WCRER Apartment Market Survey                                          Fall 2000

            Beginning with this Fall 2000 report, WCRER achieves a long-term goal of being able to report reliable statewide statistics about the apartment market.  From the time in 1996 when the Center conducted its first apartment survey in Whitman County (Pullman), the hope was to develop both a consistent reporting time and to build a consistent respondent base of owners and managers of rental housing units in apartment buildings (5+ unit structures).  This goal could not have been achieved, however, without the support and encouragement of the State’s premier apartment market research firm, Dupre + Scott.  This firm (and its predecessors) has been studying apartment markets in Western Washington for over 20 years, and graciously allowed the Center to use its survey form in the development of these statistics.  There are differences, however.  Recognizing that smaller structures represent more of the market in the smaller communities served by the WCRER surveys, the decision was made to expand coverage to all market-rate projects with 5+ units, whereas D+S deal exclusively with buildings with 20 or more units in their semiannual surveys.

Market Coverage/Response Rates

            Across the 15 market areas surveyed (17 counties), the statewide average response rate was 46.6% of all apartment units.  Factors influencing this wide range of results includes the already mentioned exclusion of 5-19 unit projects in the D+S markets, variations in the prevalence of publicly assisted or subsidized housing, the track records of conducting the survey (this was the first survey in Cowlitz County) and the reluctance of some apartment managers to participate in any research effort or the difficulty to successfully reach the owner/manager of the smaller complexes.   Furthermore, the estimation of 2000 apartments assumes that no units that were built prior to 1990 have been demolished, and that all building permits issued were actually constructed and operating long enough so they were no longer in initial rent-up.  Since most of these current response rates have remained relatively unchanged for the Spring 2000 and Fall 1999 surveys, the data seems very consistent from survey-to-survey and year-to-year.

WCRER and Dupre + Scott Apartment Market Surveys

Market Coverage

County

1990 Apartments 

1990-99 Apartment Construction 

2000 Apartments 

Survey Responses 

Response Rate 

Benton/Franklin (Tri-Cities) 

8,225 

2,061 

10,226 

5,717 

55.9% 

Chelan/Douglas (Wenatchee) 

3,200 

614 

3,791 

1,072 

28.3% 

Clark (Vancouver) 

17,913 

7,531 

25,286 

11,194 

44.3% 

Cowlitz (Longview/Kelso) 

4,002 

798 

4,780 

1,167 

24.4% 

King (Seattle/Bellevue) 

168,540 

41,295 

206,120 

102,089 

49.5% 

Kitsap (Bremerton) 

8,342 

4,896 

12,988 

5,504 

42.4% 

Kittitas (Ellensburg) 

1,628 

856 

2,475 

1,616 

65.3% 

Pierce (Tacoma) 

39,953 

8,607 

48,357 

25,659 

53.1% 

Skagit (Mt. Vernon/Anacortes) 

2,758 

961 

3,686 

667 

18.1% 

Snohomish (Everett) 

31,856 

11,038 

42,170 

27,521 

65.3% 

Spokane 

21,683 

8,458 

29,823 

8,720 

29.2% 

Thurston (Olympia) 

7,445 

1,943 

9,343 

6,322 

67.7% 

Whatcom (Bellingham) 

6,884 

3,530 

10,200 

2,159 

21.2% 

Whitman (Pullman) 

3,268 

818 

4,063 

3,549 

87.3% 

Yakima 

5,887 

1,207 

7,048 

1,803 

25.6% 

STATEWIDE 

346,941 

98,057 

439,065 

204,759 

46.6% 

Market Summary

            The fall 2000 statewide market vacancy rate was 4.6%.  This compares to a national rental housing vacancy rate of 8.2% for the third quarter as reported by the Census Bureau.  There was, however, considerable variation from area to area.  Local vacancy rates ranged from 2.2% in Thurston County to 7.8% in Yakima County.  Average rents ranged from $482 per month in predominantly rural Cowlitz County to $819 per month in the dense, metropolitan King County region, with a statewide average of $720.  This high average rent in King County may be the reaction of having a vacancy rate of only 3.5%, the third lowest in the state, continuing a pattern of low vacancy despite active apartment construction.  The rents ranged from $483 to $538 in Eastern Washington counties, indicating that the markets covered by the WCRER are somewhat less costly.  From available information on eight market areas, average apartment size ranged from 724 square feet in student-dominated Kittitas County (Central Washington University in Ellensburg) to 879 square feet in rapidly growing, mostly suburban Clark County.  These two counties have remained at the extreme ends of this average apartment size statistic for the past few years.  The Dupre + Scott data does not allow calculation of countywide average unit sizes.  

