Apartment Rents Falling Fast

It's not just home prices that are declining in the recession.

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Although it's easy to overlook, landlords in growing numbers have been forced to lower rents and toss in perks to keep their apartment buildings filled, BusinessWeek reports:

Half of apartment buildings reduced rents in the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year—the highest percentage since [real estate data firm] Reis began tracking apartment data in 1980. (By comparison, only 17% of buildings reduced rents in 2007.) And average asking rents fell 0.6%, to $1,046, in the U.S. in the first quarter, compared with the previous quarter, the largest drop since Reis began collecting quarterly data in 1999. And average effective rents, which include free months and other landlord incentives, fell 1.1%, to $984.

The trend underscores an important consideration for anyone thinking about buying a home these days. The housing crash has hit different markets unevenly, meaning it could still be significantly less expensive to rent than to buy in your local market. Before you decide to buy real estate, make sure to compare rents with home prices in your local market. Free, online rent-versus-buy calculators are a good place to start.

[Check out 9 Secrets of 2009's Spring Home Buying Season.]