Louisville, Ky.

Even with slowing job growth and rising inventories, Louisville apartment owners will see modest rent gains this year, as effective rents advance 2.7 percent to $614 per month, according to a report from market researcher Marcus & Millichap. Meantime, the pipeline has widened a bit, as 500 units are expected to be delivered this year, up from 440 last year. The inventory increase will dampen rent gains, researchers say. Still, job growth will boost demand, as renters are still getting a bargain, Marcus & Millichap says: The average rent for a Class A apartment in this metro is about 10 percent below the cost of a mortgage payment on a medianpriced home.

Birmingham, Ala

Job gains are not the norm in American cities these days, but Birmingham is one exception. Area employers are projected to add 2,400 jobs in 2008, for a 0.4 percent gain in payrolls, a figure that means demand will grow even as supply remains in check. Developers will deliver about 120 units in Birmingham this year, up slightly from the 100 they added last year, according to a report from research firm Marcus & Millichap. Meantime, effective rents will jump 3.4 percent to $671 a month. Powered by a stable economy and steady employment growth, the metro’s transaction volume was healthy last year, with the top 10 deals alone totaling $313 million, This year may not be as strong, but at least local owners and managers will avoid dipping into negative territory, forecasts show.

Columbia, S.C.

With a vacancy rate of 12.4 percent, apartment investors might want to steer away from Columbia, S.C. The rental supply in this market rose by almost 10 percent over the last year, pushing vacancies in the Palmetto State’s capital to their highest level in more than a decade, according to research from Charlotte, N.C.-based market analysis firm Real Data. That put the city’s rank near the bottom of Real Data’s barrel: It was 17th among the 19 Southeastern markets the data provider tracks. Making matters worse, the metro has been shedding jobs this year, and the unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point between February and May, an ominous sign for demand. Of course, the market will eventually recover as that supply gets worked off, but it may take a while.