Rental Apartment Market Summary
Selected Washington Counties
September, 2000

Market (County) 

Average Size 

Average Rent 

Number of Units 

Number Vacant 

Vacancy Rate 

Benton/Franklin (Tri-Cities) 

803 sq. ft. 

$526 

5,717 

247 

4.3% 

Chelan/Douglas (Wenatchee) 

802 sq. ft. 

$532 

1,072 

51 

4.8% 

Clark (Vancouver) 

879 sq. ft. 

$610 

11,194 

410 

3.7% 

Cowlitz (Longview/Kelso) 

801 sq. ft. 

$482 

1,167 

69 

5.9% 

King (Seattle/Bellevue) 

n/a 

$819 

102,089 

3,753 

3.5% 

Kitsap (Bremerton) 

n/a 

$622 

5,504 

1,437 

5.6% 

Kittitas (Ellensburg) 

724 sq. ft. 

$485 

1,616 

92 

5.7% 

Pierce (Tacoma) 

n/a 

$589 

25,659 

1,078 

4.2% 

Skagit (Mt. Vernon/Anacortes) 

n/a 

$631 

667 

36 

5.4% 

Snohomish (Everett) 

n/a 

$755 

27,521 

1,238 

4.5% 

Spokane 

807 sq. ft. 

$507 

8,720 

422 

4.8% 

Thurston (Olympia) 

n/a 

$594 

6,322 

139 

2.2% 

Whatcom (Bellingham) 

n/a 

$613 

2,159 

60 

2.8% 

Whitman (Pullman) 

798 sq. ft. 

$538 

3,549 

158 

4.5% 

Yakima 

725 sq. ft. 

$483 

1,941 

155 

7.8% 

STATEWIDE 

n/a 

$720 

204,947 

9,345 

4.6% 

            Averages alone, however, tell only part of the story.  Comparing specific unit types across markets, and comparing time trends are also important.  To select the types of units to compare, the Center aggregated the number of units of different types in selected communities across the state.  As noted from the chart, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom/1-bath units are the most prevalent apartment types, each accounting for over 30% of the apartment units across the ten counties covered by the WCRER survey and the seven counties covered by Dupre + Scott. Therefore, detailed comparisons will be presented for those two unit types.  It needs to be pointed our, however, that there are significant variations across the markets in terms of the ages of the properties, which will affect the comparability of even these comparisons.  As seen from the chart, since a large proportion of Vancouver-area apartments have been built during the 1990’s, there are more 2-bedroom/2-bath units there than there are 2-bedroom/1-bath units.  The recent growth of the Snohomish county area may also exhibit the recent trend toward construction of apartments with more baths, as the local market has a larger proportion of units of this type than areas where a smaller share of overall units are of recent vintage. 

 

1-Bedroom Apartments

            Vacancy rates for 1-bedroom apartment units ranged from 1.9% in Thurston County to 8.1% in Kittitas County, with a statewide average of 3.5%.   Lower vacancy rates were also found in Cowlitz County (2.5%) and King County (3.0%), while relatively higher vacancy rates were also reported in Skagit County (5.4%) and Yakima County (4.7%).  The largest 1-bedroom units were reported in Cowlitz County (713 sq. ft.), while the smallest average 1-bedroom units were found in student-dominated Pullman (Washington State University), in Whitman County (551 sq. ft.).  Larger than average units were also reported from rapidly growing suburban communities in Clark County (696 sq. ft.) and Snohomish County (712 sq. ft).  The recent, upscale, suburban growth in these communities contributes to the larger average unit sizes.  The lowest average rent for 1-bedroom units was also found in Whitman County($367), while the highest average rents for these units was reported from the King County area ($720).  The apartments with the largest average square footage did not necessarily report the highest average rents.  One bedroom apartments in Cowlitz County were the largest in the state, averaging 713 square feet, but these same units also reported an average rent of $420, the second lowest in the state.  This pattern of above average square footage and below average rent can be seen in Thurston and Clark counties as well.  Overall, it is obvious from the table that the largest, most expensive 1-bedroom apartment units are found in Western Washington.
Apartment Summary Statistics – September 2000
One-Bedroom Units

County 

Average Size (Sq. Ft.) 

