Housing markets across Colorado vary widely, but improving

Carpenter Manuel Rubio of Van Dyk Construction works on a new home in the Reunion community of Commerce City in February. While real estate is hot in some

Carpenter Manuel Rubio of Van Dyk Construction works on a new home in the Reunion community of Commerce City in February. While real estate is hot in some areas of Colorado, it has cooled in others. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Heading into the peak home-selling season, metro Denver’s housing market remains one of the tightest in the country, and northeast Colorado, which includes Boulder, Fort Collins and Greeley, isn’t far behind.

“Prices are rising in response to the inventory shortage,” said Francie Martinez, a broker and owner at Elevation Real Estate in Fort Collins. “One of the most frustrating things is you have well-qualified and financed buyers who can’t compete.”

But drive 130 miles south on Interstate 25, and the home resale market is lining up with national averages and buyers and sellers battle on a more level field.

“People are saying show me the value, show me the right price and I will buy it. That is a balanced market,” said Jay Gupta, a partner and broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Rocky Mountain Realtors in Colorado Springs.

Across the western half of the state, however, inventory remains plentiful and buyers still retain the upper hand, especially for more expensive homes and in more rural areas, according to regional market reports from the Colorado Association of Realtors.

“Our foreclosures have gone way down, but we are still having them and we still have short sales,” said Ann Hayes, a broker with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty in Grand Junction.

Balanced market

The National Association of Realtors defines a balanced market as one with a six-month supply of homes available to buy at the current pace of sales. Less than six months favors sellers, and more than six months favors buyers.

Nationally, a 4.6-month supply of homes was available in March, but metro Denver only had 1.2 months, with many homes priced under $300,000 selling in less than a week after receiving multiple offers.

Colorado, west of the Continental Divide, has from a 6.4-month supply in the northwest, 9.3 months in the mountain resorts and 10.4 months in the southwest.

Homes in the southwest region, which stretches from the San Luis Valley to the Four Corners area, were taking 190 days to sell on average in March. In metro Denver, by contrast, new listings moved in 32 days on average.

“From a market standpoint, we were a bit behind, but we are definitely coming back,” said Don Ricedorff, a broker associate with The Wells Group in Durango.

In Durango proper, homes priced under $300,000 are in high demand and hard to find, Ricedorff said. But in outlying communities and more rural areas, sales are slower and supply more plentiful.

The median price of a southwest-region home sold in March was $220,250, which is just getting back to 2006 peak levels, he said. But home sales are up 22.8 percent and active listings are down 10.7 percent year-over-year in March.

(The Denver Post)

A similar situation exists in Grand Junction, where homes priced under $300,000 are in high demand, while more-expensive properties still move much more slowly, Hayes said.

Grand Junction is the largest city in the state’s northwest region, which had a 6.4-month supply of inventory in March.

Homes in that part of the state are taking 134 days to sell on average.

Affordable prices

But the region’s 18.3 percent annual home price appreciation in March ranked second only to the state’s northeast region, at 19.7 percent. And the median sold price remains comparatively affordable at $194,000, which is $93,375 less than the northern Front Range and $118,000 less than sale prices seen in metro Denver.

Conditions also are looking up in the hard-hit mountain region, which includes resort areas such as Telluride, Vail, Aspen, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs and Summit County.

“Our inventory is shrinking, and a seller’s market is coming,” said George Harvey, owner and managing broker of The Harvey Team in Telluride.

A 9.3-month supply of homes is available in the mountain region, down 23.8 percent from a year earlier.

Strong interest from Texas buyers, flush with oil money, and foreign investors looking to diversify have helped fuel the resort area rebound in recent years, Harvey said.

Unlike past cycles, Harvey said he doesn’t expect tighter inventories to trigger a building boom, which could trigger a more pronounced swing to a seller’s market once the tipping point is reached.

Across Colorado, active listings are down by double-digit rates the past year, led by a 27.2 percent drop along the northern Front Range.

Sales are also up sharply, with the exception of the mountain region, where they rose only 3.8 percent. Metro Denver sales increased 10.4 percent in March, on par with the U.S. average. But that appears largely the result of a lack of homes to purchase rather than a lack of buyer interest.

Motivating moves

The price differentials also appear to be motivating some people to move, agents said.

Hayes said she is seeing an increase in Front Range retirees selling high in metro Denver and buying low in Mesa County, one answer to the conundrum of what to buy after you sell in an overheated market.

Gupta said he has started to see Denver Tech Center workers priced out of the south metro market, including Castle Rock, heading into northern El Paso County.

“People can get a lot more for their money by coming to north Colorado Springs,” he said, adding the commute is much easier to navigate than tackling rush hour back and forth from the northern suburbs.

Source (http://www.denverpost.com)


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