Apartment vacancies up in GJ
Grand Junction’s apartment vacancy rate jumped from 3.8 percent in the third quarter of 2012 to 7.8 percent in the third quarter of 2013, according to a Colorado Division of Housing report released Wednesday.
The increase in available rental properties accompanied a decrease in rent prices. The average monthly rent in Grand Junction in the third quarter was $577.71, according to the report, down from $638.99 in the third quarter of 2012.
Both the increase in the vacancy rate and the downturn in rent prices is likely tied to Grand Junction’s employment situation, according to Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken. Although Mesa County’s unemployment rate decreased from 8.3 percent in October 2012 to 7 percent in October 2013, 1,585 fewer Mesa County residents were employed last month compared to October 2012. The employed population decrease was accompanied by stagnant wages, which McMaken said helped explain why rents haven’t increased. In addition, the average rent is down in Grand Junction because vacancy rates are highest in units that have the most bedrooms and highest rent prices.
“Those metro areas that have stronger employment have lower vacancies and those areas that have weaker employment have higher vacancies and that’s what we’re seeing here,” McMaken said.
Grand Junction’s home price index was the only Colorado metropolitan area that decreased year-over-year, which McMaken said may be another potential ding to the rental market.
Grand Junction’s third quarter vacancy rate was higher than the rate for every other metropolitan area in the state except for Pueblo, which had a 9.3 percent rate — still a 6.5 percentage point drop year-over-year.
Other rates included 1.3 percent for Greeley, 2.8 percent for Fort Collins/Loveland as well as Boulder/Broomfield, 4.4 percent in Denver and 5.4 percent for Colorado Springs.
McMaken said Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland’s rates may have tightened between the second and third quarters slightly due to increased demand for rentals after September flooding, but he said that was a minor factor in their rates.
A small sample size may have skewed the most recent vacancy rate for Grand Junction. The third quarters of 2012 and 2013 had the smallest sampling of survey respondents of any quarter in either of those years, with 810 respondents in the third quarter of 2013 and 717 respondents in the third quarter of 2012. More than 1,000 Grand Junction property managers or landlords responded to the survey in almost all other quarters in the past two years.
The vacancy rate in Grand Junction’s rental market was higher in the first two quarters of 2013, with an 11.8 percent vacancy rate reported by the Colorado Division of Housing in the first quarter and a 10.6 percent vacancy rate in the second quarter.