County News

It’s hard these days finding a place to rent.

That’s the consensus of some property management agents in the Verde Valley.

Nationwide, rental markets have become a hot commodity, as demand has soared. As a result, choices have become limited and rents have ballooned.

Here in the Verde Valley, the trend has been parallel, which can be particularly detrimental to those in lower income brackets.

In a recent Sedona Chamber of Commerce survey, most employers cited a lack of workforce as a main concern, and several further cited affordable housing as one of the primary reasons for not having a larger pool of workers.

Living costs are a major factor for anyone and in the case of Sedona’s service market’s need for labor, it may be impacting the available work pool.

The trend some Sedona workers have followed is to live in relatively cheaper Cottonwood, but that is changing.

“Things have been going up, that’s for sure,” said Carol Sanders, Realtor and property manager for Century 21 Sexton Realty.

Sanders said that there are so few rentals available, people have to pay higher rates as no choice is available otherwise.

Cindy Espolt, rental property manager at Coldwell Banker, agreed.

Espolt said her company manages 400 rental units, or doors, as she referred to them. The units are spread throughout the Verde Valley.

“Even though we have 400 properties that we manage, right now we only have four available,” she said. “We’ve been carrying a less than 5 percent, in some cases 2 percent, vacancy, almost for the last two years consistently.”

As of her interview on May 11, she said the cheapest unit available was a one-bedroom in Cottonwood for $625 per month. On the high end for overall units, she said it went up to $2,500 in areas like Sedona and in the area of $1,700 to $1,900 for rentals in Verde Sante Fe, in Cornville.

“We are seeing rental prices go up, and it’s not just our office,” Espolt said.

In terms of financial assistance, Espolt said that her company does not directly assist with government or other applications for rent assistance, but that they accept all properly filed paperwork.

Higher rents do benefit owners of rental properties, but Espolt said that they can be taken advantage of.

“I’ve seen people out here trying to rent units for $1,200 and $1,300 when they should be nowhere near that price tag,” she said. “Some of these families are being displaced because the owner that maybe they rent from right now are selling.”

In that case, people receive a 30-day notice to find somewhere else to live, and she said they often face a rate increase of $200 to $300 per month.

The limit of available housing has one obvious answer — increasing the number of units through new construction, and Sanders was confident that they would fill quickly, given that some moving in or relocating are on waiting lists to get into certain complexes.

Espolt said that her company had taken on brand-new units, but that has also been canceled out by the number of landlords looking to sell their property outright, leaving her bottom line relatively flat in terms of units.

In terms of new construction costs vs. potential profit, there are many variables developers have to consider, such as permitting, land value, target demographics, units per acre and so forth, making an average build-to-return ratio difficult to attain and not indicative of why or why not people decide to build. However, the total amount of land available in the Verde Valley is limited in areas, particularly in Sedona city limits and due to large expanses of National Forest land.

In Cottonwood, there are a couple developments coming down the pike, however. The 12th Street Ridgecrest Townhomes and 89 & Vine by developer Brookfield Homes across from Verde Sante Fe are two examples.

Jackson Kinsi Constructors President Bill Jackson, who is in charge of the Ridgecrest development with co-owner Roy Daniels, was optimistic of his new homes and cited boosting the local economy as another incentive for him in a previous story.

Both Sedona and Cottonwood have taken a more hands-off approach to housing. Sedona has an affordable housing fund totaling $270,000.

“These funds may only be spent for activities that directly support the creation and maintenance of affordable housing in Sedona, such as down payment assistance, land acquisition and low-interest loans,” a city report states.

The fund, however, is used primarily to alleviate fees, not bring in more construction, as the City Council prior to the current one had stated it is not in the housing business.

Rehabilitation and other uses, such as education on the subject, have also been presented to council and reviewed, though the total amount is somewhat small when compared to real estate costs.

Cottonwood has no such fund and City Manager Doug Bartosh said the area has developed well without one. He also cited the Verde Lynx bus system as a way that the city teams with Sedona to help commuting workers, many of whom are lower-income workers.


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