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Apartment rents soften in Reno-Sparks area

By John Seelmeyer

Reno-area apartment rental rates have slipped, vacancy rates have inched higher, and at least one longtime observer of the market thinks the softening market is more than a mere fluke.

The average rent for an apartment at the big complexes around town stood at $1,324 a month as last year drew to a close, according to a closely watched survey from Johnson-Perkins-Griffin Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. That was down by $21 from the average last autumn.

While a $21 reduction in the average monthly rent isn’t huge, the fourth-quarter slippage marked the first time in nearly six years that average rents have fallen in Reno and Sparks.

Further, the Johnson-Perkins survey found that many renters aren’t paying full price.  Nearly a quarter of the big complexes offer some sort of special deal, most often to employees of Tesla or other companies at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

The apartment vacancy rate at the end of the year stood at 3.96 percent at year-end, up from 3.3 percent in the fall.

Don Wilkerson, the president of Gaston and Wilkerson Management Group, believes that rents peaked last summer because renters who earn average salaries — or even above-average salaries — struggle to find apartments they can afford.

At the same time, Wilkerson believes that developers are discovering they can’t necessarily charge sky-high rents to justify expensive new complexes.

“So the market will do what government is beginning to threaten, soften rents and eliminate the need for rent control,” Wilkerson says.

Researchers from Johnson-Perkins found that about 4,800 apartment units are currently under construction in major projects around town, and another 4,700 are in the planning stages.

Those researchers believe that rents will continue to rise — although the pace of increases will slow — as the region’s booming economy attracts new workers.

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– Compiled by Darcy Lenardson

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