sits at a lofty 10.5%, the strongest levels its ever recorded.

Every region within Lehigh is posting above-average gains in the third quarter, with the strongest seen in Central Lehigh County, where year-over-year growth is over 15%.

Suburbs such as Central Lehigh County show the strongest levels of gains, but Lehigh’s more-urban areas are also performing well. This is particularly true in downtown Allentown, where year-over-year growth is close to 10%.

That’s impressive for any urban core, but doubly so in Lehigh because these rents aren’t being compared to a 2020 rent downturn. That’s something many other cities experienced in 2020, as renters fled to the suburbs.

But downtown Allentown never saw this drop. Its rents kept growing through the coronavirus pandemic and its new arrivals filled within days of opening their doors.

Founded in 1987, CoStar conducts expansive, ongoing research to produce and maintain the largest and most comprehensive database of commercial real estate information.

Colin McEvoy is director of Communications for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.

City Center looks to develop $70 million mixed-use building in Easton

Artist rendering of The Marquis, proposed for Third and Ferry streets in Easton. COURTESY CITY CENTER INVESTMENT CORP. –

It looks like City Center Investment Corp., the company behind much of the redevelopment in Downtown Allentown, is now taking on Easton’s downtown. 

The city’s stakeholder committee, which was set up to select a company to redevelop an aging parking deck in Downtown Easton, has recommended a plan by City Center to develop the site into a $70 million residential and retail building. 

City Center has proposed to replace the deck at Pine and Third Streets with a building that would be named “The Marquis.” 

J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center Investment Corp., said this would be the first major development the company has undertaken outside of Allentown. 

“The site we’ll be developing is a very important site for the city of Easton,” Reilly said. 

The 400,000-square-foot building would be seven stories high, making it the largest apartment project in the city. 

The Marquis would consist of 274 apartment units including 59 studios, 115 one-bedroom and 95 two-bedroom apartments. There would also be five live-work units along Ferry Street. 

“We think it’s important to add to the residential scale in the downtown. That’s what’s going to drive long-term sustainability in the downtown and the city as a whole,” he said. 

In addition to the apartments the building will feature retail shops along the first floor on Third Street and a 302-space parking deck for both residents and the community. 

Other features of the development would be a dog park, a courtyard with a community garden, and two outdoor rooftop lounges.  

The project was presented to Easton City Council’s committee Tuesday by Reilly and Senior Project Manager Robert DiLorenzo.  

Reilly said the building would be similar to the 10 residential buildings his company has developed and leased in downtown Allentown over the past six years. 

The committee is expected to recommend the plan to the full council and a resolution would be introduced to approve the project later this month. 

If approved, the project would take 17 to 24 months to construct and would create more than 600 jobs. 

O’Reilly said Easton is a bit different than Allentown. 

Allentown has always been more of a commerce center, while Easton has been known for its small shops.  

However, he said Easton is also further along in its revitalization efforts than Allentown was when City Center began its first project there, so he said in many ways there’s much less risk in starting development in Easton and he hopes this project will be the first of many in the city. 

“Our company isn’t transactional. It’s about building relations,” he said. “It’s our hope we would be able to be part of the community for a long time to come.”