By Matthew Bunk
FAIRFIELD - Rent prices have leveled off in most cities in the West, but Solano County is one region in which average monthly rents dropped slightly since last year.
There were mixed results in California, where about half of the metro areas saw higher rents and the other half saw rents go down.
In Solano County, rents dipped to the lowest point since the first quarter of 2003. The average rent for all sizes of units fell to $1,063, down 0.2 percent from last year's average of $1,073.
The highest rents were in Benicia and Fairfield. The lowest was in Vallejo.
Occupancy rates in Solano County also drifted downward, reflecting less interest in renting as more units are built. For most California market areas, occupancy rates went up.
Those findings were part of a report released this week by RealFacts, an organization that surveys thousands of apartment complexes across the U.S. every quarter.
Rents in the Western half of the U.S. for the most part didn't change much in the first three months of 2005, but some market areas such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas were up considerably from a year ago, according to RealFacts.
Places such as Portland, Seattle and the Bay Area felt slight declines in rent prices. However, "the rapidly dropping rents of several years ago are no longer a feature of the rental market anywhere, and prices have definitely achieved stabilization," RealFacts reported.
Demand for rental property also seems to have stagnated. Occupancy rates declined in just more than half of the metro areas surveyed.
Solano County was one of those. It's occupancy rate dropped to 93.3 percent, a 1.1 percent drop compared to a year ago. Slowed rental growth is "good news for renters and bad news for owners of apartment buildings," RealFacts noted. "It is generally assumed that occupancy rates must rise to put upward pressure on rents."
Nationwide, more rental units were taken off the market than were added last year, RealFacts said. Hundreds of apartments were converted into condos last year, a markedly high number of them in Southern California.
If rents continue to go down and demand remains high for owner-occupied units, condo conversion will remain an attractive exit strategy for many apartment owners, RealFacts forecast.
Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Solano County Rental Facts
- Average cost of rent per square foot: $1.28.
- The average asking rent in 1997 was $685.
- The average asking rent in 2004 was $1,069.
The Fairfield-Vallejo metro area saw the biggest first quarter decline in rental prices of 25 California metro areas surveyed.Source: RealFacts
Average Rents and Occupancy Trends in Solano County Cities
Rental communities Occupancy % change Average rent % change
Vallejo 20 communities 92.6 -1.5 Occupancy & % Change $1,003 -2.7 Ave Rent & % Change
Fairfield 18 communities 94.1 -.6 Occupancy & % Change $1,122 1 Ave Rent & % Change
Vacaville 17 communities 92.6 -1.5 Occupancy & % Change $1,082 2.1 Ave Rent & % Change
Benicia 5 communities 95.7 .9 Occupancy & % Change $1,126 -1.1 Ave Rent & % Change