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Twenty-Five American Cities with the Biggest Rent Hikes

  1. Lower Inventory, Higher Prices
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    Lower Inventory, Higher Prices

    If you live in Greenville, S.C., chances are you're paying too much for rent. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it. That's because Greenville, like the other two dozen metros in this ranking, suffers from the double whammy of a shrinking inventory of rental property and a local economy that can't afford—or is feeling too cautious—to buy a home. According to Ronald Johnsey, president of AXIOMetrics, a Dallas-based apartment market research firm, supply tightened as renter households unwound and people moved into one-bedroom units following a widespread doubling-up of tenants with friends, family, and roommates in 2009. He adds that the normal transition from renting to buying has not resumed as uncertainties about the economy and employment remain. Rents swelled in places with low unemployment such as Washington, D.C. (job creation can attract new workers and tighten supply), as well as places with rising joblessness such as Ventura County, Calif. (people not qualified or not confident to buy rented instead). Of the 88 metros surveyed by AXIOMetrics, the only ones where rents decreased were Las Vegas and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., though rents in those metros are forecast to go up in 2011.

    Click here to see which metro areas had the steepest rent hikes in 2010.
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  2. No. 25 Biggest Rent Hike: Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg, Md.
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    No. 25 Biggest Rent Hike: Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg, Md.

    Annual increase: 5.6%
    Average monthly rent: $1,497
    Vacancy rate: 4.6% (5.1% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    Vacancies in the Bethesda area—where employment is relatively strong—fell below the 5 percent equilibrium rate, indicating a tight rental market. (A vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered "equilibrium" and indicates supply and demand are about equal.) Data from AXIOMetrics show that some renters in Montgomery County, which includes Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Takoma Park, saw a particularly steep hike of about 13 percent. The metro unemployment rate increased slightly to an annual average of 5.7 percent, or 36,240 people, in 2010, compared to 5.5 percent in 2009, according to the Maryland Labor, Licensing, and Regulation Dept.

    * Source for rent, vacancy, and concession data on all slides: AXIOMetrics
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  3. No. 24 Biggest Rent Hike: Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.
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    No. 24 Biggest Rent Hike: Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.

    Annual increase: 5.7%
    Average monthly rent: $1,124
    Vacancy rate: 5.5% (7.1% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    In Chicago's tight rental market, vacancies decreased to near equilibrium level and concessions decreased to 4 percent in the fourth quarter from 7 percent a year earlier, according to AXIOMetrics data. Developers who added thousands of new high-end units in downtown Chicago in 2010 took advantage of the hot market, asking for as much as $5,000 per month, reported the Chicago Tribune. Rental rates in affluent areas such as the suburbs of Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates increased about 11 percent, the biggest jump among areas AXIOMetrics surveyed in the Chicago area. The annual jobless rate, 10.1 percent, barely changed from a year earlier, estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Bloomberg
  4. No. 23 Biggest Rent Hike: Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
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    No. 23 Biggest Rent Hike: Naples-Marco Island, Fla.

    Annual increase: 5.8%
    Average monthly rent: $804
    Vacancy rate: 10.5% (12.4% in 2009)
    Average concession: -14%

    Unsurprisingly in Naples-Marco Island, which is home to some of the most expensive real estate in Florida, rental prices aren't cheap. Even though home prices continue to fall and the foreclosure rate is a high 5.46 percent, rental prices increased nearly 6 percent. Vacancies fell to 10.5 percent, which is still far above the equilibrium level, show AXIOMetrics data, and the value of concessions dropped to 14 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 18 percent a year earlier. Despite a high unemployment rate of about 11.5 percent in December, according to BLS estimates, the rent level rose last year due to supply tightening.

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  5. No. 22 Biggest Rent Hike: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
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    No. 22 Biggest Rent Hike: Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.

