Another month, another record |

Another month, another record

Cliff ThompsonVail correspondent

Frenetic sales of entry-level housing drove Eagle County’s June real estate sales to a new record – $275.4 million.That eclipses the previous June mark of $158.7 million by more than 50 percent and takes the year-to-date total to $1.2 billion, according to statistics reported by Land Title.The county’s sales mirrored the national trend. Real estate sales records were set across the country in June, according to a report issued by the National Association of Realtors. In Pitkin County, June sales hit $227.4 million, pushing total sales to $1.07 billion for the year, according to Jim Pomeroy, director of marketing for Land Title Guarantee Co. The $1 billion mark has been topped only two times for an entire year in Pitkin County, which shows just how strong the market has been in 2005.In Eagle County, continued low interest rates and the availability of entry-level properties – those priced at less than $1 million – have sparked the boom. Sales of those homes accounted for 61 percent – or 226 of 370 – transactions in June.A total of 1,839 transactions were logged at the midway point of the year. That’s 476 more sales than last year at the midway point.Sales of homes priced at $3 million and more were a little slower than in the past – there were nine.That disparity between the number of entry-level homes sold and the nine sold in the $3 million to $5 million range is attributable to fewer people in the upper crust, industry professionals said.”It’s totally normal,” said Jim Flaum of Slifer, Smith & Frampton Real Estate. “There’s lots more people who can afford to buy a home priced under $1 million than over.”The difference may in fact be due to the acceleration of entry-level property sales as opposed to a slowing at the high end, Flaum said, adding that low interest rates have kept the bar lower for first-time homeowners.What’s hotThe hottest properties on the market these days are those in the midvalley area priced from $300,000 to $600,000, said Michael Slevin of Prudential Gore Range Properties.”That price range caters to anyone – first-time homeowners or second-home buyers,” he said.Properties are still selling quickly. Slevin had an offer on his own Eagle home within an hour later of listing it, he said. “It’s not that there’s a limited supply,” he said. “It’s just that properties don’t stay on the market very long.”The number of residences available for sale in the Vail Multiple Listing Service has increased from a low of 525 to about 725 as of a week ago.”That’s still down a bit but better than last spring,” Slevin said.For owners looking to sell their market, pricing properly is the key, he said. “If you price properly you will know in a week or two, and will have several offers,” he said. “If not, it will sit.”Bubble?So how hot is the market and is there a real estate “bubble” that will deflate? It’s hot, but not as hot as some other markets, said Flaum.”If you average the whole market, it’s solid but not crazy,” he said. “In Southern California prices are going up 15 to 20 percent per year. We don’t have that.”It’s strictly the result of a big bubble of baby boomers buying second homes. There’s no signs of that bubble deflating.”Evidence of that may be gleaned from the sales of new slopeside properties in Vail and Lionshead, said Slevin.One property being developed by Vail Resorts, Arrabelle, sold out within hours, while buyer interest in the Ritz-Carlton property in Lionshead has been strong, he said.The average price of residential property sold in June was close to that in May at $674,684. That’s a bit behind the year-to-date average of $722,000. In June a total of 98 commercial properties and unimproved parcels of land sold for $91.9 million, carrying an average price of $938,174.

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