Vail Valley real estate: People are being priced out of buying homes | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley real estate: People are being priced out of buying homes

EAGLE COUNTY — Despite a relatively quiet February, the county's real estate market is off to its best first-quarter start in years. The market could be even stronger if there were more homes to sell.

The latest numbers from Land Title Guarantee Co. — which tracks completed transactions recorded with Eagle County — shows that both the number of units sold and the value of those sales are running higher than the same period in 2014 — the highest, in fact, in five years.

Through the end of March, there were 342 transactions recorded — an 8 percent increase over 2014. The value of those sales was $374.9 million — a 14 percent increase over 2014.

Those first-quarter numbers include a transaction of nearly $21 million for the former Adam's Rib Country Club and associated properties. But the residential numbers are still impressive, given a significant February drop in both transactions and value.

Craig Denton, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, does most of his work in the valley's resort markets. Denton said he and other veteran brokers expected a slow February, due largely to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

"February was kind of a non-month," Denton said. "But we've been very busy in March and April."

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Those contracts aren't likely to be closed and recorded until May, perhaps June.

Denton said his experience mirrors the Land Title figures, which show increasing sales strength in Beaver Creek.

"The (Beaver Creek) bright spots have been townhomes and condos," Denton said. And, while the largest residential sale — $10.25 million — was for a home in Bachelor Gulch, Denton added that overall, "sales of the large homes are kind of lagging."

There are several reasons for that, Denton said. Most of the slopeside homes at Beaver Creek are older and may need some degree of renovation. Then there's the fact that demand seems soft at the moment for large homes.

"People are down-sizing," Denton said. "They'd love for their families to come out, but with kids' schedules, it can be tough to get together."

Still, some very expensive real estate is changing hands. There were 12 transactions of $4 million or more in the first three months of 2015. And those few sales have an outsized effect on dollar volume numbers. For example, March saw 35 sales of $500,000 million or less, for a dollar volume of nearly $12 million. There were three March sales of $4 million or more, totaling just more than $21.5 million.

GOOD NEWS FOR SELLERS

The market for homes priced at $500,000 or less would be even more active if there were more homes for sale.

Barbara Hogoboom, of the Keller Williams Mountain Properties office in Eagle, said that the shortage of homes is also driving some significant price increases, particularly in the market below $400,000.

"Every time something sells, the next place goes up another 5 or 10 percent," Hogoboom, said. That's great news for sellers in the western valley, since that's where some of the biggest losses of value were seen in the wake of the 2009 collapse of the local market.

But good news for sellers is bad news for others, particularly first-time buyers. Hogoboom said many of those potential buyers are being priced out of the entry-level market.

But buyers are still out there and looking hard. Hogoboom said that a unit that's priced right will sell quickly, sometimes within days of being listed.

Again, there's a simple lack of available homes. Hogoboom said she recently looked at data from the Vail Board of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service, searching for homes priced at $400,000 or less. She found 21 units for sale in Eagle and Gypsum and another 13 under contract.

In contrast, she said, homes priced at $500,000 or more are moving more slowly in the western part of the valley.

"This market is really about location," Hogoboom said. And higher-priced homes, for now, aren't in the right location — as close as possible to the resort areas.

The increase in prices — especially in the lower-priced part of the market — is simple supply and demand. Add in the fact that foreclosures and other bank sales now account for barely 1 percent of all sales and the days of sneaking into a great deal seem to be gone.

No matter the location, though, price seems to be one of the primary factors in making a sale.

"We're seeing good, steady activity," Denton said. "If something is priced right, it goes off the market very quickly."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

By the numbers

$374.9 million: Value of local real estate sales in the first three months of 2015.

342: Real estate transactions the first three months of 2015.

$10.25 million: Most valuable March residential transaction, in Bachelor Gulch.

$21 million: Most valuable overall March transaction, the sale of Adam’s Rib Country Club.

Source: Land Title Guarantee Company