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Rent: Santa Monica Tops New York & Silicon Valley

Now referred to as “Silicon Beach,” Santa Monica’s rent rates for a one-bedroom apartment are approaching $5,000 per month.

According to the Apartment Guide, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Santa Monica is the most expensive in the nation, at $4,799.20. Comparable rents in the local area are $3,922.67 in Venice; $3,780 in Playa Vista; and $3,320.67 in Marina del Rey.

New York is now the second-most expensive market, with an average one-bedroom apartment costing $4,562.72 per month. San Francisco, once the highest cost market, has fallen to an average $3,880.44 per month. New tech companies, including Snap, Inc., are drawing wealthy young professionals to the area.

Breitbart News has chronicled how apartment rental prices in New York City and Silicon Valley have fallenn about 8 percent, due to a glut of luxury unit construction. But the effective rent rates are down substantially more, because developers are giving multiple month rent concessions “to get heads in beds as quickly as possible,” according to Alexander Goldfarb, a San Francisco analyst with Sandler O’Neill + Partners.

In San Francisco’s trendy South of Market neighborhood, referred to as SoMa, four new high-rise apartment buildings are also offering super high-end amenities that include rooftop decks, state-of-the-art gyms and bike rooms. But despite free rent and nicer digs, none of the four buildings that opened in the last 18 months has achieved the 90 percent occupancy rate that developers need to flip their short-term high-interest rate development loans into low-rate long-term “take-out” financing.

Rent.com and the Apartmentguide.com websites predict that high rental prices should stay strong due to L.A.s’ median home price rising 348.1 percent in the last 30 years, from $116,061 to $520,000. The price jump was an even higher 349.3 percent in Orange County, where the price jumped from $143,210 to $643,483.

But according to mortgage banker Bruce Lawrence, the “term” period for construction loans is usually limited to 36 months, and the cost of that type of financing is at least twice the interest rate of 30-year “take-out financing.” Although the default rate for long-term apartment loans has been a tiny .01 percent, he believes that has been due to a “chronic lack of apartment supply,” which supply is beginning to overwhelm.

In the quarter ending December 31, 2016, Lawrence observed that a record 50,000 new apartment units in the U.S. were rented by tenants, or about six times the number in the year-earlier period. But new apartments completed and renting during the quarter hit 88,000, the highest number since the 1980s.

Looking forward, Lawrence believes that at least 378,000 new apartment units will be completed and start renting in 2017. With construction financing in place, he expects there will be no slowdown in building. Lawrence projects that by mid-year 2017, the U.S. will have a national glut of 100,000 new apartments, and in two years that number could be over 300,000. At that point, Lawrence sees rent “getting whacked.”

Bruce Lawrence comments that Santa Monica is a special case for high rents, because the city adopted rent control three decades ago. But with no limit on the rents for new units, California’s state bird is now the “construction crane.”

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