Early 2011 vacancy rate 6.3 percent in Grand Junction

Rental availability decreased in every quarter of past year

Grand Junction’s rental housing vacancy rate fell to 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, indicating the local rental market is getting healthier.

The decline marks the fifth consecutive quarter-to-quarter drop since the local vacancy rate hit a recession-era high of 13.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. The 6.3 percent rate marks a 45 percent drop compared to the same quarter in 2010, according to a Colorado Division of Housing vacancy report released Thursday. It’s also close to the 5 percent vacancy rate considered healthy in any market, according to survey researcher Gordon Von Stroh.

“(Grand Junction) has a little ways to go yet,” Von Stroh said.

While the number of completed foreclosures increased quarter-to-quarter in the first three months of 2011 and home sale prices continued to decline, the vacancy rate improved. That’s because no new apartments are being built, the population hasn’t declined much, and getting a loan for a new mortgage is more difficult than it was a year or two ago, said Cindy Hoppe, property manager for Bray Property Management.

“A lot of people can’t buy homes, but they have to live somewhere, so they’ve stayed in the rental market longer than they expected,” Hoppe said.

Bray signed 104 new leases in the first quarter, which is about even with the 106 the company signed in the first quarter last year. Rents are steady as well, Hoppe said, and with demand for rentals increasing, rental-property owners are becoming less interested in enticing renters with concessions, such as a free month of rent or free utilities.

Average rent in Grand Junction increased 8 percent to $656.95 in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the fourth quarter of 2010 and fell 1 percent year-over-year.

College students moving out of rental properties can increase May vacancy rates, but that’s often countered in the second quarter rate by a yearly increase in new leases in June, Hoppe said. Any change in the unemployment rate also may affect the second-quarter vacancy rate in Grand Junction, which will be released in August.

“If the unemployment rate went down to 7 percent, I think you’d be looking at a very tight (rental) market,” Colorado Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said.


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