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Buyers gobbling up valley real estate

Cliff Thompson

EAGLE COUNTY – Buyers entering the smoking-hot real estate market here are gobbling up the real estate at a record pace and driving prices sharply upward. It’s a classic seller’s market that may re-ignite development pressure.Real estate and development activity during the booming ’90s peaked in 1999, then dipped by more than 20 percent after the recession of 2000 and terrorism of Sept. 11. With demand curtailed, the amount of land and residences listed for sale grew. But the pendulum has swung. In Dec. 2001 there were 1,205 residences and 469 parcels of land for sale, according to statistics generated by local realty giant Slifer, Smith & Frampton from local property listings.As of Dec. 5, the amount of real estate listed for sale had dropped 37 percent to 752 residential listings and 370 pieces of land. Real estate-sales activity this year is expected to set a record of more than $2 billion in property sold.For buyers and sellers that means higher prices and for developers, it means more opportunity – but at a price.Fixer-uppers inflated? Real estate prices countywide have jumped 16 percent in the last year, said Led Gardner of Sonnenalp Real Estate in Vail. Leading the pricing increase is Vail Village, where the average price per-sale has jumped 65 percent to $672,000, he said. In Beaver Creek the average price has jumped 52 percent to $536,000, he said.”We’re seeing big jumps in price,” Gardner said. “It’s purely from a lack of inventory. If you find a property that meets all your criteria you need to buy it now because it might not be available in March.”The demand/supply situation also is causing older properties, many of them fixer-uppers, to sell for a premium, Gardner said.”A lot of secondary properties that might have languished in earlier markets are commanding prices that you might not expect,” he said.But the heaviest activity is at the bottom of the market, in starter or entry-level homes priced at $500,000 and less. In 2001 there were 481 of the entry-level properties listed for sale, but by this December that number had decreased by 40 percent to 290.Real estate experts say lingering low interest rates have allowed more renters to purchase homes.In the next market segment, property priced from $500,000 to $1 million, the same thing happened. The number of properties listed went from 299 in 2001 to 149 in 2004, a 51 percent decrease.At the loftiest end of the economic spectrum, the number of luxury properties priced in excess of $5 million – many of the “second” homes – remained stable at 50 in 2001 and this year, statistics show.Market makes U-turnThe sales boom is priming the pump for a development boom in Vail and Lionshead over the next six years, where more than $1 billion in property will be built and renovated as part of the so-called “Vail Renaissance.” It includes largely slopeside properties like Vail’s “Front Door,” a $75 million slopeside redevelopment where the mountain and Bridge Street meet. Renovations also are planned at The Crossroads Shopping Center and the old Vail Village Inn.Lionshead will also see significant construction. The old gondola building – now home to Vail Resorts offices and a nightclub, among others – will become a luxury hotel and commercial complex. There will also be development at the other end of Lionshead near the Marriott Mountain Resort.The renewed focus on Vail is a reversal of a decades-long trend that saw the heaviest building to west.”For the last 25 years we saw most of the marketing and buyer interest go downvalley,” Gardner said. “Now the market has made a U-turn.”In Avon a new development at the 18-acre confluence site along the Eagle River is being planned. Part of that is expected to be a chairlift or gondola that will connect Beaver Creek and Avon via a series now-operating lifts in Bachelor Gulch. A lift would likely boost surrounding properties values become it would become more convenient to get to the slopes on Beaver Creek Mountain, real estate professionals said.Up to 30 dwelling units per-acre can be built on the confluence, according to town of Avon officials.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail Colorado


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