Average Rent 

Vacancy Rate 

Benton/Franklin 

640 

$435 

3.7% 

Chelan/Douglas 

598 

$445 

4.4% 

Clark 

696 

$525 

4.1% 

Cowlitz 

713 

$420 

2.5% 

King 

658 

$720 

3.0% 

Kitsap 

672 

$535 

4.3% 

Kittitas 

621 

$385 

8.1% 

Pierce 

665 

$493 

4.3% 

Skagit 

625 

$540 

5.4% 

Snohomish 

712 

$644 

4.0% 

Spokane 

653 

$427 

4.6% 

Thurston 

678 

$520 

1.9% 

Whatcom 

650 

$525 

3.2% 

Whitman 

551 

$367 

3.6% 

Yakima 

611 

$424 

4.7% 

STATEWIDE 

665 

$62

3.5% 

2-Bedroom/1-Bath Apartments

            Throughout the state, over one third of the units covered by the surveys were 2-bedroom/1-bath units.  This was especially true in the communities of Pullman, Spokane, Ellensburg, and Longview/Kelso.  Vacancy rates ranged from a tight 2.4% in Thurston County to a high-average inventory available in Yakima at 10.5%.  For Yakima, this is almost a 2% increase in vacancy from the March 2000 survey.  The state average vacancy rate for 2-bedroom/1-bath units was 4.3%.  Average rents for this type of unit ranged from $494 in Whitman County to $800 in King County.  It is clear that most of the counties surveyed by the WCRER in Eastern Washington reported less costly rents per unit.  The statewide average was reported as $680.  This high statewide average rental rate reflects the high rents in King County ($800) and Snohomish County ($718).

        Average sizes of these units ranged from 716 square feet in Kittitas County to 880 square feet in Snohomish County.  While, King County reported the highest rent, units there are also a bit smaller.  Other larger average unit sizes were reported in Clark (879 sq. ft.), Pierce (876 sq. ft.), Skagit (871 sq. ft.), and Whatcom (865 sq. ft.) counties, all of which also reported below average rental rates.  The statewide average size per 2-bedroom/1-bath unit was 838 square feet.   However, it is obvious from the chart that markets in eastern Washington rent for less per square foot of unit space.  In eastern Washington, the average rent was $518 and the average unit size is 814 square feet for two-bedroom/one-bath units.  In western Washington, the average rent increased to $625 and the average unit size is 855 square feet.

Apartment Summary Statistics – September 2000
Two-Bedroom/One-Bath Units

County

Average Size (Sq. Ft.)

Average Rent

Vacancy Rate

Benton/Franklin

845

$530

4.3%

Chelan/Douglas

841

$546

5.0%

Clark

879

$595

3.7%

Cowlitz

849

$508

7.7%

King

809

$800

3.7%

Kitsap

832

$589

6.6%

Kittitas

716

$517

5.5%

Pierce

876

$594

4.5%

Skagit

871

$640

4.1%

Snohomish

880

$718

4.6%

Spokane

833

$515

5.3%

Thurston

835

$577

2.4%

Whatcom

865

$608

3.7%

Whitman

803

$494

4.0%

Yakima

846

$504

10.5%

STATEWIDE

838

$680

4.3%

 

Time Trends

            The key to understanding time trends is consistency.  WCRER has now achieved a consistent survey schedule (March and September) for one year.  However, detailed comparisons to past surveys must still be made carefully because seasonal patterns are currently unknown, and probably differ significantly from community to community.  The following table includes statistics from the fall surveys for the past three years.  Most markets have remained fairly stable over the last three years with only small variations in their reported vacancy and rent rates.  However, some markets have experienced drastic fluctuations in their survey data.  For example, the Benton/Franklin market saw their vacancy rate drop from 10.5% in 1997 to 3.3% in 1998 and 4.3% in this survey.  Other markets experiencing a decline in vacancy were the Chelan/Douglas, Kitsap, and Skagit County markets.  In Kitsap County, a 9.6% vacancy rate was reported in 1997, but this dropped to 5.5% for the September 1998 and 1999 surveys.  In reaction to this reduced availability, the average rent charged in Kitsap County increased almost $50 over the two-year period.  In a more extreme case, the vacancy rate in Skagit County dropped from 24.4% in September 1997 to 3.2% in 1998 and 5.4% in 1999.  The direct reaction in the market showed an increase of over $100 in average rent as vacancies became scarcer over the two-year period.

