Monday, May 3, 2010

Portland Multifamily Vacancy Down in First Quarter; New Properties Added to Report

Multifamily vacancy decreased more than half a percentage point to 4.82%. Downtown, however, saw a significant increase in vacancy. This increase resulted in the addition of new product; we added ten properties totaling more than 2,100 units to the report this quarter.

Our report tracks buildings of 100 units and above in the metro area; we consider smaller buildings in some submarkets if they lack many 100+ unit properties. This quarter we added the majority of downtown units that have come to market in the past 24 months, excluding three properties that are under construction or have very recently delivered: the Broadstone Enso, the Matisse, and Indigo 12 West.

With the additions to the report, downtown vacancy rose 5 percentage points to 10.15% and vacancy in new units came in at over 15%. The new units have impacted existing and historic downtown apartments by pushing down effective rents on existing units and creating a more competitive environment. Concessions like free rent and parking are thus being offered on new and seasoned units, and marketing has become considerably more aggressive. If the economy continues to recover, the downtown market could begin to stabilize by the end of 2010.

Market Trends
Apartment managers and investors report seeing a significant uptick in tenant traffic in the latter part of the quarter. This is a good sign but doesn’t necessarily indicate a recovery, which is contingent on two to three quarters of increased tenant traffic, a reduction in vacancy and increasing rental rates. The suburban markets have seen good absorption of new product, since there has definitely not been an oversupply, and submarkets like the Sunset Corridor, East County and the close-in eastside are truly tightening up.

The multifamily market is heavily dependent on the state of the local and national economy, and especially on the fragile job market. Considerable improvement in the job market should be reflected in quarter-over-quarter improvement in occupancy and rental rates. The bright spots locally are that companies like FedEx, Boeing, and Genentech continue to invest in the area. And despite challenges, Portland continues to grow. U-Haul pegged Portland’s growth rate at 10.16% (No. 3 in the country) for 2009, meaning the number of families renting U-Hauls to move to Portland was 10.16% higher than the number of families renting trucks to leave.

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