    Annual increase: 5.8%
    Average monthly rent: $1,493
    Vacancy rate: 4.6% (5.4% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    Major employers in this part of Southern California include biotech company Amgen and the U.S. Navy, according to the state's Employment Development Dept. Unemployment rose to an annual average of about 10.9 percent last year, according to estimates using BLS preliminary data, compared with about 10 percent in 2009. As vacancies fell, some renters in the Simi Valley and Moorpark areas paid 8.6 percent more in 2010 than a year earlier, according to AXIOMetrics data. The firm expects rents in the metro area to increase an additional 5.6 percent in 2011.

    Bloomberg
  6. No. 21 Biggest Rent Hike: Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.
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    No. 21 Biggest Rent Hike: Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.

    Annual increase: 5.8%
    Average monthly rent: $800
    Vacancy rate: 6.8% (8.4% in 2009)
    Average concession: -5%

    The Durham-Chapel Hill metro, part of the Research Triangle area, remains a growth engine for North Carolina's economy. Major employers include Duke University & Medical Center, GlaxoSmithKline, and IBM, according to the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. According to AXIOMetrics, there was an average hike of 14.4 percent in some areas in Chatham County as vacancies fell. The jobless rate in December dropped to an estimated 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent a year earlier.

    Bloomberg
  7. No. 20 Biggest Rent Hike: Mobile, Ala.
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    No. 20 Biggest Rent Hike: Mobile, Ala.

    Annual increase: 5.9%
    Average monthly rent: $665
    Vacancy rate: 6.9% (6.8% in 2009)
    Average concession: -3%

    After the BP oil spill last year the Mobile metro, on Alabama's southern coast, saw a temporary spike in occupancy, although industries such as tourism were negatively affected. The area had the state's highest unemployment rate in December, 9.9 percent, and estimates using BLS data show the annual jobless rate increased to about 10.8 percent in 2010 from 10.3 percent in 2009. Major employers include shipbuilder Austal, ThyssenKrupp Steel, and ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering, according to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. As rents rose, home values dropped by 16.8 percent to $91,700 in January from a year earlier, Zillow.com data show. Also, the foreclosure rate jumped by nearly 28 percent to 1.79 percent in 2010, according to RealtyTrac.

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  8. No. 19 Biggest Rent Hike: San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.
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    No. 19 Biggest Rent Hike: San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.

    Annual increase: 5.9%
    Average monthly rent: $1,959
    Vacancy rate: 4.0% (4.8% in 2009)
    Average concession: -1%

    With a growing population and significant presence in the technology, environment, health, education, and agriculture industries, the San Francisco market will continue to see strong demand in the years to come, Ria Bitong, director of investment analysis for Apartment Realty Advisors Pacific, wrote on multifamilyexecutive.com. The average annual unemployment in the San Francisco area last year was up to nearly 9.3 percent, according to calculations using BLS preliminary data, from 8.7 percent in 2009.

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  9. No. 18 Biggest Rent Hike: New York-Wayne-White Plains, N.Y.-N.J.
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    No. 18 Biggest Rent Hike: New York-Wayne-White Plains, N.Y.-N.J.

    Annual increase: 6%
    Average monthly rent: $2,645
    Vacancy rate: 4.5% (5.2% in 2009)
    Average concession: -1%

    As the economy rebounded somewhat, the vacancy rate in the New York metro (which includes much more than New York City) tightened last year, falling below 5 percent. Rents in Manhattan made small gains each month and inventories showed minor changes, reported real estate agency the Real Estate Group NY. The average annual jobless rate stayed near 9.2 percent in 2010, show estimates based on BLS preliminary data.

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  10. No. 17 Biggest Rent Hike: Austin-Round Rock, Tex.
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    No. 17 Biggest Rent Hike: Austin-Round Rock, Tex.

    Annual increase: 6.1%
    Average monthly rent: $847
    Vacancy rate: 6.4% (8.2% in 2009)
    Average concession: -5%

    Business development, education, and government employment helped reinforce Austin's economy. Multifamily market research company MPF Research named Austin the second strongest apartment market in the country in 2011 after San Jose, reported the Austin Business Journal. AXIOMetrics expects rents to rise another 5.9 percent this year. The average annual unemployment rate was about 7.1 percent in 2010, according to BLS preliminary estimates, slightly higher than the 6.9 percent in 2009.

