EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The latest news out of the local real estate market continues to show slow improvement from the depths of the real estate bust. This time the news has to do with inventory and homes under contract.
At the top of the market - 2006 - there was a small gap - fewer than 250 units - between those numbers. In the depths of the bust, that gap was a chasm more than 1,600 units deep. That divide has recently been cut roughly in half, for the best spread since 2008.
Prudential Colorado Properties broker Larry Agneberg recently e-mailed that chart to clients and others, and said there are a few reasons the valley's available real estate inventory is starting to shrink a bit.
The number of sales has reduced available inventory, Agneberg said. Meanwhile, other people - especially in the resort markets - have tired of waiting for the market to settle out.
And, after riding out the depths of the market, there's been at least a slight return of "passion buyers" - people with the means to do so who buy a place simply because they've fallen in love with it.
Doug Landin, past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors, said he recently had his first "passion buyer" in some time, but might have another couple on his client list.
On the other side of the transaction equation, some sellers have decided it's time to move on - others, of course, have little choice in the matter. But, Agneberg said, others who don't have to sell are continuing to wait, which further lowers the number of homes available.
Despite the continuing reluctance of people who don't have to sell to put their units on the market, Landin said he's seen more people this year move from being owners to sellers. Those who are sellers, for whatever reason, will have to accept lower prices for their property.
"I don't foresee prices going up for a while - and I'm not sure what 'a while' is," Landin said.
Still, property is moving - not at peak speeds or prices, but moving nonetheless.
Agneberg has been selling real estate in the valley since the early 1980s, and has seen peaks and valleys before. Still, he's not ready to say what a "normal" market looks like these days.
"With the economy the way it is, we may have to throw 'normal' out the window," he said.
But Agneberg and Landin both said they're cautiously encouraged by this year's sales, and the market's prospects moving forward.
"When I look at the Vail Valley market, I'd much rather be here than in Telluride, Crested Butte or Steamboat," Agneberg said.
Landin, like many others in his business, maintains a glass-half-full viewpoint.
"I'm looking forward to a good winter and (business) getting better," he said. "We're seeing fewer price reductions in the resorts and inventory is down - that's a good thing."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.