After weathering apartment crunches in boom times over the years, Elko now has enough apartments to more than meet demand.
New construction in the past five years has added hundreds of apartments, and the Ruby Vista Apartments development still has more to be finished in the near future.
The abundance of rentals has spurred competition that is stabilizing or bringing down rents, as well as spurring incentives to fill vacancies, but apartment complex managers and real estate experts have differing opinions on whether apartment developers have overbuilt in Elko.
“It’s a renters’ market right now. You see for-rent signs all over town,” said Sandy Wakefield of Sandy’s Castles, which manages 265 rental properties in Elko, Spring Creek and Carlin. “We have more rentals than needed right now.”
Still, she said she didn’t believe Elko was overbuilt on apartments because “it’s not like the market is not moving. If we were overbuilt, we wouldn’t have people looking.”
Rather, she said the number of rentals in the area has led to more competition so rents are coming down and landlords are being forced to spruce up their places to rent them.
Wakefield said three-bedroom places are renting well, better than smaller places; however, large houses that rent for more than $2,000 a month aren’t moving.
Longtime broker Jim Winer, owner of Coldwell Banker Algerio/Q Team Realty, said there is an over-supply of rentals as evidenced by vacancy signs, stabilized and even lowered rents and incentives.
“If there was an under-supply, rents would go up, up, up,” he said.
“I don’t think Elko is overbuilt,” said Madisen Gerz, community manager for the new Ruby Vista Apartments, but she added that the rental market always has fluctuations.
The Ruby Vista Apartments at 2642 East Jennings Way are luxury apartments that meet the needs of those looking for extras, such as granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, full-size washers and dryers, a pool, hot tub and clubhouse and basic cable and WiFi.
Ruby Vista has four buildings — 48 units — finished and all occupied, and people are applying for apartments in the next six buildings. The complex will have 120 units then, although there is potential for more down the road.
“At this time, we have no move-in specials. We’re a brand new property, really unlike anything else offered in the Elko area,” Gerz said.
A good portion of her renters are in the mining industry, but there are also renters moving from other complexes and older couples who have sold their homes and want to rent rather than have housing maintenance and upkeep to worry them, she said.
Two-bedroom apartments are $1,345 a month and three bedrooms $1,595 a month. Square footage ranges from 1,157 to 1,332 feet.
The apartments still being completed at Ruby Vista were permitted prior to this year. Jeremy Draper, development manager for the City of Elko, said there have been no applications so far this year for multi-family dwellings, but permits for 589 units were issued over the past five years.
“The big years were 2012, 177 units; 2013, 108 units; and 2014, 172 units,” he said.
Cathy Rich, manager of the Parkway Apartments at 101 Spruce Road, said Elko is “overloaded on apartments right now,” with not that many construction workers coming to town.
She said Parkway rents went down “a little” so a two-bedroom is $795 a month, and the large two-bedroom and the three-bedroom units are $825 a month.
“I can adjust rates to stay full,” Rich said, explaining that newer apartment complexes can’t lower rent because there are more costs and mortgages to pay. Parkway has 100 units.
Parkway had four vacancies earlier this week, but one is pre-rented.
Rich said she doesn’t need to offer incentives because “word of mouth has always been good.”
Parkway doesn’t allow pets, but one of the incentives at several complexes is that they are dog-friendly.
Kelly Zornes, manager of the newer Copperwood Apartments on North Fifth Street, agreed that Copperwood “can’t really lower rents because we have all our bills and mortgage to pay. We’re not even two years old.”
One-bedroom apartments rent for $1,015, two-bedrooms, $1,225, and three-bedrooms, $1,335, but the rent includes internet service and Direct TV. One building is designated for people with pets.
Copperwood’s occupancy stays pretty steady, but the complex has never been fully occupied because “the boom left before we finished the building. I feel we are overbuilt, to be honest,” Zornes said.
The complex has 108 units, and there are apartments available, as well as incentives, she said.
At Monte Carlo Apartments at 505 Copper St., assistant manager Noel Vaculin said “things are going well.” The complex has 26 vacancies out of 176 units and is offering a 13-month lease with free rent the first month.
There are two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments available but no one-bedrooms. Rents are down 10 percent off the market rate, she said. The complex promotes its pet-friendly environment.
A one-bedroom goes for $815 a month, two-bedrooms are $880 to $905 a month, and three-bedrooms $975. The three bedroom is down $105 and the two bedroom is down $95.
Vaculin said a number of renters leave to buy houses.
“I think they are building more places to live than we have people here,” Vaculin said.