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  11. No. 16 Biggest Rent Hike: Wilmington, Del.-Md.-N.J.
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    No. 16 Biggest Rent Hike: Wilmington, Del.-Md.-N.J.

    Annual increase: 6.1%
    Average monthly rent: $938
    Vacancy rate: 6.7% (8.8% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    The annual unemployment rate in Wilmington—home to chemicals company DuPont, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, and Gore-Tex maker W.L. Gore & Associates—rose to about 9 percent last year compared with 8.5 percent in 2009, according to estimates using BLS preliminary data. After rental rates rebounded in 2010, AXIOMetrics expects the rate increase to slow to 3.9 percent this year.

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  12. No. 15 Biggest Rent Hike: Albuquerque, N.M.
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    No. 15 Biggest Rent Hike: Albuquerque, N.M.

    Annual increase: 6.3%
    Average monthly rent: $751
    Vacancy rate: 5.2% (6.9% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    Albuquerque's rental market has been more stable than most: Rent levels increased 6.3 percent in 2010 after dropping by only 1.4 percent in 2009 (vs. a 5.9 percent national decrease). Major employers in the area include Kirtland Air Force Base, University of New Mexico, and Sandia National Laboratories. Unemployment in Albuquerque rose to about 8.8 percent in 2010 from 7.4 percent in 2009, show estimates based on BLS preliminary data.

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  13. No. 14 Biggest Rent Hike: Boulder, Colo.
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    No. 14 Biggest Rent Hike: Boulder, Colo.

    Annual increase: 6.5%
    Average monthly rent: $1,063
    Vacancy rate: 5.3% (6.4% in 2009)
    Average concession: -1%

    In Boulder—where major employers include the University of Colorado, IBM, and Ball Aerospace—the rental market tightened in 2010, with vacancies falling to 5.3 percent. The area's job market has been stable, with the average unemployment rate at a low 6.4 percent last year, according to BLS preliminary figures. Housing officials have cautioned that a lack of new apartments being developed could result in future scarcity and higher rents, reported Boulder news website dailycamera.com.

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  14. No. 13 Biggest Rent Hike: Jackson, Miss.
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    No. 13 Biggest Rent Hike: Jackson, Miss.

    Annual increase: 6.6%
    Average monthly rent: $802
    Vacancy rate: 6.0% (8.2% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    Jackson is showing signs of recovery. Rents are up, and in parts of Rankin County they rose by 8.2 percent last year, according to AXIOMetrics. Unemployment fell to 10.8 percent in December, ending 2010 with an average jobless rate of 13.2 percent compared to 13.5 percent in 2009. The government, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Nissan are among Jackson's biggest employers, according to the Greater Jackson Alliance Mississippi. Foreclosures also fell in 2010 to 0.84 percent, according to RealtyTrac.

    Bloomberg
  15. No. 12 Biggest Rent Hike: Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
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    No. 12 Biggest Rent Hike: Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.

    Annual increase: 7%
    Average monthly rent: $1,638
    Vacancy rate: 4.4% (5.8% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    After jumping by 7 percent in 2010, Boston rents are expected to rise another 6.2 percent in 2011, according to AXIOMetrics data. A ranking by Institutional Property Advisors named Boston the third strongest multifamily rental market in 2011 after New York and Washington. While BLS preliminary figures show the average annual unemployment rate in 2010 rose to 7.7 percent from 7.4 percent in 2009, thousands of new jobs are expected to be added this year. The uptick in rents and the widespread elimination of such concessions as rate discounts and free utilities have refueled an interest in buying, reported the Boston Business Journal.

    Bloomberg
  16. No. 11 Biggest Rent Hike: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, Fla.
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    No. 11 Biggest Rent Hike: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, Fla.

