Apartment Rents in O.C. Climb Nearly 8%

Apartment rents in Orange County rose on average nearly 8% this year to a record $1,170 per month, according to an annual survey released today.

Rents have jumped nearly 50% above the 1996 average of $802 per month, according to a review of apartments at complexes of 20 or more units by Research Network in Rancho Santa Margarita. That far exceeds the rate of inflation.

But over a longer period of time, the study indicated that average rents in Orange County today, after adjusting for inflation, are just $5 more per month than they were in 1985.

Rents have surged in recent years because of the scarcity of construction, rising home prices and robust job growth.

Within the county, average rents varied widely among larger cities, from $938 in Anaheim to $1,561 in Newport Beach. Even so, units in all major regions of the county, from older apartments in the north to new ones in the south, averaged more than $1,000 per month.

Despite the rising rents, occupancy rates remained as tight as they were a year ago, at 98%. The high level means that landlords can fill units without advertising, said Pamela S. Wooldridge, who directed the study of 116,000 units in Orange County.

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