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Chances are better than they've been in a year that your new apartment lease will come with a savings lure of hundreds of dollars to entice you to move in.

Haggle with the landlord or property manager and you could move in with even greater savings.

Carrollton, TX-based real estate market researcher M/PF Research, Inc. says 34.5 percent of high-quality apartment complexes in 24 metro areas were offering concessions on new leases during the first quarter this year. That's more than twice the 14.9 percent of those complexes offering concessions during the first quarter 2001 and up 6 percent from the last quarter in 2001.

In some hard hit apartment markets concessions are available on more than half the area's communities. Among the 24 markets examined, the Austin area had the highest concentration of concessions, with 59.1 percent of the Austin metro area's apartment units being offered at a discount in the first quarter. Seattle followed with a 58.0 percent share, in San Francisco it was 56 percent; Las Vegas, 53 percent, Oakland, 49 percent; Denver, 45.6 percent; San Jose, 45.4 percent; Orlando, 42.2 percent and Atlanta at 41.8 percent.

Concessions are discounts on rental costs and M/PF says what was available during the first quarter typically reduces the effective rent by 7.4 percent. The M/PF analysis measures only reduced rents or free-rent periods -- often offered for long-term leases or fast move-ins. M/PF does not quantify other leasing inducements including free merchandise, amenity upgrades or reduced deposits, even though those inducements are also part of today's market.

While the size of the typical discount did not increase between fourth quarter 2001 and first quarter 2002, first quarter concessions were more dramatic than the typical 5.3 percent discount seen a year ago.

M/PF says the number of concessions have increased to offset the soft economy's reduction in occupancy rates and only a few metros registered light rent concession activity during the first quarter this year. Only 11.6 percent of apartment units were discounted in Broward County, FL while California's Inland Empire offered concessions in just 14.2 percent of its apartments.

The balance could shift if the market gets tighter.

M/PF also reported both multifamily starts and permits declined in the year ending March, 2002.

Starts nationwide fell 1.4 percent to 288,800 units for the 12-month period ending in March. During the same period permits, seen as a precursor to housing activity, dropped 6.5 percent.

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