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Lots of home buyers, sellers

Cliff Thompson

When Graham Danzoll, 34, and Teressa Bendixen, 32, decided to get married, they, like other young couples, took another step that has helped a local industry boom: They purchased a townhome in Eagle.

“We found the right place that we really liked,” Bendixen said. “It was nicer than the place we were renting. I didn’t believe the mortgage would be the same as rent, but it was.”

Danzoll said he has paid rent for nine years and decided it was time to pay for his own mortgage before the economy and interest rates for mortgages take off. Interest rates have been hovering near historic lows, and are driving home purchases.

“I decided it was a good time not to be paying someone else’s mortgage,” he said.

Danzoll, an advertising account executive, and Bendixen, who is an administrative assistant for an Eagle development company, are planning a June marriage, and are like many people locally who have decided to stop paying rent and get a place of their own.

It’s a trend that’s happening across the country as home ownership is equaling its all-time high of 72.6 million homeowners, according to recently released U.S. Housing and Urban Development statistics.

Locally, the number of people purchasing entry level housing has skyrocketed, adding fuel to what is a red-hot real estate market that’s reacting to an improving national economy with record-setting sales activity.

Still hot

In Eagle County the hottest market seems to be sales of exclusive, top-dollar resort properties, which propelled March residential real-estate transactions to a new record of $160 million.

It’s the eighth straight month of torrid real estate sales activity – following a 24-month lull – and March’s total is up 147 percent from last year, when real estate sales were chilled by the ongoing war in Iraq and totaled just $109 million on 176 transactions.

March was the fourth-best month, dollar-wise, ever posted.

Sales were boosted by one Vail Village home that sold for $3.8 million while five sales in exclusive Bachelor Gulch contributed $12.9 million and one sale in Mountain Star accounted for $3.5 million.

The best was May 2000 when $179 million worth of real estate was bought and sold. The lowest monthly total since then was February 2002’s $80.4 million.

What’s behind it

So what’s driving people to purchase first or second residences in Eagle County – a combination of things, local real estate professionals said.

Low interest rates are driving sales of entry-level housing, an improving national economy is putting more money in circulation, and there may be pent-up demand leftover from the chill of war and uncertainty of a national recession. After tourism, real estate is the second-largest business in the county.

Bill Wilto, a broker-owner of REMAX Vail, said he even was involved in a bidding war on a particularly desirable property – an indicator that supply is tightening in certain neighborhoods.

The market could cool off if mortgage interest rates are hiked next month as expected, Wilto said.

“When the rates go up their buying enthusiasm will go away,” he said. “The market is fragile.”

There was also intense interest in property in March, which could translate into a record May, Wilto said. But for Eagle’s Bendixen, buying a place to call home was a simple matter.

“It’s nice to have something that’s yours that you can paint any color you want,” she said.

Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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Real-estate boom

Real estate sales set a record for the month in March, with $160 million worth of transactions. Here’s a breakdown by properties based on value:

– High-end homes ($1 million or more): $82 million

– Mid-range (from $500,000 to $1 million): $36 million

– Entry-level (less than $500,000): $44.8 million

Total transactions:

– High end: 55

– Mid-range: 31

– Entry-level: 133

Each day in March: $5.1 million in dollars and property changed hands. That’s an amount approaching the record logged in May 2000 when $5.7 million changed hands each day.

In February: There were $138 million in sales on 171 transactions. That, too, was a record for the month.

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