Renters who were able to lock in lower prices this past fall as landlords freaked out about the recession may have been the last to have the upper hand, as rents appeared to rebound in the first quarter of this year. From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Apartment rents rose during the first quarter, ending five straight quarters of declines and signaling the worst may be over for the hard-hit sector.

Nationally, the apartment vacancy rate stayed flat at 8%, the highest level since Reis Inc., a New York research firm, began its tally in 1980.

A forecast predicted that D.C. rents will rise at a 2 percent clip over the next 12 months, the second highest rate in the nation. The only city with a higher rate was Colorado Springs.

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Suburban Maryland also checked in with an anticipated 1 percent increase.

The period between now and Memorial Day is the peak moving period of the year, so landlords may be coming to renters now with offers to extend leases. Anything less than a 2 percent increase may be a bargain considering the inherent costs of moving.

It appears that the way REIS presents the data, one month of free rent is actually included, so the month-by-month rate might increase by more than 2 percent, but it’s offset by another month that is completely free. That may give renters some leverage with certain kinds of landlords (typically the larger management companies that offer incentives) — if you were willing to move, you could potentially get at least one month either free or at a reduced rate to start.

D.C. is already considered to be the sixth most expensive rental market in the country.


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