Apartment vacancy rates decline

Phil Castle
Business Times

Apartment vacancy rates continue to decline in Grand Junction as hiring in the energy and health care sectors as well as home foreclosures bring more people to the rental market.

According to the latest results of a quarterly survey conducted for the Colorado Division of Housing, the average apartment vacancy rate for the Grand Junction market fell to 8.9 percent for the period between April and June.

Apartment vacancy rates spiked at 13.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009, before falling to 11.6 percent in the first quarter and then dropping another 2.7 points in the second quarter.

However, the latest rate remains nearly double the 4.5 percent vacancy rate reported for the second quarter of 2009.

Cindy Hoppe, manager of Bray Property Management in Grand Junction, said the rental market tightened further in July and August and she expects the vacancy rate for the third quarter to drop to around 6 percent. A vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered an equilibrium between those looking for housing and available units.

Hoppe said renters signed 39 new leases with her company in June and 42 new leases in July. Out of those 81 new leases, 35 were signed by renters moving into the Grand Valley, she said.

Hiring in the energy and health care sectors has brought some renters to the area, Hoppe said. “Just little things, nothing big.”

In addition, the growing number of home foreclosure sales has pushed people who previously were homeowners into rental apartments, she added.

Meanwhile, some people who lived with their parents or family members at the onset of the recession have grown accustomed to the “new reality” of the downturn and moved back into apartments, Hoppe said.

Increasing demand has yet to substantially affect rental rates, however, Hoppe said. “It’s not quite got there yet.”

According to the survey results for the second quarter of 2010, the average monthly rent in the Grand Junction market fell to $634.48. The latest rate is down nearly $29 from the first quarter of 2010, but up about $6 from the second quarter of 2009.

For the second quarter of 2010, vacancy rates were lowest at 5.6 percent for efficiency apartments and highest at 9.4 percent for two-bedroom, two-bath apartments. Vacancy rates were lowest at 2.1 percent for small apartment buildings with two to eight units and highest at 12.3 percent for mid-sized buildings with nine to 50 units.

Average monthly rents were lowest at $237.50 for efficiency apartments and highest at $748.56 for two-bedroom, two-bath apartments.

Average monthly rents were lowest at $604.45 for large apartment buildings with 100 to 199 units and highest at $778.03 for small buildings with two to eight units.

Elsewhere in Colorado, apartment vacancy rates fell in most metropolitan areas during the second quarter, signaling a growing demand for rental housing despite limited wage and job growth in the state.

Average apartment vacancy rates fell to 5.8 percent in Colorado Springs, 6.8 percent in Fort Collins and Loveland and 6.3 percent in Greeley.

In addition to the year-over-year increase in Grand Junction, the apartment vacancy rate in Pueblo advanced from 8.5 percent to 10.4 percent.

As vacancy rates retreated, average rents advanced across Colorado in the second quarter compared to the span span last year. Average monthly rents ranged from $541.78 in Pueblo to $885.29 in the Fort Collins and Loveland market. Year-over-year, rent fell in Greeley to $618.29.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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