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Rough season for Eagle County renters

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

VAIL — Vail ski instructor Stephen Fusco loves most things about his job — but one part he dreads is the prospect of finding winter housing.

“It’s probably my least favorite thing about my job,” said Fusco, who is returning to Vail for his fourth season. “Actually doing my job is the easy and fun part. It’s everything else you have to set up that can be very challenging. Housing is the biggest stress I always have to deal with.”

Fusco is among a number of seasonal workers who have been struggling to find affordable housing as the winter nears. Brokers around the valley will tell you that long-term and seasonal rentals are scarce, and prices are going up — as of late October, most major realty companies had few to no rental stock to offer potential tenants. On top of that, more employees than usual are vying for the scarce spots, with the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships coming in February.



But Fusco could have told you that. He eventually found a Vail lock-off through the help of a friend, but he says he’s paying more for a smaller space than he usually rents.

“It can be a real eye opener. Some people come with the expectation of spending $800 a month, when they need to know that for $800 you can’t get anything — except maybe a roommate.”
Paula Fischer
Associate broker for Berkshire Hathaway

“I was lucky,” he said. “I was fully expecting the housing market to be awful because I know it’s never easy even in the good years. The number of people applying for housing was one of the biggest shocks. I’d talked to people who said they’d gotten 50 calls already about a rental, and it would be gone the day they posted it.”



Vail rental stock takes a hit

Within Vail, workers will find fewer rentals than usual as the eastern end of Timber Ridge gets redeveloped.



Previously, Vail Resorts has held the master lease on as many as 120-plus units at Timber Ridge for employee housing. This year due to the redevelopment, the resort only master leased 54 units, said Vail Community Development Director George Ruther.

“There is little doubt that the redevelopment of the eastern portion of Timber Ridge will have a short-term, temporary impact on the availability of rental housing in Vail,” Ruther said. “The great news is that prior to next season, a vast majority of the redeveloped, brand new units will be available for occupancy.”

Andrew Obayd is experiencing that Vail shortage firsthand as he tries to find housing for the winter. The 25-year-old New Jersey resident will be fulfilling his dream of spending a winter in the West, cinching a position as a server at an on-mountain restaurant.

Now, he’s a little worried his plans will be derailed if he can’t find housing.

“It’s been extremely hard,” he said. “I’ve been looking on Craigslist three times a day and the Vail Daily. I’ve already raised my budget to $800 based on what I’ll be making. I’ve been looking serious for a month and a half and I’ve seen four posts that would even be options. I’m getting nervous.”

A landlord’s market

Seasonal workers are not the only ones struggling — Realtors report that prospects are also scarce for people looking for one-year rentals.

“It’s extremely tight,” said Karen Harsch, director of long-term rentals at Bold Property Management Solutions. “Currently rates are going up, and with all the people coming in for the championships, there are units being pulled from the 12-month rental pool to support that. The people coming in to build the stadiums, the electricians, the catering companies — they’re already here. Also, with an uptick in the real estate market, some of my investors have chosen to revisit the idea of selling (instead of renting out their homes), so that limits the number of units available.”

Rentals are going for anywhere from $100 to a few hundred more per month than in past years, said Jon Eskin, general manager at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. However, he also points out that there’s always been a housing shortage here.

“During the recession, the rental market was a little more balanced, but now it’s getting back to how it was before 2008,” he said.

Still, Harsch said the rental pool is tougher than she’s seen it in years, and it can be a stressful situation for renters, especially those with dogs. As much as the valley bills itself as a dog friendly place, the majority of rentals don’t allow pets, thanks to homeowner association rules.

“For every property I put up, it’s immediately bombarded with views, and it’s usually off within a day,” she said. “I definitely feel for these potential tenants. And if you have a dog, there’s just not much out there.”

Paula Fischer, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway in Lionshead, said she’s noticed that the situation has some renters desperate to get into any place they can find.

“They usually call because they cant find anything on their own, so they try to take whatever they can, even if it’s something they never would have chosen themselves,” she said. “For people who don’t have knowledge of our market, it can be a real eye opener. Some people come with the expectation of spending $800 a month, when they need to know that for $800 you can’t get anything — except maybe a roommate.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.


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