For Rent Signs Reach a 12-Year Low

Just 4.3 percent of U.S. apartments were vacant in the first quarter of 2013, Reuters reports.

That’s the lowest since the end of 2001. It’s an obvious result of the financial crisis, which has also pushed average effective rent (a calculation that accounts for discounts like free first or last months) above $1,100 in many areas. Seattle was at $1,078; Washington D.C. was $1,489, and New York City was $2,989.

But rents may not be able to rise much more at apartments targeting lower-income families, Reuters says. Wages are barely keeping pace with inflation at about 2 percent.

Those with more money have more leverage. Landlords who try to rent apartments for over $3,000 now have to lower the rent almost half the time to snag a tenant, because the people who can afford those rates can (and often do) opt to buy instead of rent.

Real estate research firm Reis told Reuters that 48 out of the 79 markets it tracks now have lower-than-average vacancy rates. New York’s the lowest at under 2 percent, and Memphis is the highest at 8.5 percent. The firm expects those rates to hold steady throughout the year, and rental rates to rise in the second and third quarters.

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