Downvalley real estate market shows signs of life after rough late March, early April |

Downvalley real estate market shows signs of life after rough late March, early April

A real estate sign is displayed in front of the Park Modern townhouses in Willits on Monday, May 18, 2020. The downvalley real estate market is showing signs of life after a rough stretch. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The real estate industry in the mid- and lower Roaring Fork Valley has taken its lumps because of the coronavirus crisis — like nearly every other sector of the local economy — but there are signs it is improving.

Research by property appraiser Les Gray shows that the number of properties under contract plummeted 86% in March and 47% in April compared with the average for the months the prior two years. Gray looked at residential, residential land, commercial and commercial land sales and contracts in the Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs Multiple Listing Service areas. He did not include Missouri Heights or the Crystal Valley.

There were only 10 properties placed under contract in March and 38 in April, Gray’s report showed. Activity was stymied because open houses and face-to-face showings were canceled because of limits on gatherings and social-distancing requirements. Real estate agents were able to resume face-to-face showings recently, with proper social distancing and safety protocols.

There were 53 closings of sales in March, down 8.5% from the prior two-year average for the month, and 48 closings in April, down 23%, according to Gray’s report. He did not examine trends in the dollar volumes of the sales.

“Given that I counted zero contracts through April 16, the pace of activity over the final two weeks was fairly robust,” Gray wrote in an email. “It would appear that limitations on showings influenced the early April numbers. The rate of contracts signed during the second half of April (2.71/day) was fairly consistent with those demonstrated in the prior two years (2.38/day average).”

Scott Bayens, a broker with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, said real estate agents are trying to grasp the new normal. He confirmed the trends in Gray’s report — activity plummeted in middle March and improved in late April into May.

Now, single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums priced between $400,000 and $750,000 in the mid and lower valley are going under contract in just a few days in many cases and often have multiple offers.

“We were shut down for about two months and there was pent-up demand,” Bayens said.

His check of MLS data indicated there are currently 54 residential listings under contract in the Basalt and Carbondale areas, including 17 that went under contract last week alone. Seven of those were on the market less than 10 days, he said.

That shows strength in what he called the primary homeowner market. Despite the hardships posed by the coronavirus crisis, life goes on and some buyers and sellers must pursue sales due to personal circumstances, he said. Low interest rates have helped spur activity in the primary home market.

The second-home and luxury market saw a relatively high contract termination rate early in the health crisis, Bayens reported. However, rural and remote properties — which he dubbed COVID compounds — are drawing attention at every price point.

This downturn feels different than the Great Recession of 2008-10 because it feels like there is an end to it, Bayens said.

“I think we’re all trying to be optimistic,” he said of the real estate industry.

But there’s no sugarcoating it, he added. The uncertainty over the coronavirus spread makes it impossible to predict where the real estate market is headed this year, Bayens said.

John Wendt III, employing broker with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, said buyers and sellers have been more optimistic in recent weeks and people seem to be very accepting of new processes required during showings. Those include face coverings, gloves and adhering to 6-foot distances.

He confirmed an increase in recent weeks in closings and properties placed under contract in the middle and lower valley. Inventory remains low in the midvalley. Home prices have remained “reasonable” and haven’t escalated like last year. Interest is high in “well-priced properties,” according to Wendt.

“We are seeing good signs with increased showings, offers and individuals pre-qualifying for mortgages,” Wendt said. “We are anticipating a good summer, but not the same as it was last year.”

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