EAGLE COUNTY — Real estate was long one of the strong legs of the valley’s economy, but starting in 2009 that leg ranged anywhere from “incapacitated” to “OK, but not great.” That leg showed some real strength in January.
The big news isn’t the number of transactions — although that exceeded the total for January of 2013 — but the value of those sales.
According to the most recent figures from Land Title Guarantee Co., the 107 completed transactions in January had a value of $103.1 million, a 69 percent jump from January of 2013.
That increase was helped by an increase in the number of seven- or eight-figure sales. There were 10 sales of $2 million or more in January. After a relatively soft year for sales of expensive homes, that comes as good news. And there may be more expensive-home sales coming in the next few months.
Slifer Smith & Frampton, the valley’s biggest brokerage, keeps daily track of sales that go under contract — a different measure than completed sales, but an indicator of market activity. Jim Flaum, the managing partner of Slifer Smith & Frampton, said the numbers so far this year have been encouraging.
Flaum said the market for homes priced at $3 million and higher has become much stronger this year. In January and February of 2013, company brokers wrote four contracts for homes in that price range. In the first two months of this year, 40 such contracts have been written. For the period between Jan. 1 and March 19, Flaum said the number of contracts for homes priced above $3 million has more than doubled from the same period in 2013.
Flaum is on record as predicting this year will be the year the local real estate market starts to show some real strength, and said the numbers seem to back up that belief.
“What we’re hearing is that people who have been successful kept their powder dry for a while,” Flaum said. “Now they’re saying ‘screw it’ (and buying) — people are tired of being on the sidelines.”
Real Estate Trifecta
Still, the expensive properties that are selling are the ones that combine value, amenities and location.
Craig Denton, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, he’s been busy this ski season, as have other people he knows in the business. Denton — who specializes in resort real estate, said the units he’s seen on the sales lists have been either new or substantially remodeled. Some of those units have also dropped in price.
“We’ve seen units listed at $3.2 (million) dropped to $2.8,” he said. And, Denton said, while the current activity is nice to see, the market isn’t nearly what it was in the heady days of 2007 or so.
While the market isn’t yet on the same frantic pace it was at the peak of the last boom, the real estate market is booming elsewhere. Real estate is hot along the Front Range, and Flaum said on a recent trip to Southern California, people in the business there told him that prices and activity were back to 2007 levels.
That isn’t happening here, at least not yet. Still, the lower end of the market is as active as it’s been in some time. With the passing of the flood of foreclosures and other sales in Eagle and Gypsum, inventory is limited. The March 20 Vail Daily had only 12 real estate photo classifieds for Eagle, and just two in Gypsum. That’s led to some increasing prices and a definite pull toward the “demand” side of supply and demand.
But, while things are looking up for local real estate market, Denton urged caution, saying his company was a bit less active in the high-end market in February and March.
“Buyers are selective,” Denton said. “Not any old property will sell.”
“What we’re hearing is that people who have been successful kept their powder dry for a while. Now they’re saying ‘screw it’ (and buying) — people are tired of being on the sidelines.”
Managing partner of Slifer Smith & Frampton