Renters will move in droves in 2010, a national survey says

With the economy still in the doldrums and unemployment numbers raising eyebrows and blood pressure, you'd think most people would want to stay put. Relocation costs, after all, are nothing to sneeze at.

But according to a recent national survey, an astonishing 96.1% of renters plans to move in 2010. And many of the respondents -- about one-third of them -- plan to do so in the first quarter of the year, not April through August, when renters typically pull up stakes.

Why bother?

"The majority of renters we surveyed," said's Tammy Kotula, "are looking for better bargains, better commutes and they want to live closer to family." Lifestyle issues, she says, are the leading reasons for wanting to relocate.

It can't hurt, though, that rents have declined noticeably in the last year. The national average rent, at $965 per month in the third quarter of 2009, was down 3.7 percent from $1,002 a year earlier, according to, which tracks such data.

National occupancy rates, at 91.7% in the third quarter of 2009, are prompting some landlords to offer sweet deals, such as lower move-in costs, to new renters. Others are offering lower monthly rates to current renters to keep them there, says Dan Faller, president of the Apartment Owners Assn. of California. But landlords take note: Only 22.4% of respondents said their landlords offered them incentives to stay. If you want to avoid the ordeal of finding new tenants, think "Let's Make a Deal." Huge turnovers are no picnic.

"An almost 100% turnover would be a landlord's worst nightmare," Faller says. He quickly added that he hasn't seen that happen in his 30 years in the business, and he believes it's highly unlikely to occur this year, either. Still, with some California landlords facing 25% vacancies, he said, turnovers definitely are in the forecast.

Other notes from the survey: The monthly nut isn't the driving force behind this planned mass apartment exodus; only about 39% of respondents said their rents will decrease. Almost one-quarter of those surveyed said their rents will remain the same. The No. 1 reason for moving (19.1%), according to survey respondents, was the desire for a nicer apartment in a safe neighborhood. About 18% are taking advantage of rental offers and deals. Only 8.7% surveyed said they were moving because of their inability to pay the rent due to unemployment.

Those who want to chuck it all and move across country made up only 7.1% of those surveyed. Seems that staying in the same city, if not the same 'hood, is a top goal.

No matter the reason, if this survey is correct, expect to see a lot of moving vans double-parked in your neighborhood this year.
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