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For sale today, gone tomorrow

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyEagle County real estate transactions had another record month in March.

EAGLE COUNTY – There seems no end to the number of buyers willing to pay top dollar to live part or full-time in Eagle County. That demand – and a strong buyer’s market – is driving prices that haven’t before been seen in the local real estate market. Last month was another record month – the 11th consecutive – with 311 separate transactions totaling $202 million. More than 20 percent, or $41 million, of the month’s total was generated by just seven sales. Statistics on monthly transactions are compiled by Land Title.March sales demonstrated how much well-heeled buyers of resort property are willing to pay for a slopeside residence. The largest home dollar and sizewise – a 10,357-square-foot, five bedroom, seven-bath home in exclusive Bachelor Gulch – sold for $11.5 million, or about $1,110 per square-foot. But that’s not the only place where real estate is fetching top dollar. A 1,977 square-foot condo slopeside in Vail Village sold for $5.25 million, or $2,655 per square-foot.The other end of the market was smoking-hot as continued low interest rates fueled $81 million in buying by people purchasing residences priced at $1 million and under. Those 193 sales accounted for 57 percent of all transactions logged in March. The average price of property sold during the month to $766,769. For owners of property priced at less than $500,000 – entry-level by Eagle County standards – the average sales price was $304,369. The average sales price in the $500,000 to $1 million price range was $693,276.Inventory droppingProperties are often selling within a day of being listed if they’re properly priced, said Michael Slevin of Prudential Gore Range Properties. There also are often multiple bids on properties. That means potential purchasers of property have to do their homework and prepare for a possible purchase in advance by qualifying for financing and making offers that are preferable to sellers, Slevin said.

“You need to put your best foot forward,” he said. “Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before making an offer.”All that demand is trimming the number of properties for sale, causing the prices of real estate to jump. The Vail Board of Realtors’ multi-listing service that tracks available properties showed 572 residences for sale on Monday. That’s about half of what it was 18 months ago.”Strong demand combined with ever-tightening inventory will continue to push prices higher in these premium markets,” said Led Gardner of Sonnenalp Real Estate, adding that some properties in Vail are being sold for $2,000 or more per square foot.The unprecedented demand for resort real estate isn’t isolated to just Eagle County. It’s global, real estate insiders said, and it’s being driven by a trio of factors.”Interest rates are still at historic lows, there is a continuing supply of baby boomers (with disposable income) and existing owners of resort property are upgrading to new residences,” said Slevin.Equity refugeesCombine the tight housing supply with the fact that there are 650 real estate brokers in the county – more brokers than property, at the moment – and it makes for a highly competitive real estate sales environment.”It’s a bit of a dogfight for listings right now,” Slevin said. “It’s very competitive. It’s not so much that properties aren’t coming on the multilist, they’re just coming under contract so quickly.”For sellers, it’s both blessing and curse, said Bob West, a broker who has worked in Beaver Creek since 1981.

“Unless sellers are leaving the community they are having a hard time finding a property to move up into,” he said. “New buyers are having a tough time finding listings.”The escalating prices also have driven demand westward. In Eagle and Gypsum – between the first quarter of 2004 and the first quarter of 2005 – sales have boomed and are up 100 percent, Slevin said.”Downvalley growth is enormous right now,” he said.The demand there consists of locals seeking affordable housing and people taking inflated equity from homes upvalley and turning it into affordable mortgages on property downvalley, he said. These “equity refugees” are buying housing with no or small mortgage payments.End in sight?Don’t look for the stream of free-spending resort-real estate buyers to slow to a trickle any time soon. The cash-rich Baby Boom generation may continue to flood the market with buyers for a decade or longer. There are 66 properties priced at $3 million or more that are now under contract with closings set over the next 24 months, Gardner said.And the supply of new property should continue, too.Vail has begun a five-year, $1 billion downtown renovation and Minturn is preparing for a luxury 1,400-unit slopeside and golf course community valued in excess of $1 billion. More residential and commercial development is planned near Eagle and Gypsum.

Some of those proposed properties have been sold even before a single shovel-full of dirt has been moved, Gardner said.==========================================Real estate boomFact: March real estate sales totaled $202 millionComparison: That’s 121 percent of last March’s salesDemand: Fueled by low interest rates and demand for resort property==========================================Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado