Rental vacancy rate drops by 1.6 percent

After a year-and-a-half of steady increases, Grand Junction’s rental vacancy rate dipped 1.6 percent from December 2009 to 11.6 percent in March 2010.

Gordon E. Von Stroh, author of the Colorado Division of Housing quarterly vacancy report released Thursday, predicts the city’s vacancy rate will continue to decrease as the year progresses.

“Grand Junction is still a great place to retire to. It has a low cost of living. And oil and gas, it’s going to come back,” Von Stroh said.

Rental prices also are making a comeback. The average price to rent a home, town home, condo or apartment in Grand Junction increased from $633 in the fourth quarter of 2009 to $663 in the first quarter of 2010.

It may have shocked some renters and landlords when the local vacancy rate reached above 5 percent in September for the first time since 2005, but not enough time has passed for rental prices to change much, Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said, and there may be less impetus to do so if decreases in vacancy continue.

“I don’t think activity was suppressed long enough to make a real impact” on rent, McMaken said.

Cindy Hoppe, manager of Bray & Co. Property Management, said the company had an exceptional first quarter. They had 38 people sign leases for rentals in January. Thirty more signed leases in February and another 38 people signed leases in March. The first quarter average is 30 leases a month, Hoppe said.

In April, 47 people signed new leases with Bray, Hoppe said. Twenty-four of those leases were with people new to the area, giving Hoppe hope people are still moving to town.

Hoppe said May, June and July are usually the busiest months in the rental market as college students move out of dormitories and get places of their own. But it’s not just young people who will help the market this summer, Von Stroh said.

“The retiree segment I think will continue to be a relatively important one,” he said.

Even though the rate declined, Grand Junction still had one of the highest vacancy rates in the state in March, falling behind only Buena Vista, which had 13.1 percent vacancy, and Pueblo, which had 12.6 percent vacancy.

The Colorado Association of Realtors reported 346 homes sold in Grand Junction in the first quarter of 2010, compared to 306 home sales in the first quarter of 2009. The median price for a home sold in the first quarter of 2010 was $192,222 in Grand Junction, compared to $206,667 in the first three months of 2009.


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