Rental vacancy rate at 10.4 percent in first quarter

Grand Junction’s rental vacancy rate increased from 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011 to 10.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.

That jump may be deceiving, according to Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken. The owners of 1,652 rental units in Grand Junction participated in the first quarter 2011 vacancy report, but the owners of just 771 local rental units participated in the most recent survey.

The smaller sample size is linked to a new group of people taking over the responsibility of creating the quarterly vacancy report after the death this March of longtime report author Gordon E. Von Stroh. The report counts how many apartments, condos and town homes are rented or available in metro areas across Colorado as well as how much the average and median rent prices are in those areas.

Bray Property Management Property Manager Cindy Hoppe said she believes both the vacancy and rental price rates would have remained stable year-over-year or only increased slightly if more Grand Junction property-owners had responded to the survey. The average rent charged in Grand Junction was $656.95 in the first quarter of 2011 and $625.26 in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Colorado Division of Housing. But Hoppe said most of Bray’s tenants are paying about the same rent they paid last year. The number of renters is also stable.

“I certainly did not expect the vacancy rate to increase. I think the rents are still stagnant but the market itself has gotten a little tighter,” Hoppe said.

McMaken said it’s likely the local rent and vacancy rates were skewed by the sample size. But although he suspects rents have not plummeted quite so low or that vacancy isn’t quite as high as 10.4 percent, McMaken said the vacancy rate may realistically be higher this year because of local unemployment figures. Mesa County’s unemployment rate has been above 9 percent since the start of the year. Unemployment can impact how much money people have for rent or a move.

“I agree the sampling may be overstating it a little, but we do have these other employment issues,” McMaken said.


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