    Annual increase: 7%
    Average monthly rent: $1,124
    Vacancy rate: 6.8% (8.1% in 2009)
    Average concession: -6%

    "Projected job growth and the release of pent-up demand for rental housing continue to spur a modest recovery in the Palm Beach County apartment market," reported the commercial real estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap. Within this metro area, Boca Raton West had the biggest rent increase last year, 9 percent, AXIOMetrics data show. The jobless rate in the West Palm Beach metro area rose to an annual average of about 12 percent last year, BLS preliminary figures show, from 10.8 percent in 2009.

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  17. No. 10 Biggest Rent Hike: Raleigh-Cary, N.C.
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    No. 10 Biggest Rent Hike: Raleigh-Cary, N.C.

    Annual increase: 7.4%
    Average monthly rent: $785
    Vacancy rate: 6.1% (7.4% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    Major employers in this section of the Research Triangle include North Carolina State University, WakeMed Health and Hospital, and Rex Healthcare, according to the City of Raleigh Economic Development Program. The area continues to draw skilled labor and the average unemployment rate in 2010 dropped to about 8.4 percent from 8.8 percent in 2009, according to BLS preliminary figures. Parts of the Cary and Hillsborough areas had the biggest rental rate increases, show AXIOMetrics 2010 data.

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  18. No. 9 Biggest Rent Hike: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.
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    No. 9 Biggest Rent Hike: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.

    Annual increase: 7.4%
    Average monthly rent: $1,473
    Vacancy rate: 4.6% (5.7% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    Rental vacancies are low in Washington, where the federal government has kept employment strong and the economy has performed better than in the rest of the country. Unemployment in the D.C. area hovered just above 6 percent in 2010, about the same from a year earlier, show BLS data. Renters in some areas of Old Town in Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington, paid 13.5 percent more in 2010, according to AXIOMetrics. The firm predicts the average rate increase to slow to 5 percent this year.

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  19. No. 8 Biggest Rent Hike: Denver-Aurora, Colo.
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    No. 8 Biggest Rent Hike: Denver-Aurora, Colo.

    Annual increase: 7.5%
    Average monthly rent: $873
    Vacancy rate: 5.6% (7.5% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    Major employers in the Denver area include the federal, state, and local governments, the University of Colorado, HealthONE, Qwest Communications, and Lockheed Martin, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. The regional economy fared better than many in the country, and the group estimates that the metro Denver population grew by 15,514 last year and will continue expanding in 2011. Renters in parts of the Denver suburb Littleton saw rents spike by 13.4 percent last year, and in Northglenn, Thornton, and southeast Denver by 9.7 percent, according to AXIOMetrics. The Denver metro's average unemployment rate increased to about 8.3 percent, according to preliminary data from the BLS, from 7.9 percent in 2009.

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  20. No. 7 Biggest Rent Hike: Tacoma, Wash.
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    No. 7 Biggest Rent Hike: Tacoma, Wash.

    Annual increase: 8%
    Average monthly rent: $900
    Vacancy rate: 6.7% (8.9% in 2009)
    Average concession: -3%

    As renters in the Puget Sound region remained on the sidelines instead of entering the for-sale residential market, the apartment sector noted improved fundamentals: The absorption rate reached a 10-year peak, leasing activity increased, and more new construction was delivered, reported advisory Hendricks & Partners. Lakewood, a suburb of Tacoma, had the highest rental rate increase of all submarkets tracked by AXIOMetrics last year: 16 percent. Tacoma's average jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent last year from 9.2 percent in 2009, show BLS preliminary data.

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  21. No. 6 Biggest Rent Hike: Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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    No. 6 Biggest Rent Hike: Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, Tenn.

