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Is Vail Valley’s home market ready for a bounce?

By the numbers

$114 million: August sales volume of Eagle County real estate.

162: Number of closed real estate sales in August.

25: Home sales in Eagle and Gypsum in August.

2: Sales of $5 million or more.

Source: Land Title Guarantee Company

EAGLE COUNTY — The local real estate market continues to strengthen from the depths of the local and national economic slump, but that recovery can be slow at times.

Looking at the most recent numbers from Land Title Guarantee Co., which tracks completed sales recorded with Eagle County, August was a good example of a decent month. Compared to August of 2013, there were slightly fewer sales for the same period this year, but those sales generated a bit more revenue.



AUGUST PART OF TREND

August’s numbers reflect the trend seen so far this year. Through the first eight months of the year, overall unit sales are down 6 percent from 2013, while sales volume has increased by 28 percent.



Those numbers reflect a couple of trends at work.

First, prices seem to be firming up and increasing somewhat. Second, fewer units selling for more money also indicates a relative lack of inventory, especially for units priced at $400,000 or less.



LOCATION VS. SIZE

Laurie Slaughter for a number of years has managed the Gypsum office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties. Slaughter said that the market is still a bit soft for homes priced at $400,000 or more. That could be due to the fact that homes at that price begin to compete with condos, townhomes and duplexes in the middle of the valley. Those buyers may be choosing the convenience of location over the extra space available in the western valley.

On the other hand, Slaughter said she’s seeing couples move into bigger homes in the lower valley once they start having kids or having more kids.

FEWER HOMES ON MARKET

First-time buyers, though, tend to find better prices in Eagle and Gypsum. At the moment, though, there just isn’t much on the market. The foreclosure wave that hit the county between about 2009 and 2012 has crested, so there are fewer homes on the market. The homes that are for sale are generally more expensive than they were a couple of years ago.

While there’s a good bit of pent-up demand, Slaughter said not much is being built right now.

Some concerted building would probably stabilize prices somewhat, she said.

And prices are driving virtually all of the market these days, from first-time townhomes to slopeside mansions.

THIS IS THE YEAR

Jim Flaum is a partner and managing broker at Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, the valley’s biggest brokerage. Flaum said at the beginning of this year that 2014 would be the year that prices started to inch up after about six years of declining or flat numbers.

Given the Land Title numbers, that seems to be happening. Flaum said buyers today are still focused in large part on price.

“In the old days (say, 2006), it was more about the property,” Flaum said.

The very high end of the market — from about $2.5 million on up — remains an up-and-down proposition. Those few sales make up a substantial part of the dollar volume every month.

In August, there were six sales for $2.5 million or more. Just two of those sales — the two averaged right at $8 million each — accounted for a full 15 percent of the month’s dollar volume.

Flaum said most high-dollar sales come during ski season. But, he said, after a “so-so” July and a similar August, several of those high-end sales will wind up in the county’s records in the next couple of months.

“We wrote some pretty nice deals in September — for about $18 million on Rockledge Road (in Vail),” Flaum said. “It’ll be interesting to see the numbers when they come out.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.


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