It’s not just the real estate market: Locals say rental prices are up and inventory is low |

It’s not just the real estate market: Locals say rental prices are up and inventory is low

A condo complex in the Wildernest area is pictured Jan. 2, 2020. Members of the local workforce say they are unable to find units for rent in an affordable price range.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

Traditionally, the beginning of mud season, when the ski areas start to shut down and the seasonal workforce leaves, is the best time for Summit County locals to find a place to rent, but residents say that is not the case this year.

Prospective renters say they’re having a hard time finding any rental options — much less options in their price range. High prices and low availability for renters coincides with soaring real estate prices in the county over the past year.

Josh Bartels, who has lived in Summit County for about four years, is renting a condo with his girlfriend in Wildernest, but they were given notice that their landlord is planning to sell the place. Bartels said his landlord has been reasonable, giving 90-days notice and offering to let him buy the condo before putting it on the market, but Bartels isn’t able to buy and hasn’t had any luck finding a new rental.

“You really can’t find anything out there,” Bartels said. “… We’re going to have to move somewhere.”

Bartels said he applied for a lease at another condo, but the landlord told him there was a long list of people who were interested. And that was the only landlord who even responded, Bartels said.

“My real hope is the person that buys this wants to keep it as an investment … and we’ll get to stay,” Bartels said about a possible buyer who would be interested in keeping Bartels and his girlfriend as long-term renters. “But somebody could buy it and turn it into a short-term rental.”

It’s a common refrain among renters these days.

Summit Stage bus driver Cindy Lensmire lives in a lock-off unit of a home along Hoosier Pass, but the homeowners are putting the house on the market come May. She said she’s been trying to find a place to rent but isn’t able to find anything in her price range.

Lensmire said the price range for one-bedroom apartments in the county seems to be about $1,800 to $2,400 per month.

“It’s frustrating,” Lensmire said. “… Whose salary range fits this? I’ve been looking steadily now for quite some time. I’ve been looking at everything, and it’s just — if there’s going to be such a high dollar for this area, you want it to match (people’s salaries) a little bit, and that’s where a lot of people are getting frustrated.”

There are plenty of one-bedroom rental listings on Zillow that fall within or above the price range Lensmire cited, including one in Frisco for $2,750, one in Dillon for $2,650 and an apartment in Silverthorne for $1,800.

That’s up significantly from three years ago. According to the 2019 Summit County Housing Needs assessment, the average rent for a one-bedroom unit was $957 in 2018.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, 85% of the average salary of a waiter or waitress in Summit County would go toward rent every month if an individual paid $1,800 for housing.

Family & Intercultural Resource Center Grant and Evaluation Manager Danielle McQueen wrote in an email that the average rent this past winter season for English speakers is about $1,200. She noted that this is often the rent payment for a single adult or couple. The average rent for Spanish speakers is about $1,740, which is more often for a family.

Single people and couples often opt to live with roommates to cut down on housing costs, but Julie Koster pointed out in a Facebook message that finding affordable housing for families is difficult with today’s prices.

“When you’re looking at the average of more than $1,000 per bedroom, that could work for multiple roommates,” Koster wrote. “But when your roommates are your children, that’s not a price most families can afford.”

Koster said her family has found a place to rent but doesn’t believe they will ever be able to afford to buy a home in Summit County. Koster worries the home her family rents might be put on the market, which she called a “constant cause for concern.”

Family & Intercultural Resource Center Executive Director Brianne Snow said she has heard from a lot of renters whose landlords decide to pull their home out of the long-term rental pool.

“People just aren’t renting and renewing leases,” Snow said. “Homeowners are pulling their homes off the rental market is what we’re seeing. That has various reasons: They’re either selling their house and cashing in on this really great market, or they’re deciding to work up here and move up here permanently.”

While rent prices have gone up, Snow said she thinks the issues renters are having are more due to inventory shortages.

When comparing the number of Summit County apartment rental listings in the Summit Daily News from April 1-5 in 2021 to the same five-day period in 2019, there were 19 more listings per day in 2019.

“It just seems like inventory is at an all-new low,” Snow said.

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