GJ vacancy rate goes from lowest in state to highest in a year

A “For Rent” sign stands on Teller Avenue between 10th and 11th streets in Grand Junction. From the intersection of Teller and 11th streets, four “For Rents” signs can be seen.

In one year, Grand Junction went from having the lowest rental housing vacancy rate of any metropolitan area in Colorado to having the highest.

The vacancy rate leapt from 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 13.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 in Grand Junction. Three-bedroom rentals had the highest vacancy rate, 23.8 percent, followed by two-bedroom, one-bathroom rentals, 13.4 percent; one-bedrooms, 12.9 percent; two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 11.8 percent; and efficiencies, 7 percent.

The average local rent dropped $30 to $633 a month between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009, while the median rent increased by a nickel.

Cindy Hoppe, manager of Bray’s Property Management Department, said rents may not have changed much because Grand Junction rents didn’t increase much during times when vacancy rates dipped below 2 percent in recent years.

Gordon Von Stroh, a University of Denver professor and author of the quarterly vacancy report, said the vacancy rate is responding to increased unemployment in Grand Junction, which stood at 8.9 percent in December, when the survey was taken for the vacancy report. Although 13 percent is a high rate, Von Stroh said Grand Junction’s long streak of low vacancies in 2006 through 2008 wasn’t healthy, either.

“Five percent is considered an equilibrium level,” Von Stroh said.

He added high vacancy rates often correlate more with people shopping around for apartments or even purchasing homes than attempting to lower the rent on their existing residence. If people do choose to negotiate rent, now would be the time, he said, because the high vacancy rate may not last long past this quarter because employment tends to increase in the spring.

Hoppe said Bray has seen an upswing in renter applications from people in a variety of industries, and she’s optimistic the vacancy rate will head downward in the first quarter of this year.

“I feel we’ve turned the corner,” Hoppe said.


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