Valley real estate on track for best year since recession |

Valley real estate on track for best year since recession

By the numbers

200: Real estate transactions in October.

$177.8 million: Vail of those transactions.

1,709: Transactions through the first 10 months of 2015.

17 percent: Increase in transactions from 2014 to 2015.

Source: Land Title Guarantee Company

EAGLE COUNTY — Ellen Smith Eaton has sold real estate here since 1997. This is shaping up to be her best year yet.

Smith Eaton isn’t alone. The Vail Valley’s real estate market has shown real strength this year. Transactions have increased from 2014 in every month except April. Similarly, dollar volume — the value of those transactions — has increased in all but three months this year.

October, the last month for which county records are available, was one of the months with a dip. While transactions grew slightly, the dollar volume for the month dipped by 11 percent from the 2014 numbers.

Land Title Guarantee Company tracks transaction and volume numbers using county records of completed sales. The company breaks down information from more than 30 separate towns and neighborhoods in the valley. In something of a departure from the norm — Eagle and/or Gypsum usually post the most sales — Eagle-Vail was leader in October with 25 completed sales. That’s nearly double the October sales figure from 2014.

Lucie Woodward, a broker with Double Diamond real estate, said late summer and early fall are usually good months for sales in that neighborhood. Those sales are generally closed in September and October.

Eagle-Vail has always been a popular neighborhood for locals, and Woodward said Front Range buyers are deciding to buy there, too.

Who’s buying?

Front Range buyers still make up a significant share of the valley’s out-of-county buyers — 17 percent of all buyers for the year. But out-of-state buyers are still the lion’s share of buyers from outside the county — 27 percent for the year so far. In-county buyers account for the most sales — 58 percent this year.

A growing number of those local buyers are moving up to their next homes.

Onie Bolduc is a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties and a past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors Board of Directors. He said data indicates the move-up market is responding to an improving economy.

“People are comfortable where they area (economically),” Bolduc said. “If they’ve stayed in the same place for several years, they’re starting to look around.”

The growth in the move-up market reflects a couple of things, Bolduc said. First, national averages show that people stay in homes between five and seven years. Given that the local real estate market took a deep dive in 2009, that means people who bought at the end of the boom are starting to look around.

But those who bought from about 2006 through 2008 lost a lot of home equity when the market took a dive, there are people who, statistically, are more than ready for their next home, but it’s taken a number of years for values to recover.

Bolduc said that recovery is complete in some areas, and lags in others.

“What we’re seeing is steady health in the market,” Bolduc said.

And that market is growing, at least at a modest rate.

Slow gains

Figures from the Vail Board of Realtors show that median prices are up 3.8 percent for single-family units up and down the valley. The median price for condos, though, has dipped about 5.5 percent. But, Bolduc said, that’s the median price of all homes, from East Vail to Dotsero.

Smith Eaton agreed that the market seems to be in a good place at the moment. Asked what her biggest obstacle in the market is right now, Smith Eaton said it’s educating potential buyers.

“It’s not too expensive to buy,” Smith Eaton said. “In a lot of cases, it’s cheaper than renting — it’s the rental market that’s crazy right now.”

She noted that a unit in the Lift View condos — formerly known as Sunridge Phase I — rents for about $2,000 per month. That would make the monthly payment on about $300,000 worth of mortgage, Smith Eaton said.

On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of $300,000 homes to buy.

“The biggest challenge we have is that our inventories are low in some areas,” Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate Managing Broker Jim Flaum said. But, Flaum added, he also believes the market is in a good, “sustainable” place at the moment.

While the market right now is healthy, Bolduc said there may be some dips in the coming months.

The fact that 2016 is a presidential election year, combined with a currently up-and-down stock market and the continuing decline in oil prices may put some uncertainty in the market.

Flaum said that’s possible. But, he added, the market so far is strong, but in a sustainable way.

“We didn’t really have an offseason this year in the fall,” Flaum said. “We’ve continued to build even without a lot of buyers and guests in town.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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