Apartment Rentals Are Cheap, and Getting Cheaper, In SoCal

Attention bargain hunters: It's a great time to move to Southern California. Sure, the weather's great this time of year - but then, it always is. An even better reason is that apartment rents are falling fast. In the coming year, rents are expected to decline by as much as 3.5 percent in Los Angeles County and 2.4 percent in Orange County, according to a new study by the Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast. That's on top of declines for the previous year.

In case you're wondering (sure you are), the average monthly rent in L.A. County fell to $1,488 by the end of last year, says the LA Times, a decline of almost 6 percent from the previous year.

In comparison, the average rent in Manhattan edged up in the first quarter of 2010, to $3,812, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman and appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. (And that's without even a palm tree view!)
It's pretty easy to figure out why this is happening: During the housing bubble, lots of buildings were built. Now, with foreclosures and a county and state unemployment rate way above the national average, there are lots of buildings--and apartment units--that remain empty.

In a news release on the USC Lusk Center Casden website, Tracey Seslen, co-author of the report, says, "Overall, Southern California will not see sustained increases in rents until the greater economic health of the region improves, but renters in San Diego may experience the kind of slight increase that comes when jobs return and housing is still too costly for renters to become buyers." San Diego County, says the report, is the only market in Southern California expected to see slight rent increases in 2010 averaging 0.7 percent. Rents stayed flat in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

"It is a way more competitive marketplace now," the owner of one historic West Hollywood apartment building tells the Los Angeles Times. "Before, at the high end you could still rent an apartment quickly" said the owner, Mark Howell.

Maybe he should move to New York?

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.
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