Average asking rents for apartments in the San Fernando Valley continued to escalate in the fourth quarter as occupancy rates remained relatively stable. On average asking rents for apartment units in the Valley area rose to $1,257 a month in the fourth quarter, compared to $1,243 a month in the third quarter of 2004 and $1,205 in the fourth quarter of 2003, according to a just released report by RealFacts, a Novato-based research firm. Rents for two-bedroom, two-bath apartment units experienced the largest increases in the local area, rising 4.6 percent to an average of $1,471 a month versus one year ago, the RealFacts report noted. Occupancy rates for the fourth quarter were higher in the Valley than the Southern California region overall, about 96.5 percent compared to 95.5 percent for the rest of the region. Occupancy rates in the Valley, as with the rest of Southern California, have hovered in the high 90 percent range for over two years.