Summit vacancies reach highest rate in years |

Summit vacancies reach highest rate in years

Christine McManus/Summit County Correspondent

SUMMIT COUNTY – Renters had an easier time finding places to live early this fall than they have had in a long time.

Apartment vacancies increased to the highest rates in years in Summit, Lake and Eagle counties in the third quarter, from July through September.

For every 100 rentable units in Summit County, an estimated 7 units were vacant during the third quarter. The 7 percent vacancy rate increased from 5 percent at the same time last year. That’s the highest rate since the Colorado Division of Housing began keeping track in 1996.

In comparison, Eagle County’s vacancy rate was 17 percent, up from 1 percent last year. Lake County had a 33 percent vacancy rate up from 14 percent.

The number of property owners who have units sitting empty in resort areas increased for a number of reasons.

The time period measured is the third quarter – a time when the resorts and other local businesses are just beginning to hire new seasonal workers, but the employees haven’t necessarily arrived yet. Vacancy rates hovered around less than 1 percent in early 2002 and early 2001, from January through March.

Another factor is that some renters bought their first home the past couple of years because interest rates have been their lowest in decades.

Also, rental units were added to the overall supply the past several years while some local workers relocated because of the slowed economy.

Vacancy rates have likely changed in the two months since the Colorado Division of Housing compiled statistics for the third quarter.

Ski resorts have opened and other businesses have hired workers for the season. Also, the economy has showed signs of improvement. But the next report won’t be available until April.

“I had several pages of rental listings in September, but everyone’s come in now and those vacancies are gone,” said Julie Krumme, long-term property manager with Wildernest Property Management. “Owners are having a harder time finding renters. It all depends upon how much they’re charging.”

A two-bedroom place for $975 per month rented quickly, whereas another two-bedroom place for $1,375 per month remains vacant, Krumme said. The average rent in Wildernest is $1,100 to $1,500 for six-month leases, but the price drops for longer-term leases.

Average rental prices in Summit County have hovered between $750 to $800 per month for all units since 2001, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.

The average Colorado rent was $776 per month from July through September.

“To afford the state’s average rent of $776, a household would need to earn $31,000. This income equals an hourly wage of $14.90,” said Kathi Williams, director of the Colorado Division of Housing.

Average rents in Eagle County increased to their highest levels in the past few years at $1,010 compared to $969 last year. Rents in Lake County dropped from an average of about $565 to $493 as vacancy rates went up.

“While many of the areas of the state were challenged with high demand during the 1990s, there is still a need for rental apartments priced affordable for today’s salaries,” Williams said. “Maintaining the availability of affordable housing in Colorado will have a direct impact on the state’s economic development success.”

Numbers for Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Glenwood Springs were also released by the Division of Housing last week.

Steamboat rents average $700 – versus $758 last year – with a median rental rate of $615 within the ski resort’s region.

Aspen area rents have also decreased from an average $1,027 last year to $952 during the same third quarter period this year. The median rent in Aspen is $986.

Glenwood Springs renters pay an average $618 per month, versus $731 last year. The median rental rate is $615 in Glenwood.

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