Grand Junction apartment update: Vacancies steady, rents down

Cindy Hoppe

Apartment vacancy rates held steady in Grand Junction during the second quarter at their lowest level in two years even as average rents dropped nearly $26.

According to the latest results of a quarterly survey conducted for the Colorado Division of Housing, the average apartment vacancy rate in Grand Junction remained unchanged at 6.3 percent. The average monthly rent fell to $631.11.

Cindy Hoppe, manager of Bray Property Management in Grand Junction, said the survey results were consistent with what she observed during the second quarter, but rental activity picked up significantly in July and August. “We’re just booming,” Hoppe said of a seasonal increase that occurs during the summer as renters get settled before the start of school and Colorado Mesa University students return for the fall semester.

Hoppe said she expects the vacancy rate could drop in the third quarter, but probably not enough to push up rents.

The vacancy rate for the second quarter of 2011 remains at the lowest level since the second quarter of 2009, when the rate stood at 4.5 percent. At this time last year, the rate stood at 8.9 percent, making the year-over-year drop the largest among metropolitan areas in Colorado. Still, the latest rate remains triple and even quadruple the rates during the tight rental markets in 2007 and 2008. A vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered an equilibrium between supply and demand.

The apartment vacancy rate in Grand Junction was one of the lowest among metropolitan areas in Colorado during the second quarter of 2011. By comparison, vacancy rates ranged from 4.8 percent in the Denver metro area to 9.6 percent in Pueblo. The statewide average for all metro areas fell to 5.2 percent, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2001, when the rate stood at 4.3 percent.

For the second quarter of 2011, the apartment vacancy rate was lowest in Grand Junction for one-bedroom units at 5.1 percent. The rate was highest for three-bedroom units at 8.5 percent.

No vacancies were reported for small apartment buildings with two to eight units, while the vacancy rate was highest at 6.9 percent for buildings with 51 to 99 units.

The average monthly rent in Grand Junction dropped to $631.11 in the second quarter. That’s down $25.84 from the first quarter, but up $14.53 from the fourth quarter of 2010. At this time last year, the average monthly rent was $634.48.

Compared to most other metropolitan areas in Colorado, the average monthly rent in Grand Junction was low during the second quarter of 2011. Average rents ranged from $512 in Pueblo to $915 in the Denver area. The statewide average monthly rent in Colorado rose 2 percent and $15 over the past year to $877.

Higher rental demand and rents that top $1 a square foot have spurred apartment construction in Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins, Hoppe said.

But in Grand Junction, where rents bring in an average of 81 cents a square foot, there hasn’t even been talk of new apartment construction for years, Hoppe said.

In Grand Junction, average monthly rents ranged from $262.50 for efficiency apartments to $730.35 for two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.

Average rents were lowest at $555.03 for buildings with nine to 50 units and highest at $683.15 for buildings with 51 to 99 units.