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AUSTIN-The city’s apartment vacancy rate has increased in the first quarter as developers put more units on the market and lower interest rates attract first-time homebuyers.

The Q1 vacancy rate stood at 2.9%, up from 2.2% in the 2000 first quarter, according to a study released by Phoenix-based Hendricks & Partners, a national multifamily advisory firm. That simple number has reverberated throughout the market, decreasing absorption and increasing concessions. Rents, however, have spiked for the last 12 months, ending March 31.

Developers have added 2,575 apartments in the first three months of this year, up from 2,348 for the same period in 2000. And another 8,000 are expected to be completed by yearend. Demand didn’t keep up with the new construction in the first quarter, falling to 1,876 units from an absorption of 2,498 units in the 2000 first quarter.

Even as most vacancy rates rose in many submarkets, South Austin’s vacancy rate fell to 2% from 3% and San Marcos’ dropped from 2.2% to 1.2%–the lowest vacancy rate of any submarket in the metro area. In terms of property types, class-A units had the biggest vacancy rate increases, followed by class B and C units in that respective order.

As for rents, the average renter’s check has increased 9.4%, up from the 5.8% increase posted a year ago. The average rent is $726 per month in comparison to last year’s $664.At the same time, concessions are spreading throughout the market. Nearly 20 % of properties are offering concessions, including class-A owners who are battling for tenants. The latest report says 42% of the high-end complexes had offered concessions in the first quarter.

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