At the Villas at Riverside at 1525 Opal Drive, which started out as two buildings of condos turned into rentals and has since added five more buildings, property manager Debra Long said there is a 84 percent occupancy rate in the first phase and 90 percent in the second phase, partly because there are units being repainted and getting new carpet. All total there are 154 rental units, and the complex offers a gym and pool.
Long said she originally thought Elko apartments were overbuilt, but she is seeing a number of people moving into town from Montana and Wyoming so she is questioning her original thought. The Villas have eight corporate contracts for apartments, which helps keep the vacancy rate low.
She said she is offering an incentive, however. If renters sign a year’s lease for a three-bedroom apartment, they pay $1,195 a month instead of $1,295 for 1,260 square feet. For the two-bedroom apartments, which rent for $1,100 a month on the middle floor and $1,150 for the top and bottom floors, renters can get the first month free for a 12-month lease. First month on a 12-month lease also is free for one-bedrooms at $975 top and bottom floors and $950 middle floor.
The Villas has two buildings that are pet friendly.
Gena Sirkel, property manager for the Rabbitbrush Run Apartments at 3705 Sundance Drive, said the market “fluctuates pretty quickly. Five minutes from now it can be a different story. That’s the nature of Elko. The price of gold goes up and things pick up.” She said she is seeing an improvement the last couple of months.
Rabbitbrush was financed by Barrick Gold Corp. and Barrick had first right of refusal on the apartments, but Sirkel said now the apartments are open to everyone.
Rabbitbrush has 192 units in 16 buildings, and “everything is fairly new,” she said. There are few vacancies, five to six in two-bedrooms and one or two in three bedrooms, and there have been no specials since last year. Half the buildings are pet friendly.
A two-bedroom rents for $1,020 a month, and a three-bedroom apartment is $1,180 a month. The smallest is a two-bedroom with two bathrooms.
The new apartment construction has had an impact on the income-restricted apartment complexes, according to Christine Drake of Weststates Property Management. She manages the Sage West and Diana Arms apartments.
“We used to have a waiting list,” she said, explaining that renters are now going into the newer apartments with a roommate rather than the “standard apartments,” such as Sage West, Diana Arms and Quail Run and River’s Edge.
There are nine vacancies at Quail Run out of 60 units. A three-bedroom is $875. The other two complexes also have vacancies.
Drake said she thinks developers overbuilt apartments in Elko.
Most apartment managers said many of those moving out are buying homes.
Zornes said low interest rates and new subdivisions are enticing. She said Copperwood offers six-month leases, which appeals to those looking to buy a house.
Houses are still being built in the area. Winer said Great Basin Estates has started “more affordable” houses and plans 81 “eventually, as demands call for it.” The model homes are on Clarkson Drive, just off 12th Street. There also are homes being built at Hamilton Stage and at Peace Park, as well as off Mountain City Highway.
“It’s a nice, healthy market,” he said, although commercial properties are flat.
The average price of a home in the multiple-listing area of Elko, Spring Creek, Carlin and Wells was $237,484 for Jan. 1 to Sept. 1, compared with $228,034 in the same period last year, “so prices are up 4 percent, which is indicative of a reasonable, healthy increase,” Winer said.
Elko County Association of Realtors President Theresa Meyer said houses were on the market 164 days in Elko this year, compared with 147 days last year, while houses were on the market in Spring Creek 165 days, compared with 173 days from January to Sept. 1 of last year.
Elko vs. Spring Creek
Meyer is in Coldwell’s Spring Creek satellite office, and she said houses seem to be selling better in Spring Creek than Elko. Elko has a five-month supply of houses, while Spring Creek has 4.3 months. That means the time until all houses would be sold if no new ones came on the market.
Wakefield said she believes “people are making more of a commitment now” to Elko now that there is more to do and more stores. “Five-six years ago, people didn’t want to commit to live here.” She said roughly 60 to 65 percent of renters who move out are buying houses.
She also is optimistic because more homeowners who buy bigger homes in the area are keeping their other homes as rentals, which is another sign people are staying in Elko.
Looking back, an article in the Free Press on July 1, 2011, stated that the majority of apartment complexes and rental properties had waiting lists and people were living in motels.
“A lot of people who are calling say they are living in motels. We get five to 15 calls a day for apartments,” Parkway’s Rich was quoted as saying in the 2011 article.
A Jan. 17, 2010, article also reported apartments were filling up quickly.
Sagecrest Apartments, which has 208 units, reported in the 2010 story that it was 98 percent full. Sagecrest didn’t return a call by deadline for this article.