MISSOULA — As University of Montana students return to Missoula, rental applications are piling up. Property management groups say they're seeing increasing applications, and the lowest vacancy rates they've seen in the past decade.
Heather Schwenk with Missoula Property Management said of the about 1,600 units it manages, only one is ready to rent.
"We hear a lot of them complaining about how difficult it is to get into something right now," she said. "It's expensive to apply. There's a cost to pull reports and everything, so if they're applying to multiple places and are unable to secure anything it gets expensive.
"It's just crazy, I don't know."
Schwenk said she's never seen anything like this in all her years in Missoula. She said usually there are about 50 or 60 units available, but the last time she checked the vacancy rate was less than 1%, around .005%.
Paul Burow with Professional Property Management said prior to this summer, Missoula's overall vacancy rate was around 3%.
"I feel really bad for anybody that has some kind of rental issue or poor credit history, it's just going to be really hard for them," Burow said.
Burow said a good vacancy rate for other housing markets is about 8%. And it's not just that there are no apartments.
"We were begging people to not apply," said Burow.
Schwenk said she currently has about 140 applicants waiting for something to open. Burow said earlier this summer he had 124 applicants for 28 properties, and currently has zero units available.
"This is with the university down 5,000 kids or so than it used to be. If that ever gets turned around, imagine that problem," Burow said.
The companies attribute the issue to people moving in from out of state, lack of options, and people staying in their leases for longer due to the pandemic.
Burow suggests having your rental references ready before you go to apply, and asking how many other people are applying for a place. He also said he wants to see more units being built, so the burden doesn't all fall on the renters.