COEUR d'ALENE - A tightening market has increased rental rates on houses and apartments in the Coeur d'Alene area, according to local property managers.
"We are starting to see an upward trend," said Nanci Hawkins, president of Rental Property Management in Coeur d'Alene. "Rents are coming up, and that's been driven by less availability."
Her company's average turnover - the period of time from listing to rental - is currently about two weeks, Hawkins said. Many properties are being rented soon after they become available, and rates going up.
Houses that rented for $1,200 three years ago are renting for $1,400 or $1,500 per month in 2011, she added.
"It's going to be a good market this year," Hawkins said. "Traditionally, rentals move ahead of the real estate market, either good or bad."
At Resort Property Management, a Coeur d'Alene firm that lists apartments, condos and houses for rent, the overall vacancy rate is about 6 percent, president Andy Golmicz said. Usually the percentage is slightly higher, around 7 or 8 percent.
"What we've seen is the market is definitely tightening up," Golmicz said.
As of March 2011, roughly 35 percent of the firm's tenants had lost their homes to foreclosure. Many of those tenants, unable to afford a mortgage, rented houses with Resort Property Management.
Single-family rental houses are now in high demand, Gomicz said, with a vacancy percentage of just 3 percent. As a result, rent has spiked by as much as 10 percent on higher-end houses.
Lower-end properties are not as steep - perhaps an additional $25 or $50 per month.
Apartments have also gone up, Gomicz said, but very slightly.
"Their prices have come up a little bit, but they haven't been affected as much as single-family houses have," he said. "We're not seeing $100 jumps in $500 apartments."
The Rental Connection in Coeur d'Alene is experiencing similar trends, manager Brenda Evans said.
"We seem to fill (properties) up about as quickly as we turn them over," she said. "A lot of what I've noticed are people looking for rentals that are in foreclosure."
Last month, 208 properties were foreclosed in Kootenai County, according to RealtyTrac Inc. Sixty-one foreclosures occurred in Coeur d'Alene, and 53 in Post Falls.
The rental market peaked in 2006 and 2007, Gomicz said, then dropped when the recession hit. As the situation improves, investors are beginning to take advantage.
"When there's a demand, there are people out there trying to sell it," Gomicz said. "It just looks much more attractive. We are seeing a lot more interest from investors talking about building apartments."
Banks, however, are unwilling to take risks on major financing, he added. Unless an investor has plenty of hard cash, it can be tough to start new projects or recommence old ones.
Still, Gomicz said there might be some life to the market.
"They're getting interested again. They're starting to talk about it," he said. "My feeling is that these investors, they're just getting tired of waiting."