Napa County rents rose an average of 13.5 percent during the second quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter of 2014, according to data recently released by Real Facts, a real estate information service.
Napa-area residents now spend an average of $1,771 on rent, compared to $1,560 a year ago, with demand by new residents, a growing economy and the lack of inventory driving the increase, the company said.
Rents for a two-bedroom townhouse rose the most, increasing 19.3 percent year over year, to $1,700. Rents for a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment increased 16.5 percent, to $2,345. Average rents for studio apartments remained at $850.
Property owners such Napa homeowner Deborah Donahower report little difficulty renting at higher rates. Donahower has rented an extra bedroom in her Browns Valley home for more than six years. “I’m an artist; I need the income,” she said.
When she recently advertised her $800 room on Craigslist, she got 24 to 30 emails about the room, Donahower said. “No one has even blinked at $800,” she said.
“I have a lot people lined up at the door to see it,” she said. Most of those responses have been from winery harvest interns or CIA students.
Steve Bawa was advertising a three-and-a-half-bathroom townhouse on Walnut Street for $2,560 per month. He won’t have a problem renting at that price, he said.
“The market is pretty strong,” said Bawa. Between the nearly two dozen units in three different multi-family complexes that he owns, “I have zero vacancy.”
He got about 20 calls for his 2,400-square-foot townhouse. “I find that a lot people who are renting are moving to Napa from other places. Napa is growing; the jobs are here,” he said.
For example, a couple from Southern California bought a business in Mare Island. “They don’t want to live in Vallejo,” and prefer Napa instead, he said.
“Several people are calling me wanting to rent even before they’ve seen the place, because they got a new job here” and need housing immediately. Those include winery jobs or positions at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, he said.
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Bawa had advice for those looking for a rental. “You don’t have the luxury of dilly-dallying, don’t (say) ‘Let me think about for a couple days.’ See the place and bring a checkbook. They go quick. There is not enough inventory of rental homes.”
The landlord said he did not raise his rents 13.5 percent — the Real Facts average. “I might raise it $100 or $150 when they move out,” but usually not during a lease, he said.
“If a tenant is really good, they are worth it,” Bawa said.
Bawa said the most popular units are priced under $1,700 per month. “Those go like hotcakes. There are more people who can afford them.”
Mindy Wyman of Wyman Property Management agreed with the Real Facts data. “Rents definitely have skyrocketed,” she said. “There are fewer properties on the market.”
With Napa’s improving economy, more people are looking to move to Napa, she said.
“About three years ago, we started to see things turn around and it’s just gotten stronger and stronger.” In the past 12 months, Wyman said she’s seen the sharpest increase in demand and rent increases. “Demand is outweighing availability.”
Wyman said she advises her clients about the surging market. “Some really want to keep up with the market; others want to keep their tenants happy,” she said.
Her advice to someone looking to find a rental is to look everywhere. “Look at all the property management companies. Don’t limit yourself. Jump on things early. As soon as you see something, call or inquire about it.”
The largest housing project in the immediate future is 489 apartments planned for Tulocay Village on Soscol Avenue. “Inventory will be tight” until new complexes start leasing, Wyman said.