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Will lower rates boost Vail Valley real estate?

Scott N. Miller
Vail

EAGLE COUNTY ” The local real estate market may be in the doldrums, but people who do buy are getting the mortgage rates of a lifetime.

“I had a client tell me ‘I woke up this morning and thought it was 1953,'” said Jay Gould of Vail Valley Mortgage in Avon. “People who refinance now and stay in their homes will never have to talk to me again.”

Local mortgage brokers are as busy as they’ve been since the boom times, mostly with people refinancing. The national average for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell below 5 percent Thursday. The rate, calculated by Fannie Mae, is the lowest since the company started keeping records in 1971.



Gould said rates lower than 5 percent have been available for a while now. He just closed a deal for a buyer at 4.6 percent.

People with good credit and a favorable debt-to-income ratio (45 percent or lower) can even refinance for less than 5 percent, if their home loan is in the “conforming” range ” $417,000 or less. Rates for loans between $417,000 and $625,500 are about a quarter-percent higher, Gould said.



Between the rates, the demand, and the fact that there are a lot fewer mortgage brokers than there were even 18 months ago, Gould said his business is booming.

But will low rates kick-start the lower end of the valley’s real estate market?

Joy Ortiz, a Gypsum-based broker with Prudential Colorado Properties, said she’s seeing a little more action on her end of the valley.



“There are more people looking right now,” Ortiz said. “But it can be a little scary for first-time buyers.”

But, Ortiz said, it’s easier for even first-time buyers to get loans than it was just a few months ago.

A federal program through FHA can get people mortgages for 97 percent of a home’s value, and Eagle County’s down payment assistance program can fill in much of the rest.

“We’ve had people close with about $3,000 to $5,000,” said Andy Forstl, the sales manager at the Stratton Flats affordable housing project in Gypsum.

The FHA program was “huge” in helping to boost traffic at Stratton Flats, Forstl said.

It took more than eight months to get the project FHA-eligible, Forstl said, and some lenders advised the developers not to break ground without it. The certification finally came in December.

“Now that we’ve got (certification), we’re seeing some of the rewards,” Forstl said.

But make no mistake, it’s harder to get a home loan than it was a couple of years ago.

Jimmy Brenner of Blue Sky Mortgage in Vail has been in the home loan business more than 30 years. “There are good loans for good buyers,” he said. But, he added, there are strings attached to mortgages today that haven’t been seen for years.

Condo complexes have to be 80 percent owner-occupied to qualify for financing these days, Brenner said. And new projects have to be 70 percent pre-sold. A couple of years ago, most mortgage documents were filled out, filed, and rarely examined.

“Today everything is read, and read carefully,” Brenner said. And lenders will cancel loans if any kind of deception is discovered.

For those who do qualify, though, Brenner said it might be a good idea to wait a little while longer.

“Through the first quarter of this year I expect rates to keep dropping,” Brenner said. “If you lock in today you might regret it 30 to 60 days from now.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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