Eagle County real estate brokers have to adapt in sizzling market

When homes are moving fast, brokers have to work with both buyers and sellers

Compass Real Estate is the listing firm for this home on Cabin Circle in Vail.
Compass Real Estate/Special to the Daily

We’ve heard for some time that inventory is tight in the Eagle County real estate market. But the local market continues to shatter records. How is that happening?

The market through the first four months of this year is running well ahead of 2019, the full year before the COVID-19 pandemic essentially wiped out the second quarter of 2020.

Despite the talk about low inventory, deals are still being completed at a pace nearly equal to that of the second half of 2020. The second half of that year took the county’s real estate market to record highs in both transactions and dollar volume.

That strong activity has left the valley’s formal inventory low — as measured via property for sale in the county’s Multiple Listing Service.

Dan Fitchett, the Vail Valley Managing Broker for LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, said the activity is driven in large part by changing tactics used by brokers.

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Fitchett said “creative brokers” are doing a lot of work for both buyers and sellers. The current market, in which property doesn’t last long in virtually any market sector, has required brokers to change the way they work, Fitchett said.

It’s a lot of work

Once a broker has determined a buyer’s needs and wants, that broker starts prospecting for that kind of property. That includes talking with former clients and networking among friends and other brokers.

Working with buyers also requires a good bit of education and homework on the buyer’s part.

That includes getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

“(Buyers) need a letter that you’re qualified to borrow a certain amount of money,” Fitchett said. Buyers who aren’t paying cash also need to be prepared to have enough money on hand to cover any gap between a home’s appraised value and the actual price of a home.

Matt Fitzgerald, the Eagle County market president for Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, said sellers are often making deals with buyers contingent on the seller finding his or her replacement home.

Brokers have to “maintain good contact,” Fitzgerald said, adding that both buyers and sellers have to “prepare for a fast-moving transaction.”

Keeping up with a fast-movng market also requires brokers, buyers and sellers to understand values and how quickly they can change right now.

Longtime local broker Ron Byrne, owner of Ron Byrne & Associates Real Estate, said all that personal contact may be new to many brokers, but not to those at his firm.

Byrne noted that many of the transactions his firm brokers never make it to the Multiple Listing Service.

It’s person to person

Byrne has lived on Vail’s Forest Road for about 30 years. He said he often talks to his neighbors about everything from day-to-day chit-chat to increased values’ affects on property tax bills. Sometimes Byrne’s neighbors talk about their desire to sell their homes in the neighborhood.

“Sometimes we talk to somebody who’s hunting (for a home),” Byrne added.

That approach is why many of Byrne’s sales aren’t public until they show up in Eagle County’s property records.

While Eagle County’s economy has seen peaks and valleys over the decades, Fitchett said he doesn’t believe the current market is a bubble similar to the one that popped in roughly 2008.

Fitchett noted that for several years, contractors nationwide haven’t built as many homes as demand requires.

Fitchett said LIV Sotheby’s gets a lot of economic information from Chase. That firm believes that supply shortage will persist for some time.

“When the supply is dear, the price goes up,” he noted.

And, Fitchett added, many brokers have made a mistake with talk about low inventory in the valley.

“There are transactions being made — we need to put out that word,” he said.

By the numbers

$1.1 billion: Dollar value of Eagle County real estate sales through April 30, 2021.

$580 million: Dollar value of Eagle County real estate sales through April 30, 2019.

808: Real estate transactions through April 30, 2021.

506: Real estate transactions through April 30, 2019.

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