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ORANGE COUNTY, CA-The once-sizzling Orange County apartment market, cooled by the national economic chill, perked up a bit from March through June of this year, according to a report released today by RealFacts.

The study by the Novato-based research and consulting firm, which tracks investment-grade complexes of 100 units or more, says the average monthly rent for an apartment in Orange County rose by $15 between March and June. The rent rise, the largest gain since fall 2002, represented an increase of 1.2% in average rents for the quarter and was part of a 4.5% rise over the past year. Over the past four years, Orange County apartment rents have risen by 23.5%, most of that increase coming in the years 1999 and 2000, RealFacts says.

Even though the rate of increase has slowed in the past year, “Orange County remains one of the best performing markets in the western region,” the study says. Among western region markets, only Los Angeles and the Inland Empire have shown stronger year-to-year rental growth rates since second quarter 2002, according to the RealFacts stats.

The average occupancy rate in Orange County rose from 94.9% to 95.2% between March and June. For most the past two years, occupancy has hovered at 95%, dipping down or inching up from quarter to quarter. The report says the steady occupancy rate indicates the underlying health of the rental market in Orange County, where building has been restrained enough that the market has absorbed the new apartments every year for the past 10 years.

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