GJ rental vacancy at 7.5 percent in 4th quarter

Housing experts suspect Mesa County’s high foreclosure rate helped fill local rental properties in the fourth quarter, when Grand Junction’s vacancy rate hit its lowest point since fall 2009.

The city’s rental vacancy rate decreased 5.7 percentage points year-over-year to 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to a report released Tuesday by the Colorado Division of Housing. During the same quarter, Mesa County served homeowners with 454 foreclosure filings, and 180 homes completed the foreclosure process.

With at least a five-year gap between a foreclosure and the time the former homeowner can try again to secure a federal mortgage loan, plenty of people are streaming into the local rental market by necessity, according to Colorado Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken.

“It should benefit rental housing because you shouldn’t expect to see people fleeing rental housing to go buy a house,” McMaken said.

McMaken said there were few other reasons for the vacancy rate to dip 0.4 of a percentage point from the third quarter. Mesa County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached a recession-era high of 10.2 percent in December, and labor force numbers show there’s little reason to suspect more people than usual are moving to town.

Property Manager Cindy Hoppe of Bray Property Management said fewer renters signed leases with the company in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the final quarter of 2009. Just 28 of the 87 people who signed leases with Bray in October, November or December 2010 moved to Grand Junction from out of town.

“The foreclosure situation has pushed people into the rental market,” Hoppe said, and few people are leaving the rental market within a year. “Our occupancy is staying pretty consistent. I kind of feel like they are not moving around much because they don’t have disposable income for moving trucks or deposits.”

It also doesn’t cost much to stay put, Hoppe said. She said few rental properties are increasing rent, at least where she works.

Although Hoppe said few landlords are decreasing rent, either, the Colorado Division of Housing’s vacancy report indicates the average rent for the fourth quarter in Grand Junction, $616.58, was $39 lower than the average rent in the third quarter of 2010 and $16.88 cheaper than average rent in the fourth quarter of 2009.


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