Real estate has its best year since 2007
By the numbers
$1.78 billion: Value of Eagle County real estate transactions in 2014.
1,802: Number of 2014 transactions.
$55.5 million: Sale price of the Wyndham time share project in Avon.
54 percent: Decline in sales of bank-owned property from 2013 to 2014.
Source: Land Title Guarantee Co.
EAGLE COUNTY — It really has been seven years since the world’s economy fell off a cliff, taking the Vail Valley real estate market with it. After that many years looking for a market bottom, followed by a slow recovery, the local real estate business in 2014 had its best year since 2007.
The value of sales in Eagle County’s real estate market hit its recent bottom in 2009, when those transactions generated less than $1 billion. The sales volume generated in 2014 came within a hair’s breadth of $1.78 billion — the largest total since 2007, the county’s last year of $2 billion or more in sales. The dollar volume for 2014 was more than 25 percent more than the total revenue generated in 2013.
That increased dollar volume came from virtually the same number of transactions completed in 2013. On the other hand, a big part of the volume increase from 2013 to 2014 came from just one sale — the $55.5 million sale of the just-completed Wyndham Resorts time-share condo project in Avon.
Still, sales of expensive homes, which always make up the bulk of the county’s dollar volume, picked up in 2014. According to full-year data from Land Title Guarantee Co., 2014 saw 24 more sales of homes priced at $3 million than in 2013.
PRICES STARTING TO RISE
Beyond those big sales, though, prices are starting to increase. Some neighborhoods are doing better than others, but there’s definitely upward momentum in values.
Part of that comes from the steep decline in sales of property owned by banks due to foreclosure or other factors. Those units generally sold for less — sometimes far less — than other homes. When bank-owned sales accounted for 20 percent or more of all transactions, those prices helped depress the entire market. Buyers also started looking for bank sales first.
Sondra Slappey, of Double Diamond Real Estate, a small company in Eagle-Vail, said she’s seen buyer behavior evolve as the number of bank sales has fallen.
“There’s still plenty of demand for bank sales,” Slappey said. “But those sales are few and far between.”
Also affecting prices is a continued dearth of inventory.
Michael Slevin, managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, said the shortage of inventory stretches across the market. But, he added, the current market environment is as stable as he’s seen in some time.
Despite the price increases across the market, the rise has been gradual — Slappey said she’s projecting prices in Eagle-Vail rising somewhere between 6 and 7 percent this year. And a combination of price, location and newness matters a lot in the current environment.
Slappey, who said she enjoys digging into numbers for meaning, said pricing based on neighborhood is essential. For example, units priced at $550,000 or less in Eagle-Vail tend to sell quickly. Eagle-Vail units priced between $450,000 and $600,000 spent an average of 94 days on the market in 2014. Units in the same area priced at $1 million or more were on the market for more than a year.
Slevin said he’s seen the same thing. Despite a lot of demand, buyers aren’t going to pay above-market prices, he said.
Price matters when it comes to getting all, or nearly all, of a unit’s asking price, Slappey said. Units that spend 30 days or less on the market generally sell for 96.6 percent of their asking price. Units on the market for 120 days or more sell for 92 percent of the asking price.
More units are being built up and down the valley, but not in great numbers. Slevin said the biggest problem — as is often the case in the valley — is finding right-priced land on which to build.
“But units are being built and at all price points,” Slevin said.
And Slappey said she expects demand to continue.
“The Denver (real estate) market remains on fire,” she said, noting that Front Range buyers are an essential part of the Eagle County market. “Buyers are more confident, and they bring that here with them.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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