Vail Valley real estate dips a bit to start 2019
Did abundant early snow keep buyers on the mountains?
By the numbers
$14.6 million: Largest single Vail Valley home sale in February, at Beaver Creek.
31%: Share of February dollar volume made up by four sales of $5 million or more.
11%: Share of February dollar volume made up by 37 sales of $500,000 or less.
52%: Percentage of February buyers who live in Eagle County.
Source: Land Title Guarantee Company.
EAGLE COUNTY — Early-season snow was a boon for just about everyone in the Vail Valley, but it may have impacted real estate sales.
That may be one explanation for a dip in both real estate sales and transaction volume recorded in January and February. Land Title Guarantee Company recently released that data, based on transactions recorded with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
“We heard more people saying, ‘We’ll be back in April and May to look (at homes) — we don’t want to get off the mountain,’” Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate Managing Broker John Pfeiffer said.
After a couple of snow-short early seasons, people were skiing on this season’s abundant early powder.
Blame it on the snow
Dan Fitchett, managing broker at LIV Sotheby’s International Realty in the Vail
Fitchett, whose office is in Beaver Creek, said in talking to restaurant owner friends, those people reported that customers in late 2017 and early 2018 were taking long lunches, thanks to light coverage on the slopes. This season, those same friends told Fitchett that visitors were more in an eat-and-run mood.
That may have helped fuel a dip in both sales and dollar volume. Land Title’s numbers for January and February are for closed deals that went under contract in December and January.
A busy February
Fitchett said after a slow start to January, he and his brokers have been busy since.
Pfeiffer agreed, noting that his firm is seeing strong year-over-year gains for deals made in February.
Onie Bolduc, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, noted that early-year transactions are generally a little slow. But, he added, there are some “big transactions” in the contract-to-closing pipeline.
Talking about the early-year dip, Bolduc said there isn’t enough data to make assumptions about the market in general. Still, he said, there are some trends to watch.
For instance, average days on market is starting to increase, Bolduc said, adding those properties generally sell once the price has adjusted a bit.
On the other hand, there are some contants in the market that have held true for some time.
Just more than half of all sales go to Eagle County residents, with most of the remainder roughly evenly split between Front Range buyers and those from elsewhere in the U.S. International buyers are a tiny fraction of the buyer pool — 3% in February, and 1% for all of 2018.
Inventory remains low
There also isn’t much inventory available. That’s particularly true in western-valley communities.
Fortius Realty is building and selling homes at the Two Rivers Village neighborhood in Dotsero and Gypsum’s Aspen Ridge neighborhood near the Eagle County Regional Airport.
Fortius broker Chad Cremonese said business is good in both of those neighborhoods. But, he added, both projects are nearly built out.
“There’s not a lot of construction going on” in the valley, Cremonese said. “The homes for you and me, they’re hard to come by.
The problem with new construction is the cost, which keeps rising. Cremonese said materials costs are increasing, particularly for lumber. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are all busy, which drives up construction prices.
Despite low inventory, construction prices and national headlines that may or may not portend economic headwinds on the horizon, the brokers contacted for this story are confident about the market’s prospects into the rest of the year.
Cremonese noted that mortgage money is available, which will allow people to buy.
Bolduc added that mortgage rates have dipped a bit, which is helpful.
“The value is still there,” he said.
Given the importance of Front Range buyers to the local market, Pfeiffer said recent headlines from that area — dips in average prices and increases in average days on market — aren’t really a concern.
He noted that the hot real estate market, particularly in Denver, isn’t sustainable, and needs to settle a bit.
“The dynamics of real estate in Colorado are different than we’ve seen before,” Pfeiffer said. “There’s so much diversity in industry and so much new wealth.”
Fitchett noted that the Vail Board of Realtors recently heard an economist’s presentation about the state of the market, both now and the months to come.
“He told us 2019 will be a good year, but we’re going to have work harder,” he said.