Rents ease Downtown

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July 28, 2003 // UPDATED 11:00 am - April 30, 2007
By: Ellen Nigon
Ellen Nigon

In Downtown, apartment rents and vacancies have gone up over the last year, according to a rent survey -- but things are not as bleak as they seem for renters.

According to the summer-quarter report from GVA Marquette Advisors, the average apartment rent is up $65 from last June -- but down $5 a month from March. Vacancies are going down; last quarter, Downtown landlords saw a 9.6 percent vacancy rate, compared with 8.9 percent this quarter. However, vacancy rates for studios doubled (4.1 percent to 8.2 percent from last year), and three-bedroom apartment vacancies more than tripled (7.1 percent to 25 percent).

The GVA-Marquette report surveys apartments with 10 or more units.

"A lot of apartment owners or managers are actually lowering the prices on their base rent," said Lori Hoffman, director of research services for GVA Marquette.

According to Hoffman, many Downtown landlords continue to offer deals, such as a month's free rent. These deals are to get new renters and keep existing ones, she said.

"Deals seem to be pretty much the standard around the metro area. Now you're seeing more places offering incentives of some kind to get their residents to stay. They want to make sure they are going to renew once their lease is up," Hoffman said. "They're doing no rent increase whatsoever or they're offering to go in and clean carpets or paint. I've heard of one Downtown project that offered free garages for residents to re-sign their leases."

Hoffman said low mortgage rates are driving the high vacancy rates. "People are either downgrading their apartments, doubling up or the interest rates are so attractive, they're buying homes," she said.

Some markets got tighter from a year ago, primarily one-bedroom apartments. However, with the exception of two-bedoom-plus-den units, vacancies in all categories are more than 5 percent, which is considered the dividing line between a renter's and property owner's market.