South Sound apartment vacancy rates inched higher in the final quarter of 2010, likely because a wave of soldiers returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord has slowed, reducing demand, according to new apartment data released by Apartment Insights of Seattle.
In Thurston County, vacancy rates rose to 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter of the year from 4.2 percent in the third quarter, the data show. Vacancy rates in Pierce County also rose in the same period, increasing to 6.2 percent from 5.7 percent.
In Thurston County:
Olympia: Vacancy rates fell to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter from 6 percent in the third quarter.
Lacey: Vacancy rates rose to 4.7 percent from 4.1 percent in the same period.
Tumwater: Vacancy rates rose to 5.1 percent from 4.3 percent in the same period.
For its data, Apartment Insights surveys apartment complexes of 50 or more units, including 83 in Thurston County and 275 in Pierce County, Principal Tom Cain said.
A vacancy rate of 5 percent or less is considered healthy, and the Thurston County market historically has been one of the most stable apartment markets in the region, he said.
Still, that didn’t stop rents from rising here, up $12 from the third quarter to stand at an average of $837 per month, the data show. Rents typically fall as demand for apartments slows and vacancy rates creep higher, but two relatively new apartment complexes have opened in the county that charge on average more than $1,000 a month in rent, which skewed the results higher, he said. Pierce County rents fell $8 from the third quarter to an average of $832 per month in the fourth quarter, the data show.
Vacancy rates for rental homes also have increased, said Pat Rants, president and chief executive of The Rants Group, a commercial real estate company that manages about 300 rental houses in the area.
Demand for rental houses was strong last year because of the number of military returning to the area, but the supply of rental homes also increased as more people realized they couldn’t sell their house and decided to rent, he said. Rants said his company added about 100 homes to its inventory last year, and vacancy rates increased to 6 percent in the fourth quarter from about 4 percent in the middle of the year. Average rents for those houses fell to about $1,350 at the end of the year from $1,400, he said.
His company also manages about 400 apartment units. They have a vacancy rate of about 5 percent and rents have been flat; an average rent wasn’t immediately available for those units, Rants said.
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