State vacancy survey void of local support |

State vacancy survey void of local support

Glenwood’s multi-family vacancy rate either skyrocketed in the past year, or squirted up like a pop bottle rocket. It all depends on who you ask.A semi-annual survey from the Colorado Division of Housing said September’s residential vacancy rate was 10 percent, compared to 1.5 percent in September of 2001.Sharon Stephenson, a broker and property manager for Mason & Morse in Glenwood Springs, disputed the state agency’s methodology and results, but indicated it has been more difficult to rent properties in the past year.”Before October 2001, I never had to advertise,” Stephenson said. “Now I do.”The Division of Housing survey looked at 21 markets outside Denver, including Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and includes all sizes of multi-family rental housing.Tom Hart, the Division of Housing director, said he is surprised at the 10 percent figure his department compiled. “That’s not like anything we’ve seen there before,” Hart said.Explaining, Hart said in a small market, the vacancy rate can be disproportionately skewed if there are a lot of vacancies in a single complex due to poor management or other problems.Hart said the Division of Housing received 368 survey responses from Glenwood Springs.In Glenwood Springs, out of 39 one-bedroom apartments surveyed, 18 were vacant.Stephenson said many property managers and owners don’t fill out the surveys because they take too much time, and the state’s results are flawed.”So what Hart gets is not as accurate as it could be,” said Paula Derevensky, also a broker and property manager at Mason & Morse.Derevensky and Stephenson offered their own vacancy figures. Derevensky manages 77 residential properties from Basalt to Silt, and her vacancy rate is 2.6 percent. Stephenson manages 58 residential properties in the Glenwood Springs area, and her vacancy rate is 7.3 percent.A telling statistic can also be pulled from the rental section of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent classified-ad section. The column inch count was up 29 percent this September compared to September of 2001, said classified director Christine Holaday-Schriock.If more property owners and managers must advertise their properties to attract renters, that indicates vacancies are up. Holaday-Schriock said in 2002, her rental section has surpassed last year’s count every month, with increases ranging from 19 percent in August, to 78 percent in February.Nobody, it seems, can put the definitive finger on why the vacancy rate is increasing. One thing that hasn’t occurred much in recent years is an increase in the number of apartments, which could glut the market and inflate numbers.”For years, developers have considered building rentals, but after doing their studies, they conclude the rents wouldn’t support what they are trying to do,” said Judy Arnold, a property manager for Bray & Company.Low interest rates are one factor in the higher rental-vacancy rate. Former renters are taking advantage of the low rates to buy homes. “So a lot of the rental market opens up,” Derevensky said. That leads to more vacancies.For the record, the Division of Housing survey averaged all of Glenwood’s multi-family housing units together, and determined the average rent for September is $731, down from $819 last year.

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