Thurston County apartment demand is up and higher rents have followed as soldiers return to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the surrounding communities, according to third-quarter data released this week by Apartment Insights, a Seattle company that tracks the Puget Sound rental market.
Principal Tom Cain has been tracking rental data in King and Snohomish counties since 2005, but recently added Pierce County, then included Thurston and Kitsap data last summer, he said Friday. For his third-quarter data here, he surveyed about 80 properties of 50 or more units.
As soldiers have returned home to South Sound, vacancy rates have fallen, the data show. In Thurston County, vacancy rates overall in the third quarter of the year fell to 4.19 percent from 6.45 percent in third quarter 2009. Year-over-year third-quarter vacancy rates for the county’s three largest cities were:
• Olympia: Fell to 4.27 percent from 7.47 percent.
• Lacey: Fell to 4.12 percent from 6.37 percent.
• Tumwater: Fell to 4.27 percent from 7.72 percent.
Average rents year over year inched higher because of the demand. The data show:
• Thurston County: Rose to $825 from $817.
• Olympia: Rose to $780 from $770.
• Lacey: Rose to $823 from $819.
• Tumwater: Rose to $868 from $864.
In addition to the Apartment Insights data, landlords and those with ties to a South Sound landlord organization say they have seen a similar change in the Thurston County rental market.
Jeff Powell, co-owner of Prime Locations, which manages more than 1,200 units in the area, said demand for apartment rentals grew rapidly over the summer. At the start of the summer, vacancy rates stood at about 5.5 percent and then suddenly fell to about 3.2 percent as soldiers returned home, Powell said. “It was pretty quick, and it was very trackable,” he said. “And it was clear where the occupancy was coming from.”
Rents at his units also rose 2 percent to 3 percent to an average of about $825, he said. Powell, too, recently finished construction and opened The Polo Club apartments on Yelm Highway. The 127-unit complex opened in January 2009 and is 97 percent occupied, he said.
The Washington Landlord Association, which is based in Olympia, produces an annual apartment survey, President Tim Seth said. The new data haven’t been released yet, but Seth expects vacancy rates among his members to fall to about 5.5 percent from 6.5 percent last year, he said. He, too, attributed the lower vacancy rate to those who work at Lewis-McChord, but he also said demand is higher because not as many people can qualify to buy a home as they might have a few years ago. “You just can’t run out and buy a home now,” he said.
The Washington Landlord Association serves more than 5,000 landlords in South Sound, Seth said. A nonprofit, it provides tenant-screening services, paperwork and forms, and telephone advisory services, he said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/bizblog