The average rent for an apartment in Fresno — and throughout Fresno County — climbed to an all-time high in April, surpassing $1,300 per month for the first time ever.

The rental market estimates by ApartmentList.com reflects a continuing trend of rising rents even as residents in Fresno and the Valley continue to struggle with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. Since the beginning of 2017, the overall average rent for an apartment has increased by more than 41%, growing from $930 per month in January 2017 to $1,312 in April this year.

In January 2020 before the pandemic, the average rent was estimated at $1,141. In just the past 16 months, the average rent rose by almost 15%.

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Granville’s The Lede apartments complex in downtown Fresno is seen in this drone image made on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Fresno has seen some of the highest percentage growth in apartment rent prices in the state in recent years, yet they remain some of the least expensive places to live among California’s large cities. CRAIG KOHLRUSS [email protected]

The percentage increases in Fresno over the past four years and since January 2020 are very similar across the board, from studio apartments up to units with four bedrooms:

  • Studio apartments: Average rent of $737 per month in January 2017; $904 in January 2020; and $1,040 last month.
  • One-bedroom units: Average rent of $721 per month in January 2017; $894 in January 2020; and $1,017 last month.
  • Two-bedroom units: Average rent of $897 per month in January 2017; $1,101 in January 2020; and $1,296 last month.
  • Three-bedroom units: Average rent of $1,198 per month in January 2017; $1,469 in January 2020; and $1,690 last month.
  • Four-bedroom units: Average rent of $1,475 per month in January 2017; $1,809 in January 2020; and $2,081 last month.

From Stockton in the north to Bakersfield in the south, rent-resource website RentCafe.com reports the entire San Joaquin Valley is “the hottest rental market in the U.S., leading a pack of emerging mid-sized hubs spread across the nation.”

RentCafe’s analysis of 125 largest apartment-rental markets in the U.S., based on data compiled by Yardi Systems Inc., indicates that the Valley region has among the highest occupancy rates in the nation, with 98% of units filled; an average of 25 would-be renters for each unit that becomes available; and an average of just 30 days before a vacant unit is rented to new tenants.

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Reflections Apartment Homes on Brawley Avenue in northwest Fresno has several signs advertising units are now leasing on Friday, May 7, 2021. CRAIG KOHLRUSS [email protected]

“The story behind Central Valley’s meteoric rise is becoming an archetype among the nation’s mid-sized cities,” RentCafe.com blogger Irina Lupa wrote in a post late last week. “In a chicken-and-egg scenario, these markets are attracting an increasing number of residents looking for cheaper alternatives to expensive markets and shifting from traditional industries (in this case, agriculture and energy) to more diversified job markets.”

“As the days when Central Valley was known for its pass-through cities are fading, renters have been eyeing this area more and more, turning it into the most competitive market in the U.S. in the first three months of the year,” Lupa added.

The Yardi Systems data includes market-rate apartments in complexes of at least 50 units, and does not include government-subsidized or affordable housing projects.

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Free cable is advertised at the San Jose Village apartments at San Jose and Brawley avenues in northwest Fresno on Friday, May 7, 2021. CRAIG KOHLRUSS [email protected]

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The pool area of The Row at Heritage Grove is surrounded by palm trees and upscale apartment units on a cool day on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2021. The new community at the northeast Fresno/Clovis border touts numerous amenities, including a fitness center, as well as many nearby biking, walking and jogging paths. CRAIG KOHLRUSS [email protected]

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the region as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.
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