GJ rental vacancies at lowest level since 2008

Grand Junction’s apartment vacancy rate dropped to its lowest point in nearly four years during the third quarter of 2012.

In September, 3.8 percent of Grand Junction apartments were empty, according to a Colorado Division of Housing report released Thursday. That is Grand Junction’s lowest vacancy rate since December 2008, when 3.1 percent of local apartments were not being rented.

A vacancy rate of 5 percent or less indicates a tight rental market, according to Ryan McMaken, spokesman for the Division of Housing. He said Grand Junction may have gotten below that threshold this fall for the first time since June 2009 because people often prefer to move into rental units during the summer, when the weather is warm and students have time off from school. At the same time, McMaken said a near-total lack of construction of new rental units in Grand Junction didn’t leave much room to spare for new renters.

Bray Property Management Property Manager Cindy Hoppe said Bray clients signed 99 new rental leases during the third quarter, with 48 of those leases going to people moving into the Grand Valley from other areas. Hoppe said she anticipated the vacancy rate would be even lower if the local economy were turning around as quickly as some other areas on the Front Range. Fort Collins and Greeley, for example, had vacancy rates of 2.1 and 3.1 percent, respectively, in September, while Fort Collins had an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent and Greeley had an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. Grand Junction had an 8.1 percent unemployment rate in September, ahead of Colorado Springs at 8.7 percent and Pueblo at 10.1 percent.

Every metropolitan area in Colorado except for Grand Junction experienced a year-over-year increase in rent in the third quarter. The average rent in Grand Junction dipped slightly from $655.58 in the third quarter of 2011 to $638.99 in the third quarter of 2012.

Hoppe said she suspects rents haven’t moved much because Grand Junction’s unemployment rate has declined this year but is still above 8 percent.

“I don’t think we have that upward mobility right now. I think people are stretched pretty thin,” she said.

McMaken said many large, corporate-owned rental projects in larger Colorado cities are charging more because a computer software program determines how much rent applicants can afford. People are more likely to personally calculate rents in Grand Junction, McMaken said, because properties tend to have fewer rental units and are older. That has led to slight fluctuations over the past few years as landlords try to find the right price to match what people can afford.

“The lack of any serious trend here with all the ups and downs indicates to me the market is trying to adjust and find that sweet spot,” McMaken said.


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