Vacancies rise to 9.7% in Grand Junction at end of 2012

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Grand Junction ended 2012 with nearly one in 10 apartments missing a tenant, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.

The division’s newest quarterly vacancy report, released Wednesday, listed a rental apartment vacancy rate of 9.7 percent for the fourth quarter in Grand Junction. That’s up from a vacancy rate of 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Between the chilly weather, holidays and school being in session, the fourth quarter typically has a higher vacancy rate than other times of year. But Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said there are other reasons Grand Junction’s vacancy rate nearly hit double-digits last quarter.

First, high unemployment tends to correlate with higher vacancy numbers, McMaken said. Pueblo, the only metropolitan area in the state with a higher vacancy rate than Grand Junction in the fourth quarter (10.7 percent), also has the state’s highest unemployment rate among metro areas. Grand Junction was in third among metro areas at 8.6 percent unemployment in December, when the fourth quarter vacancy study was conducted. People with fewer job options may have fewer housing options, McMaken said.

“They could be in apartments but doubling up or they could be renting with more people in a single-family home,” he said.

Mesa County saw a 28 percent increase in completed foreclosures coming on the market in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the same quarter in 2011. That’s more evidence some Grand Junction residents are still struggling financially, but it also gave home buyers some lower-priced offerings. Colorado Association of Realtors statistics show Grand Junction home sales increased by 19 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter while prices remained relatively stagnant.

Grand Junction’s vacancy rate jumped from 3.8 percent in the third quarter to 9.7 percent in the fourth quarter. But McMaken said that may be a result of fluctuations in survey responses. Vacancy report researchers averaged 1,600 to 1,700 survey responses from Grand Junction landlords from 2007 through 2011. But the report averaged just 933 responses per quarter from Grand Junction in 2012.

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