With rents rising faster here than in much of the nation, Sonoma County apartment complexes are attracting buyers as well as renters.
Sales of rental complexes rebounded in 2012, and the pace has picked up this year, experts said.
“It's really strong in Marin County, Sonoma County,” said Nick Grotjahn, a spokesman for RealFacts, a Novato-based apartment market research firm.
Sonoma County's average apartment rent jumped 5.3 percent to $1,407 in the third quarter, according to RealFacts. That was the largest gain from the previous quarter among 41 metropolitan areas around the country that are followed by the company.
The county's rents have jumped 10.4 percent in the past year, the fastest gain among 26 metro areas in California.
Apartment managers are reporting strong demand in Sonoma County from prospective renters. The county's average occupancy rate has climbed to 97.5 percent, up from 94.3 percent in 2009, RealFacts reported.
Demand among renters has grown due partly to a lack of new housing, experts said.
“We are in a supply-constrained market,” said Scott Gerber, a senior vice president with Cassidy Turley in San Rafael.
Buyers, meanwhile, are attracted to apartment complexes partly because the return is better than for many other investments, Gerber said. As well, the county's occupancy rate has dipped below 95 percent only two times in the past 20 years, demonstrating that owners consistently have been able to find renters to fill their complexes.
As well, in recent years potential buyers have watched institutional investors snap up large apartment projects in the Bay Area and around the country.
Apartment sales slowed dramatically in Sonoma County in 2011, Gerber said, partly because investors remained concerned about the economy. That year the county recorded the sale of 12 complexes totaling $126 million, according to Cassidy Turley.
Sales increased to 18 in 2012 and to 20 for the first nine months of this year. So far this year, buyers have spent $98 million buying local apartment complexes, a lower number due to the sale of complexes with fewer units than two years prior.