Apartments are harder to find and more expensive to rent in New Hampshire this year.

Vacancy rates have dipped to 3.2 percent statewide for two-bedroom apartments, the largest category of rental units in the state, reports the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

A rate in the low-3 percent range indicates that available units are becoming more difficult to find, according to state housing officials, who note that a balanced market would have vacancy rates between 4 percent and 5 percent.

The state’s vacancy rate for two-bedroom apartments has been declining since 2009 when it was 4.7 percent.

The increased demand and limited availability of two-bedroom apartments has led to an increase in rents. The median monthly gross rent has risen to more than 3 percent during the past year, reaching $1,085 per month, including utilities, according to the housing finance agency, which keeps a close eye on multifamily housing conditions. New Hampshire Housing administers the low-income housing tax credit and a number of other programs to help developers build affordable housing and assist low- and moderate-income families obtain housing.

“The survey results are not surprising,” said Executive Director Dean Christon in a statement. “Given the foreclosure activity over the past few years, greater numbers of former homeowners have entered the rental market, and this has naturally caused rental rates to rise.”

The most significant increases appear in Grafton, Carroll, and Belknap counties, and in the cities of Manchester and Nashua.

The study is conducted each April by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and New Hampshire Housing. The 2012 survey compares information on 32,494 market-rate rental units across the state.

“The Residential Rental Cost Survey” provides a comprehensive picture of the status of rental housing in New Hampshire. The report is available at