Are Denver rents going up or not? Reports still contradict one another

Stapleton residences under downtown Denver's skyline. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)stapleton; residential; suburbs; skyline; cityscape; denverite; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty

Are you part of the younger, upwardly mobile section of Denver? (It’s okay, it’s just us, I won’t tell anyone you identify as upwardly mobile.) Then there’s a chance that rents are falling for you! 

Zumper, whose data skews towards younger and wealthier folk, reports that Denver has fallen three spaces in its breakdown of rents in the top 100 metros.

Now Denver is the 24th most expensive metro to rent in, according to Zumper. That means Denver has fallen in the rankings again. Though, as previously noted, that just means that Denver is less expensive comparatively.

Plus, Zumper found that actual rents have fallen as well. Compared to last year, rents have fallen 7.6 percent for one-bedroom apartments and 7 percent for two-bedroom apartments.

But soft, what news through yonder window breaks? It is another report from a housing company, and it says that rents have actually increased over the past year.

Apartment List says that Denver metro rents have increased 1.3 percent over last year. Their report finds that Denver city rents are the highest in the metro area and further breaks it down by neighborhood. Cherry Creek is the most expensive place to rent, according to their findings.”

Who to believe? Both companies base their reports on rentals listed on their site, so both have selection bias.

Apartment List’s methodology favors a Case-Shiller-like calculation, comparing changes in rent among similar units. Zumper incorporates census data from the American Community Survey. Neither is inherently bad or wrong, but given lags in the census data, it might be that Apartment List is slightly more current.

Then again, both methods use proprietary calculations that I don’t have access to. Furthermore, neither say exactly how many listings they have in Denver.

If you’re desperately seeking an answer because you have to settle a bet or something, there’s one other unscientific method: Which rental figure more closely matches your reality.

If Zumper’s right, you should be able to find one-bedrooms renting for about $1,200 and two-bedrooms renting for about $1,600.

If Apartment List is right, one-bedrooms in Denver rent for about $1,360, and two-bedrooms cost $1,790.

I think at maximum, the two reports together suggest again that rents are maybe slowing down. But I wouldn’t put tremendous credence in either number.