'Sweet spot' for rental pricing is about $1,200 to $1,300 a month and many homes occupied shortly after move-out occurs

 - Rental vacancy is seemingly improving from the past two to three years, but homes are still in much higher demand than local inventory can supply.

Prineville doesn't seem to face the same rental vacancy crisis it had in recent years, but renters still struggle to find affordable local homes.

In 2014, local rental vacancy became all but nonexistent, leaving people virtually no options if they wanted to rent a home in Crook County. That problem persisted in the two years that followed and was further exacerbated by an influx of data center construction workers in search of temporary housing.

Attempts to create more affordable housing opportunities by city and county leaders have helped incentivize developers to build lower-income housing units, and more developments are planned going forward.

Meanwhile, it seems that the rental market has seen improvement in vacancy rates.

"We feel the market has improved over the past few years," observes Dawn Rothenbucher, who owns Prineville-based Wild West Property Management. "We are pleased to be placing tenants into their new homes each month."

While that is the case, demand continues to outpace rental supply, and it doesn't take long for a tenant to fill a recently vacated property.

"We still don't have very much," said Toni O'Hara, who owns locally based Viking Property Management. "When we do get a notice to move out, we have it rented before the tenant's 30-day notice is up, or soon afterward, as long as (the rental) is not too expensive."

For Rothenbucher, it has taken a bit longer in the past month to find tenants, but she points out that December is historically a slow month for rentals.

"There is still a demand," she remarked.

How quickly a property is rented also depends on how it is priced. O'Hara has found that people are not willing to spend beyond $1,400 for a rental home, and if the property owner asks for that much or more, the home will sit vacant.

"We had one that sat for almost two months because it was $1,400 and it just wasn't working out," she recalls. "So we lowered it and got someone right away."

While some property owners have rented two-bedroom homes for as low as $900, O'Hara has found that the pricing sweet spot ranges from $1,200 to $1,300.

"Usually the best is around $1,200," she remarked.

Rothenbucher has likewise found that most rental activity occurs when homes are priced at $1,200 a month or less. While that is true, she has seen some property owners push for more.

"We find that many landlords have begun using Zillow to determine the fair market value, which doesn't help the rental market," she said. "It is our observation that Zillow overprices rental rates, at least for the Prineville market."

Despite market changes that appear to favor prospective tenants, the current climate still leaves many people without a viable option. O'Hara notes that some people call hoping that they will find a rental for $800 a month or less, while others call on a weekly basis to see if anything new is available.

"It is just so hard when we don't have much," she said.

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