Mad rush for rental housing hits Central Oregon

Only 1 percent vacancy rate makes for rent hikes, tough hunt

Few housing options mean higher prices on High Desert

BEND, Ore - It's a hot commodity: You don't see rental signs around Central Oregon very often.

"A lot of them are renting even before they're able to be viewed," Redmond resident and Bend house-hunter Michelle Valdes said Tuesday. "One had 125 applicants."

Valdes and her family have been looking  for a home to rent in Bend since April.

Their asking price? Around $1,000 a month.

But no luck so far.

And that means scheduling life around the Internet.

"I would say every 20 minutes I'm on here (computer) refreshing," Valdes said. "I was getting ready to leave somewhere yesterday, and my husband was like, 'Quick get on Craigslist.'"

Plus Property General Manager Kevin Restine said the rental inventory in Central Oregon has never been so low, just 1 percent of housing is available.

"Three years ago, we were at a 12 percent vacancy rate. Two years ago, we were probably at a 3, 4 or 5 percent vacancy rate," Restine said.

The lack of homes means good business for Restine -- but fewer homes also means higher prices for renters.

"Prices have probably risen 10 percent over the last two years -- 10 percent year-over-year. Some people are seeing a nasty surprise, seeing a 20 percent rent increase," Restine said.

Restine said the prices follow the market.

"We are raising our prices, not in a predatory sense, but in trying to represent our owners and their interests," Restine said.

Restine said he believes the high demand for housing is a sign of a healthy market. He expects more housing will be built, and prices should even out.

In the meantime, families around Central Oregon are crossing their fingers they'll get lucky and find a good home to rent.

"We're hoping maybe this winter something will come up," Valdes said.  "I don't know -- it's hard."

Restine said there are several things applicants can do to spruce up their rental applications.

"In a tight market, the person that looks the best to that landlord is probably going to have the best opportunity to secure the rental," Restine said. "Some of those things would be a good rental history, paying their rent. Sometimes even situations like having a large animal can be a hindrance to finding a rental, and sometimes you have to make hard choices."

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