High demand for rentals in Bend
Tenants fill apartments as fast as workers can build them

A circular saw whined Tuesday outside the rising apartment buildings off Boyd Acres Road in northeast Bend, where units fill as fast as builders can put them up.

But the 104-unit Sage Springs complex is barely halfway complete. Two buildings with 20 units total are already occupied, with another 12 units ready to lease, said Jason Sharp, site superintendent for general contractor SharpCor Inc., of Salem. Tenants are signed up and waiting to move in before the keys are turned over to the developer, he said.

“Realistically speaking, I should have five buildings by the end of February, 44 units,” he said. Weather-related delays pushed back the anticipated completion of Sage Springs, originally set for this month.

“My office is telling me they would like me to be out of here by the beginning of April,” Sharp said Tuesday.

Central Oregon rental property owners and managers in 2013 reported just 1 percent of more than 4,500 total units were available to rent. Rent for a two-bedroom place stood at an average $704 a month. A duplex in Bend went for $732 a month, and about $10 less in Redmond.

By year’s end, average monthly rent in Bend had climbed to about $720, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based real estate research firm. Reis measured the Bend vacancy rate at 3.5 percent in the first quarter and 2.7 percent at year’s end.

But Kevin Restine, president of the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association, said he believes the association’s data, which include a wider collection of rental property over a wider area, is still at, or even less than, 1 percent.

Michelle Bunting, president of Bend Property Management Inc., put it succinctly: “There’s a lot of people and too few units.”

The Central Oregon Rental Owners Association is now surveying members for vacancy and rental information, a task it undertakes each year. However, property managers said Monday the dearth of available rental property is relatively unchanged from 2013.

“We put a unit on the market today on Craigslist, and we were so inundated we couldn’t get it off Craigslist fast enough,” Holly Polis, of Pennbrook Co., which manages 200 units in Bend and Redmond, said Tuesday. “It’s a tight market for that lower to mid range.”

Relief for would-be tenants is still some time off. Bunting said Sage Springs will barely dent the demand.

A 144-unit complex in southeast Bend received preliminary plan and site approvals earlier this month and may start construction in the summer, a project engineer said in December.

About 2½ miles east, developers have proposed 241 apartments, and they may pull building permits as early as March, said Craig Chenoweth, Bend city development services coordinator. And a project with nearly 200 rental units was also proposed late last year near Southwest Bond Street and Wilson Avenue.

Restine said the cycle of supply and demand, boom and bust, is beginning to swing back toward equilibrium. Plans for the first phase of a new Oregon State University-Cascades Campus are one driver, he said.

“When the recession hit and the bubble burst, building and (growth in) inventory in rental property ceased,” he said. “We’re anticipating, with the four-year university, our demand is going to be up, and I know there are people investing in building and owning rental property again.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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