Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Rental vacancy rate falls, but still high goes here goes

The Evanston apartment vacancy rate decreased slightly in 2004 but remained close to 2003’s 20-year record high, according to a recent study.

The annual apartment rental study, conducted by Tom Murray, a commercial broker at Century 21 Universal, found that the vacancy rate dropped about from 10.3 percent in 2003 to about 8 percent in 2004.

“More people are saying, ‘Why should they pay rent when they can make equity (on homeownership) rather than getting a bill in the mail every month?'” Murray said.

Vacancies were highest, at 9.2 percent, in the southeast Evanston area bordered by Dempster Street, Chicago Avenue, South Boulevard and Lake Michigan. The lowest vacancy rates — about 7.5 percent — were found in the two areas closest to Northwestern: the north Evanston area near campus and the central/downtown Evanston area.

The average overall vacancy rate over the past ten years was 5.3 percent.

The study surveyed 279 owners of Evanston apartment buildings with ten or more units; about 70 owners responded. The survey excluded an area of west Evanston between McDaniel Avenue, Emerson Street, Dempster Street and Asbury Avenue.

While young couples and transients are still likely to look for apartments, Murray said, low mortgage rates encourage people to buy property instead to rent.

Northwestern students and their parents are taking advantage of mortgage rates as well.

“You’re finding parents buying condos for their children, and, then, after they graduate (the parents) sell it at a higher price,” Murray said. “Why pay room and board if you can buy a condo?”

Those surveyed expect the problem to persist next year.

According to the survey, rent prices in 2004 rose 1.3 percent on average and are projected to increase another 1.2 percent next year, although many of those surveyed said they expected no increase.

Murray said he expects parents to continue to buy condos as long as mortgage rates are favorable. Additionally, the availability of newer apartments tends to raise the vacancy rate, he said.

Weinberg senior Michael Jenkins, who lives at The Reserve, 1930 Ridge Ave., said safety concerns and recommendations from friends drew him to a newer apartment.

He said he was offered reduced rent as incentive to be one of The Reserve’s first tenants. A friend of his received a rent reduction for recommending the apartments, Jenkins said.

But most apartments closer to campus are older. The study’s results may indicate that off-campus students tend to stick with older apartments because the city’s lowest vacancy rates are nearest to campus.

“People are physically more attracted to (newer buildings),” Jenkins said. “But they’re more interested in the older buildings because of money constraints.”

Murray emphasized that despite the current vacancy rate, there is still a market for apartments, particularly among younger people who need temporary housing.

“If mortgage rates go up, and I think they will, people are going to start renting,” Murray said. “You’re going to reach a saturation point and run out of buyers. It’s just supply and demand.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

? Vacancy rate in 2004: 8%
? Average vacancy rate over past 10 years: 5.3%
? Vacancy rate in 2003: 10.3%

By area:
? Central/Downtown Evanston: 7.5%
? North Evanston: 7.6%
? Southeast Evanston: 9.2%
? Southwest/South Central Evanston: 7.7%

? Average rent increase in 2004: 1.3%

By area:
? Central/Downtown Evanston: 1.2%
? North Evanston: 1.9%
? Southeast Evanston: 1.2%
? Southwest/South Central Evanston: 1.0%

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