    Annual increase: 8%
    Average monthly rent: $786
    Vacancy rate: 5.5% (7.9% in 2009)
    Average concession: -5%

    As residents in the Nashville metro area shied away from buying last year, causing home prices to fall 8.5 percent in December from a year earlier, according to Zillow.com, rental rates rose above 2009 levels. Rent in parts of Donelson, Hermitage, and Wilson County jumped by 13.9 percent in 2010, according to AXIOMetrics. The jobless rate in metro Nashville in 2010 fell to an estimated average of 8.9 percent compared with 9.3 percent in 2009, according to BLS preliminary figures. Major employers include Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the government, schools, St. Thomas Health Services, and Nissan, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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  22. No. 5 Biggest Rent Hike: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
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    No. 5 Biggest Rent Hike: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

    Annual increase: 8%
    Average monthly rent: $1,716
    Vacancy rate: 3.9% (5.3% in 2009)
    Average concession: -1%

    Multifamily market research company MPF Research named San Jose the strongest apartment market in the country in 2011. The metro area, which had the fifth highest rental rate increase in 2010 at 8 percent, is projected to see rents rise another 7 percent this year, projects AXIOMetrics. Unemployment in the area was an average 11.4 percent in 2010, according to BLS preliminary data, slightly above 11.1 percent in 2009.

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  23. No. 4 Biggest Rent Hike: Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
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    No. 4 Biggest Rent Hike: Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.

    Annual increase: 8.1%
    Average monthly rent: $875
    Vacancy rate: 4.7% (6.3% in 2009)
    Average concession: -2%

    Recent occupancy gains in Portland have allowed owners to raise rents, according to R. Tom Smith, senior adviser with Coast|Sperry Van Ness Commercial Real Estate Advisors in Vancouver, Wash. "With private-sector employers no longer shedding jobs, the local economic outlook has improved, giving households who doubled up during the recession the confidence to lease individual apartments," he writes. Rents in parts of the Tigard, Oswego, and Wilsonville areas jumped by 9.4 percent in 2010, the biggest hikes in the area, according to AXIOMetrics. The unemployment rate in November, 10.1 percent, was unchanged from a year earlier, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

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  24. No. 3 Biggest Rent Hike: Savannah, Ga.
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    No. 3 Biggest Rent Hike: Savannah, Ga.

    Annual increase: 8.4%
    Average monthly rent: $866
    Vacancy rate: 6.3% (6.7% in 2009)
    Average concession: -3%

    The jobless rate in Savannah remains below the national average but ticked up slightly to an average 8.8 percent in 2010 from 8.2 percent in 2009, according to BLS preliminary data. Major employers include Memorial University Medical Center, St. Joseph's/Candler Health System, and Momentum Resources, according to the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. Last year, employers including Gulfstream Aerospace announced plans to hire.

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  25. No. 2 Biggest Rent Hike: Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga.
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    No. 2 Biggest Rent Hike: Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga.

    Annual increase: 10.4%
    Average monthly rent: $726
    Vacancy rate: 4.4% (7.1% in 2009)
    Average concession: -1%

    Major employers in Chattanooga include schools, Covenant Transport, Erlanger Medical Center, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, according to the city. The area led the state in job growth, due in part to Volkswagen's new Chattanooga plant, which begins production this year and is estimated to create more than 2,000 jobs. The jobless rate fell to an average 8.9 percent last year from 9.4 percent in 2009, according to estimates based on BLS preliminary figures. Rents in parts of south Chattanooga jumped by 13 percent in 2010, according to AXIOMetrics.

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  26. No. 1 Biggest Rent Hike: Greenville, S.C.
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    No. 1 Biggest Rent Hike: Greenville, S.C.

    Annual increase: 11.2%
    Average monthly rent: $669
    Vacancy rate: 7.7% (9.5% in 2009)
    Average concession: -4%

    The largest rent increase in the Greenville metro, home to Michelin, GE, Fluor, and Lockheed Martin, was 11.6 percent in parts of south Greenville County, according to AXIOMetrics. Unemployment in the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley area fell to 9.8 percent last year, based on BLS preliminary estimates, from 10.5 percent in 2009. The area saw an uptick in manufacturing activity as GE ramped up production at its gas turbine manufacturing plant. Southwest Airlines launched new flights to the area last year. Also, electric bus maker Proterra announced a new research and development facility that is expected to create 1,300 new jobs in Greenville County over the next seven years.

    Courtesy of the City of Greenville, S.C.