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Real estate boomed in February

Cliff Thompson
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Powered by high end properties, residential real-estate sales in Eagle County have set a new record for the month February.

Sales totaled $138.2 million on 170 transactions. The next highest February on record, 2000, saw $122 million in sales. Between 2000 and last August, real estate sales were in the doldrums and may have bottomed out last February when only $80.9 million deals were closed during uncertainty over Iraq and a national recession. Those anxieties caused people to put off buying second homes.



That trend reversed itself sharply five months later and since August, real estate sales have set a torrid pace. Between 2001 and August of last year the monthly dollar volume of transactions and prices showed a steady decline. In January 2003 only $84 million in sales was tallied.

This trend likely to continue for the next two months, local real estate experts said.



Real estate agents, such as Led Gardner at Sonnenalp Real Estate, said sales at the high end of the market are outpacing those in other market sectors. But the market could be affected by continued terrorist acts such as there recent train bombing in Madrid.

“If all remains peaceful,” said Gardner, “I expect the overall market, and particularly the high end, to continue its powerful resurgence.”



Big days

Each day in February an average of $4.77 million was spent purchasing homes in Eagle County. The average price per transaction was $813,484. Behind recreation/tourism, real estate is the second largest business in the county.

Hugely boosting February’s total was the $23 million purchase of the 10,000-acre Castle Peak Ranch north of Eagle by London investment banker Peter Weinberger.

There were 53 purchases of property priced at $1 million and above , which accounted for 31 percent of the transaction total and $82 million – or 58 percent – of the dollar volume. One of those was a $4 million home in Lake Creek while four Bachelor Gulch properties sold for an average of $2.64 million each.

“Inventory in Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch single-family markets is rich with opportunity,” said Gardner. “I expect to these two areas to see very strong activity as we move into the spring season.”

Entry-level housing priced at $500,000 and less accounted for $24.7million in sales, or 17 percent of the dollar total, on 58 transactions.

Residential units priced at $500,000 to $1 million accounted for $36.1 million, or 25 percent of the dollar volume and 22 percent of the transaction total.

What’s next?

March’s total may surpass all expectations. Local economic indicators – airline passengers at the Eagle County Airport, sales tax totals for Vail and real estate contracts – indicate the return of once terrorist-wary destination travelers to Eagle County’s resorts. Traveler numbers at the Eagle County Airport are up 8 percent and sales tax collections in Vail showed a 10 percent jump in January.

Real estate agents at Slifer, Smith & Frampton are reporting having written $159 million in contracts in February. Those will close some 60 days later. The company participates in 50 percent of the transactions in Eagle County each year.

“This is the highest, monthly, new-written contract total in Slifer, Smith and Frampton history,” said Jim Flaum, company president and managing broker. “Moreover, the roll has continued through the first week of March with 45 new contracts totaling $59.9 million.”

Vail’s Renaissance, the $1 billion core redevelopment of Vail Village and Lionshead that will begin this summer and last four or five years, is already beginning to attract interest from home buyers, Gardner said.

“For the first time in 20 years substantial new product will be available for those who love to call Vail home,” said Gardner. “I expect demand to be incredibly strong.”

Pre-construction pricing of residential units, which starts at $800 per square foot, could go as high as $1,800 or $2,000 per square foot for the premium properties. Gardner said.

Flaum said the demand has begun to really heat up the market.

“The savvy vacation home purchaser also realizes that as demand grows, inventory dwindles and prices rise,” Flaum said.

“For close to 24 months we had a lot of people standing on the sidelines to see what was going to happen to the stock market and the economy,” he said. “There was pent-up demand and they’re now feeling better about the economy.”

He expects the real estate boom to continue for a couple more years, Flaum said.

“The boom in real estate in the Vail Valley will pretty much mirror the overall economy and stock market,” he said.

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


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