WCRER Apartment Market Surveys 
September 1997, 1999 and 2000

  

September 1997 

  

September 1999 

  

September 2000 

  

  

Vacancy Rate 

Average Rent 

Vacancy Rate 

Average Rent 

Vacancy Rate 

Average Rent 

Benton/Franklin 

10.5% 

$513 

3.3% 

$489 

4.3% 

$526 

Chelan/Douglas 

7.4% 

$533 

4.0% 

$529 

4.8% 

$532 

Clark 

3.0% 

$556 

5.1% 

$598 

3.7% 

$610 

Cowlitz 

n/a 

n/a 

n/a 

n/a 

5.9% 

$482 

King 

2.6% 

$677 

3.9% 

$782 

3.5% 

$819 

Kitsap 

9.6% 

$577 

5.5% 

$612 

5.6% 

$622 

Kittitas 

n/a 

n/a 

5.5% 

$465 

5.7% 

$485 

Pierce 

6.8% 

$532 

5.8% 

$571 

4.2% 

$589 

Skagit 

24.4% 

$515 

3.2% 

$604 

5.4% 

$631 

Snohomish 

2.3% 

$645 

5.9% 

$729 

4.5% 

$755 

Spokane 

n/a 

n/a 

8.0% 

$478 

4.8% 

$507 

Thurston 

5.7% 

$544 

3.5% 

$556 

2.2% 

$594 

Whatcom 

3.4% 

$584 

3.5% 

$604 

2.8% 

$613 

Whitman 

8.7% 

$498 

5.6% 

$515 

4.5% 

$538 

Yakima 

5.4% 

$491 

5.9% 

$441 

7.2% 

$483 

STATEWIDE 

n/a 

n/a 

n/a 

n/a 

4.6% 

$720 

        *The Spring 2000 Apartment Market Survey conducted by WCRER covered market rate (non-subsidized) apartments (5 or more unit structures) in seven markets (nine counties) outside the immediate Puget Sound region. Based on our 1998 estimates of multifamily housing inventory, those counties contained roughly 70,123 apartment units, including condominiums, subsidized, senior citizen, nursing homes, etc. The following table illustrates the coverage of the apartment market surveys.

WCRER Apartment Market Survey

Market Coverage

County 1990 Apartments 1990-98 Apartment Construction 1998 Apartments Survey Responses Response Rate
Benton/Franklin (Tri-Cities) 7,383 1,980 9,363 5,151 55.0%
Chelan/Douglas (Wenatchee) 2,453 444 2,897 945 32.6%
Clark (Vancouver) 10,435 7,351 17,786 10,535 59.2%
Kittitas (Ellensburg) 1,416 745 2,161 1,503 69.6%
Spokane 19,817 7,500 27,317 7,679 28.1%
Whitman (Pullman) 3,183 915 4,098 3,424 83.6%
Yakima 5,362 1,139 6,501 1,803 27.7%

The wide variations in response rates are due to differences in the occurrence of low-income and condominium apartments coupled with the reluctance of some apartment managers to participate in the research effort, or the difficulty to successfully reach the owner/manager of smaller developments, especially in Spokane. Also the estimation of 1998 apartments assumes no demolitions of units which were in place in 1990 and that all building permits issued were actually constructed. Across the nine counties, the response rate was 44.3 percent.

In Spring 2000 market vacancy rates ranged from 4.15 percent in Clark county to 7.15 percent in Yakima county. At a time when the national apartment vacancy rate is hovering around 8.2 percent (the highest level of apartment vacancy since 1965), thankfully none of our markets is higher than national. Average rents ranged from $465 per month in Kittitas county to $601 per month in Clark county. The average apartment sizes ranged from 716 square feet in student-dominated Kittitas county (Central Washington University in Ellensburg) to 871 square feet in rapidly growing, mostly suburban, Clark county.

