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Los Angeles slumped to the seventh most expensive rental market nationwide in January as the state-imposed lockdown and surging COVID-19 cases prompted fewer renters to search for a new apartment.

Median one-bedroom rent declined 14.2 percent over the same period last year to $1,940, according to the latest report from apartment rental platform Zumper. To put that into perspective, the typical unit leased for $480 less than it did in January 2019. From December to January, prices dropped by a modest 1 percent, representing a price difference of $20. 

The median two-bedroom rental price was unchanged from the previous month at $2,700, although it’s plunged 10.9 percent compared to a year ago. Larger apartments are likely in greater demand as renters seek out extra space for a home office or creative studio.

Even newly-opened apartment complexes in Los Angeles are struggling to fill their units, touting steep move-in discounts ranging from several weeks of free rent to complimentary internet service. Haven Apartments in Culver City, for example, is offering new tenants two months of free rent, $2,500 in savings, plus the chance to win a Peloton bike if they view an apartment and lease it the same day.

The Zumper report indicates that four of the country’s eight priciest rental markets posted one-bedroom gains in January, signaling that “prices could be stabilizing around a discount of about 20% from a year ago,” wrote data analyst Neil Gerstein.

Median one-bedroom rents rose 0.8 percent in San Francisco, 1.9 percent in San Jose, 2.6 percent in Oakland and 1.6 percent in Washington, D.C. While the price uptick was heavily concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gerstein stopped short of calling it a rebound.

“It’s likely too early to determine if this is an inflection point for prices in the Bay Area, it certainly could be,” he wrote. 

Now that California’s statewide lockdown has been lifted, we could see prices begin to make a recovery in the months to come.

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