GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Real estate activity in Garfield County for 2012 was the best it's been since the 2008 recession, in terms of both dollar volume and the total number of property transactions.
According to Land Title Guarantee Co.'s year-end market analysis for 2012, real estate sales from Carbondale to Parachute came in at more than $376 million for the year as a whole, representing a 35 percent increase over the 2011 sales volume of $279 million.
Real estate sales in the county reached a post-recession low of $236 million in 2009, according to the year-over-year comparison included in the analysis.
In fact, last year was the first time since 2008 that sales surpassed $300 million, including a 30 percent increase for the month of December alone, when sales topped $28 million.
"There really wasn't a slowdown during the holidays like we normally see," said Glenwood Springs Realtor Mike Dunn of Roaring Fork Property.
"December and January, both, are normally slower months for real estate activity, but things kept trucking along this year," he said.
The year-end total was still a fraction of the dollar volume for 2008, when sales totaled more than $723 million, and even more so compared to the boom years of 2006 and 2007, when real estate sales in the county topped $1 billion.
There were 1,213 total transactions in 2012, representing a 32 percent increase over 2011 when there were 921 transactions, according to the year-end report.
The seven-year high for transactions was 2,856 in 2006, and the low was 631 in 2009, according to the report.
Although the 2012 numbers marked a significant increase compared to the past four years, about two-thirds of that activity is still related to bank foreclosures and short sales.
According to the year-end report, there were 378 bank sales following foreclosure, which was up 13 percent over 2011.
Short sales involve properties for which the owner owes more than the property is worth in the current market, and are willing to take a loss to get out from under the mortgage and avoid foreclosure.
Out of 925 total sales in Garfield County recorded in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for 2012, nearly a quarter were short sales, said Dunn, who also tracks the area's real estate activity.
That number does not include all sales recorded with the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder, as the Land Title analysis does.
What it says, though, is that roughly two-thirds of real estate sales in the county are still "distress sales," involving either short sales or bank sales, Dunn said.
But that has also led to an active market for anything priced $350,000 and below, he said.
"The amount of buying activity is just crazy right now, there's so much competition for these homes," Dunn said.
He said that one recent condominium that was listed for $119,000 had six offers in the first day.
"The main thing for buyers to be aware of now is to make sure you're preapproved for a loan, and be prepared to act quickly," Dunn said. "The biggest problem we have right now is finding homes for people who are qualified and ready to buy."
The more expensive homes are not moving as fast, but the trend is still positive, he noted.
"My expectation is that, as we start to get through the last of the distressed properties, we will see prices go up," Dunn said.
Foreclosure filings in Garfield County fell to 534 last year, compared to a record 701 filings in 2011.
According to the year-end real estate activity analysis, the average sales price for a single-family home sold in Garfield County in 2012 was $333,078, which represented a 7 percent increase over 2011.
The Glenwood Springs area led the way for both number of transaction (287) and dollar volume ($118 million) for the year, followed by Carbondale, 273 for $121.5 million; Rifle, 230 for $48.9 million; New Castle, 184 for $39.3 million; Silt, 120 for $25.4 million; Battlement Mesa, 60 for $7 million; Parachute, 40 for $8.7 million; and rural Garfield County, seven for $5.3 million.
The remaining 12 transactions were quit claim transfers with doc fees, according to the report.
Commercial transaction activity was also up 47 percent from 2011, with a total of 72 transactions for the year, totaling $47 million in sales.