YieldStar automated rent-setting
YieldStar is a revenue management algorithm created by property management IT company RealPage that is used to assess and set real estate rental prices across the USA.
In October 2022, ProPublica published the results of an investigation it had conducted into the impact of YieldStar on real estate rental prices throughout the USA, concluding that it is responsible for artificially driving up prices and stifling competition.
The investigation found that approximately 90% of the 31,000+ property managers/landlords who use YieldStar obey its price increase suggestions. Many landlords do not negotiate with their tenants - something discouraged by RealPage - and thereby sacrifice their relationships and trust with them.
ProPublica also alleges that RealPage's software may be facilitating collusion amongst its clients, particularly in locations where many of them use YieldStar to set rent prices.
Shortly after ProPublica's article, nine renters filed (pdf) a lawsuit in San Diego accusing RealPage of forming 'a cartel to artificially inflate the price of and artificially decrease the supply and output of multifamily residential real estate leases from competitive levels.'
The article also prompted three senators and seventeen members of congress (pdf) to request the US Department of Justice to investigate RealPage, a move repeated (pdf) in March 2023.
Media reports indicate the DoJ opened an investigation late November 2022.
RealPage acknowledges that YieldStar recommends a price for every available unit every day, determining the rate by drawing on private competitor data on the actual rent tenants paid, as opposed to the publicly advertised rent.
However, the company will not reveal its inner workings, or open its algorithm to third-party inspection or assessment.
Operator: Greystar; FPI Management; Equity Residential, Lincoln Property Company; Mid-America Apartment Communities
Sector: Real estate sales/management
Purpose: Calculate rent prices
Technology: Pricing algorithm
Issue: Business model; Competition/price fixing
Transparency: Governance; Black box
Elizabeth Warren DoJ letter (2023) (pdf)
Hausfeld legal complaint (2022) (pdf)
Investigations, assessments, audits
ProPublica (2022). Rent Going Up? One Company’s Algorithm Could Be Why
ProPublica (2022). Why Rent is So High
ProPublica (2022). Department of Justice Opens Investigation Into Real Estate Tech Company Accused of Collusion with Landlords
ProPublica (2022). Company That Makes Rent-Setting Software for Apartments Accused of Collusion, Lawsuit Says
News, commentary, analysis
Published: October 2022
Last updated: March 2023