Rental Apartment Market Summary
Selected Washington Counties
March, 2000
Market (County) Average Size Average Rent Number of Units Number Vacant Vacancy Rate
Benton/Franklin (Tri-Cities) 802 sq. ft. $516 5,151 268 5.20%
Chelan/Douglas (Wenatchee) 789 sq. ft. $522 945 57 6.03%
Clark (Vancouver) 871 sq. ft. $601 10,535 437 4.15%
Kittitas (Ellensburg) 716 sq. ft. $465 1,503 66 4.39%
Spokane 835 sq. ft. $486 7,679 465 6.06%
Whitman (Pullman) 797 sq. ft. $537 3,424 184 5.37%
Yakima 725 sq. ft. $459 1,803 129 7.15%

 

Averages alone, however, tell only part of the story. Comparing similar units across markets, and comparing time trends are also important. To select the types of units to compare, the Center aggregated the number of units of different types across the seven markets. Since 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom/1-bath units each account for over 30 percent of the apartment units across the nine counties covered by our survey, the comparisons will be limited to those two types.

It needs to be pointed out, however, that there are significant variations across the markets in terms of the ages of the properties, which will affect the exact comparability of even these comparisons. In fact, since such a large proportion of Vancouver-area apartments have been built during the 1990s, there are more 2-bedroom/2-bath units there than there are 2-bedroom/1-bath.

1-Bedroom Apartments

Vacancy rates for 1-bedroom apartments ranged from 2.01 percent in Pullman to 7.65 percent in Yakima. Clark county had the second lowest 1-bedroom vacancy rate, while Kittitas county had the second highest vacancy in this category. The largest 1-bedroom units were again found in Vancouver, while the smallest were in Pullman. The lowest average rent for 1-bedroom units was in Pullman ($358), while Clark County, reflecting the surge of recent construction and the larger unit sizes, recorded the highest average rent ($507) 

Apartment Summary Statistics ­ March 2000
One-Bedroom Units
County Average Size (Sq. Ft.) Average Rent Vacancy Rate
Benton/Franklin 643 $433 4.07%
Chelan/Douglas 604 $443 5.59%
Clark 697 $507 3.28%
Kittitas 626 $378 7.09%
Spokane 653 $412 5.52%
Whitman 542 $358 2.01%
Yakima 577 $414 7.65%

2-Bedroom/1-Bath Apartments

The largest group of apartments, accounting for over one-third of the units covered by the survey had two bedrooms and one bath. This was the most common configuration encountered in Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Vancouver and Pullman. Vacancy rates ranged from an exceptionally tight 2.79 percent in Kittitas county to a high-average inventory available in Yakima (7.88%). Rents for 2-bedroom/1-bath units averaged $483 in Whitman county and reached $595 in Clark county. Average sizes of these units ranged from 714 square feet in Ellensburg to 891 square feet in Vancouver ­ a difference of over one-quarter.

Apartment Summary Statistics ­ March 2000
Two-Bedroom/One-Bath Units
County Average Size (Sq. Ft.) Average Rent Vacancy Rate
Benton/Franklin 858 $520 6.00%
Chelan/Douglas 847 $542 6.93%
Clark 891 $595 5.45%
Kittitas 714 $490 2.79%
Spokane 865 $502 6.41%
Whitman 801 $483 5.84%
Yakima 816 $497 7.88%

Time Trends

        This survey represents the first conducted on a regular semi-annual schedule. However, detailed comparisons to the September survey must be made vary carefully because seasonal patterns are currently unknown, and likely do differ significantly from community to community. Accordingly, the following table includes the two most comparable surveys (September 97 and 99) alongside the current results. This text will not discuss time trends including the spring results until next year. We know about some of the seasonal variations. For example, the Yakima market in particular sees clear patterns in apartment vacancies based on the jobs available for farm workers. Similarly, the college markets have a very busy period in late summer, and units which are not rented by September will likely remain vacant for the remainder of the semester, if not the academic year. However, Pullman statistics for March defied this anticipated pattern. It will be intriguing to learn if the apartment seasonality differs from enrollment changes.

WCRER Apartment Market Surveys
September 1997, 1999 and March 2000
  September 1997 September 1999 March 2000
  Vacancy Rate Average Rent Vacancy Rate Average Rent Vacancy Rate Average Rent
Benton/Franklin 10.51% $513 3.31% $489 5.20% $516
Chelan/Douglas 7.39% $533 4.04% $529 6.03% $522
Clark 2.98% $556 5.14% $598 4.15% $601
Kittitas n/a n/a 5.45% $465 4.39% $465
Spokane n/a n/a 8.01% $478 6.06% $486
Whitman 8.68% $498 5.58% $515 5.37% $537
Yakima 5.38% $491 5.87% $441 7.15% $459

 

Washington Center for Real Estate Research Center

Copyright© 2001 WCRER All Rights Reserved