WCRER Apartment Market Survey                                          Spring 2000

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

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