The construction of new apartments is one of several factors that is stabilizing and potentially lowering rents in Hesperia, suggests Benton Lamson, owner of Bluestar Properties in Victorville.

"Supply and demand run the prices on everything from gas to houses, from food to cotton," Lamson said. "If there's a lot of it, it's cheap, if there's not a lot of it, it's not cheap."

And with some 485 units under construction or permitted, Hesperia's 3 percent vacancy rate appears to be going up even higher, creating a renter's market.

Vacancy rate low but rising
In 1996, when Hesperia apartment vacancies were at 16 percent, the average two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment went for $415 a month. In 2004, when Hesperia's apartment vacancy rate was at a historic low 1 percent, a similar apartment was renting for $600. Despite vacancy rates inching up over the past three years, a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment today goes for an average of $765.

According to Lamson, who recently shared his findings during a meeting of the Hesperia Community Rotary Club, the Victor Valley's apartment situation has changed dramatically since 2000. That year, there weren't very many new rental units being built and vacancies were high. However, home prices soon escalated, especially in Los Angeles and Orange counties. High prices in the metropolitan areas drove new residents to the Victor Valley, which changed the local rental market.

"That dropped vacancy fast."

Soon, builders followed and took advantage of relatively low land prices. The result was a vibrant local home sales market.

"It started pulling some of the renters into home ownership," Lamson said.

But the real estate market slowed, leaving unsold homes. And recently there's been an increase in multi-family rental construction.

"Now we're in an oversupply situation," Lamson said.

In fact, he said, there are more houses for rent than there are apartments for rent.

"That's not a normal market. It's going to take a while to absorb all that stuff."

Despite the glut of rental homes, Victor Valley rents have increased 101 percent over 10 years from an average of $695 in 1996 to $1,395 last year.

But apartment rents could start to go down soon.

Relatively, Lamson said, Hesperia might not see as large of rental price drops as some other cities, especially Adelanto. Due to a glut of rentals, Adelanto has "stepped back several years in pricing."

"Hesperia's been a little bit more stabilized," he said. "Hesperia's doing very well with the multi-family building."

But Lamson wouldn't be surprised to see apartment complexes compete for new tenants.

"I think it's going to only get more competitive," Lamson said. "We'll see where this market goes."