Durango apartments had the sixth-highest rent in Colorado in a recent survey of rentals throughout the state.
The average monthly rent in Durango was $829.31 during the first three months of 2009. That was up 3.9 percent from $798.33 during the same period in 2008.
The price is an average for efficiency, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.
Only Aspen, Eagle County, Glenwood Springs, Fort Collins and Summit County were more expensive. Eagle County was the priciest, with rent averaging $1,070. Aspen was second at $1,032.
While rent rose in Durango, so did the vacancy rate. The University of Denver study found a 6.1 percent vacancy rate, up from 4.5 percent during the first quarter of 2008. Five percent is considered to be the market equilibrium, the study said.
Statewide, vacancies rose from 8.1 percent to 8.5 percent.
University of Denver business professor Gordon E. Von Stroh, who conducted the survey, said renters are trying to save money wherever they can.
"People are just becoming a little bit more conservative. If they can save a few dollars by rooming with someone else, they're doing that," he said.
Some renters are trading down to cheaper apartments, particularly in metropolitan areas, he said.
The study, released Thursday, surveyed apartment managers, owners and property managers in 17 major market areas in Colorado. Durango, which had 652 units included in the survey, was the only Southwest Colorado community surveyed. The data are released twice a year, for the first quarter and third quarter.
Several local apartment managers declined to comment or did not return messages Friday.
Von Stroh said property owners are seeing reduced returns from their rental units.
"Many of the owners, they're getting pinched because of the costs of doing business," Von Stroh said. "We've seen this across the state, where the cost of doing business has increased, but the return hasn't increased."
Insurance, water and electricity costs have all increased, Von Stroh said.