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Rents level off in Sonoma County

Sonoma County rents leveled off late last year, a trend that one analyst said may reflect a new push by renters to move out of their apartments and buy their own homes.

The county's average rent inched up to $1,278 per month in the fourth quarter, an increase of $3 from the third quarter, according to RealFacts, a Novato firm that tracks trends in the rental market.

The county's occupancy rate declined by a half percent in the fourth quarter to 96.6 percent.

"Rents have hit the wall — at least for the time being," said Sarah Bridge, founder and managing member of RealFacts. "Whether this is due solely to an increased demand in for-sale housing remains to be seen.

"But the fact is, when people leave their rental unit to buy a house, a unit becomes vacant. Landlords can only raise rents so long as there is continued demand to fill the unit."

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