Eagle County bankers see slowing economy, strong recovery | VailDaily.com

Eagle County bankers see slowing economy, strong recovery

Melanie Wong
Eagle County, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyGlenn Davis, of Alpine Bank, right, answers a question during "A View from the Front Lines", a session during the economic forum on Thursday.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Local bankers predicted tough times for the valley’s real estate and construction economies, but the experts said they were optimistic the economy in Eagle County, Colorado would bounce back.

While many agree that the resort economy tends to be less affected by economic downturns than the rest of the country, Eagle County can expect some loss of jobs, stalled real estate market and changed lending practices, said several financial experts at an economic symposium held in Beaver Creek on Thursday.

“With the stock market being pushed so significantly, I think we’ll see more effect (on Eagle County) than we would like,” said Kevin Brubeck, market president of American National Bank Eagle Valley. “I think we have to be realistic that it’s going to be a rough ride.”

Because the valley’s economy is closely tied to real estate and development, bankers predicted that all levels of the county would be affected ” and it will continue to get worse before it is over.

“In some way or fashion, we’re all connected to the real estate economy,” Brubeck said. “I suspect we’ll see (the slow down) continue a little while longer. We’ll see some foreclosures. We’ll lose some people ” some tradesman will have to leave the valley.”

A slower real estate market will be accompanied by and a drop in home sale prices, too, said County Assessor Mark Chapin.

In 2006, there were 859 sales of single-family homes, compared to 300 so far this year, Chapin said.

Sales prices of homes have dropped but not significantly ” the median sales price for homes in the county is $775,000.

However, Chapin thinks some drop is coming, and he’s seen a stop in new development also.

“Building permits have slid about a third, and it looks like it’s going to continue to decline,” he said.

A new era of tougher lending practices will mean that it will be more difficult for local residents to buy homes.

“We’ve reverted to traditional mortgage writing now,” said Alpine Bank Regional President Glenn Davis. “It will make it that much more challenging to sell housing at an attainable affordable level.”

With no more sub-prime lending, buyers will have to put much more down, said Mary Randall, president of the Vail and Edwards Millennium Banks.

“According to the last numbers I saw, 14 percent of all mortgages in Eagle County were sub-prime,” she said. “However, it might get people into the right-priced homes. That’s a problem we have in this country ” people living above their means.”

However, the times of easy loans might have helped many local residents purchase homes who may not have been able to otherwise.

“Not every single one of those sub-prime people had checkered financial histories,” Davis said.

Many sub-prime buyers who may have a difficult time qualifying for a loan now, may have made sacrifices to make their mortgages, he said.

Despite the gloomy forecast, experts said they thought Eagle County would recover quickly and strongly.

Local projects that have already begun construction will continue despite the economic downturn, keeping some workers employed, Davis said.

“I think there’s a lot of good news here locally,” he said.

Also, the area is an attractive place that will continue to draw visitors and people who want to call the area home, Brubeck said.

“This is not the first recession I’ve seen here,” he said. “This valley is very resilient.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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