Renters looking for Valley apartments shouldn’t have trouble finding deals in the classified advertisements.
The offers jump out at them in big, bold letters: “$99 Move-In Special,” “One Month Half Price,” “Two Weeks Free Rent.”
Valley apartment managers have been having trouble filling their vacancies for the past few months. They blame the time of year, overbuilding and renters becoming house owners.
“The market has really slowed,” said Barbara J. Vander Weil, who owns B.J. Vander Weil & Co., a property management firm. “We’re not getting any calls, nobody’s coming by to look.”
Vander Weil said there was a slight flurry of activity just before Christmas, but since then, apartments - especially twobedroom units - have been moving slowly.
The overall Valley apartment vacancy rate as of Feb. 1 (the most recent survey date), was about 6 percent of 3,211 units, said Vern Lightbody, of Computerized The Rental Co. Inc.
The vacancy rate in February of 1994 was about 3.5 percent of 3,353 units. The numbers don’t include recently built apartments.
The market has been growing by about 600 units a year since 1991, said Joe Organick, general manager of Alvin J. Wolff Inc. Realtors.
“I believe we have overbuilt a little bit,” said Maria Trunkenbolz, owner of M-T Management.
The situation in the Valley is similar to other parts of the Spokane area, said Shik Young, an Eastern Washington University economics professor who compiles data for the Spokane-Kootenai Real Estate Research Committee.
“Vacancy is on the rise,” Young said. “There are more apartments available than people who want to rent them.
“You have to remember that rent has gone up dramatically in the last two years,” he said. “That’s part of the reason. Also, the number of people moving into (the Spokane area) has (gone) down.”
Although some property managers say that this time of year is generally slow, Trunkenbolz said the market is softer now than last year at this time.
Organick said that overbuilding isn’t the only factor.
Alvin J. Wolff Realtors has managed to escape the trend of high vacancy rates, he said. But the vacancies it does have are due to renters who took advantage of low interest rates and to buy new homes.
“That’s where we’ve lost most of the tenants.”
Tom Hix, regional director of property management at Tomlinson Valley Inc., attributes the softening of the two-bedroom market to the additional units that have been built.
“All you have to do is drive around on Mission and Sullivan Road” to see that new apartments are sprouting up in the Valley, she said.
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