Will Eagle County compete with Realtors? | VailDaily.com

Will Eagle County compete with Realtors?

Melanie Wong
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Each week, the Vail Daily will publish a Q and A with the four Eagle County commissioner candidates.

Democrat and incumbent Commissioner Peter Runyon will be running against Republican and former Commissioner Dick Gustafson for the upvalley seat. Democrat Jon Stavney will be running against Republican Debbie Buckley for the midvalley seat that’s being vacated by term-limited Arn Menconi. All Eagle County voters will vote for all the seats, regardless of where they live.

The questions will cover local election issues. This week’s question pertains to the soon-to-be opened Valley Home Store, a partnership between the Eagle County Economic Council, Eagle County and various businesses and other municipalities.

The Edwards store is designed to manage and handle sales for all of the county’s deed-restricted housing, offer pre-qualification, credit counseling and down payment assistance for home buyers, as well as do economic and trend research on the market.

The county contributed to the start-up, mostly by transferring its housing department staff to the Home Store, and the Economic Council raised much of the rest of the costs from the community. The idea is for the Home Store to fund itself through transfer fees in a few years.

However, critics say the store will compete with local real estate agents and is an unnecessary cost.

Q: What effect do you think that the soon-to-be-opened Home Store will have on the valley? How do you respond to concerns from real estate agents that the store will be a competitor?

The Valley Home Store is a one-stop location where, for the first time, a buyer can get information on all the available deed-restricted homes in the county, credit counseling, down-payment assistance and even rental information. Up until now, that might require several phone calls and trips to different offices. It will make finding a home in Eagle County easier.

The Home Store is an innovative solution that came from the Housing Action Team as a direct result of the Blue Ribbon Commission on housing that I kicked off in 2007.

Behind the scenes, the store will serve as unified housing-management department which will save the county and towns money by not duplicating services.

The store staff will not be in competition with local Realtors as they will only manage “closed market” transactions, as specified by the deed restrictions, to keep homes affordable by holding down commission costs. Currently this is about 40 transactions a year.

The Home Store uses existing county staff and budget and does not cost taxpayers money (no money from the general fund). A third of the cost is underwritten by the towns and private sector companies.

It’s a true public-private partnership that has broad support throughout the county.

The county is now forcing free-market taxpayers to compete with their own tax money in three businesses: Housing construction, competing with free-market builders; the Home Store, competing with Realtors; and child care, competing with independent providers.

What’s next, the restaurant business?

The Home Store will be staffed by salaried sales people competing with commission brokers, who will have the disadvantage (i.e. advertising, administrative costs, etc).

I believe the county should concentrate on state’s mandated services, such as providing the citizens with public safety, roads, administration services, etc. It should be a fiscally prudent steward of the taxpayers’ money. It should manage the budget, anticipating possible rough times. It needs the vision to predict economic trends, preparing for revenue shortfalls that may force the taxpayers to bail out the county with still higher taxes. This means not following Washington’s example.

The county has taken a dangerous turn with our money and the commissioners damn the consequences. Our government is a constitutional republic, based upon a representative capitalistic economy, not a socialistic dictatorship. The county should respect government of the people, by the people, for the people ” NOT irresponsible government of the commissioners, by the commissioners, for the commissioners. http://www.electdickgustafson.com

The Valley Home Store is a great example of public-private partnership. Communities have differing local regulations for workforce housing, and I respect those differences. The Valley Home Store is designed to cut through the red tape for consumers who want a one-stop answer. It is intended as a safety net for those about to leave the valley.

The county’s funding for the store is a reallocation of Miller Ranch funds, and a more centralized-customer friendly approach that includes prequalification, credit counseling and down-payment assistance. It is a much broader reach, with better oversight, than we have currently.

Realtors should not be threatened by the Home Store taking on the complicated local certifications and deed-restricted ownership market. We should ensure that those Realtors who reference buyers are incentivized when those buyers later move into the free market. This is currently a severely underserved group of our community.

This is one of the outcomes of the jurisdictions and developers who came together in the Blue Ribbon Housing Group and later Housing Action Team following the Urban land Institute study. It is part of the answer. I think it will be a success in helping retain those we want to stay here and be a part of this community.

We need to build affordable housing, not another bureaucratic agency.

In the recent fact sheet sent to Realtors from the Home Store, it was stated that some properties with deed-restricted housing will not be incorporated into the Home Store (e.g., town of Vail, Brett Ranch, and Riverwalk).

It does not provide one-stop shopping for deed-restricted housing. In a one-stop shopping model, buyers should be directed to all affordable properties in an unbiased manner.

Setting up a dedicated sales force is wasteful when a pool of over 800 Realtors exists within our community. I think we should set up a certification program that trains Realtors in the special aspects of affordable housing sales. Selling costs would then only be incurred when a sale takes place, eliminating the cost of maintaining a salaried sales force.

Certified Realtors will be listed on the county Web site as a resource for potential buyers. Even though the initial commissions would be small, many Realtors would participate because of the future benefit of establishing a relationship with customers for future free-market home purchases.

Instead of competing with the private sector, we should work with the private sector and local Realtors, saving tax dollars in the process.


Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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