Midvalley real estate sales surge
BASALT – The good news in the midvalley real estate market is the incredible amount of sales that already have occurred in 2012. The bad news is that the furious pace has been spurred by foreclosures and short sales, according to real estate agents.
“The midvalley is just on fire right now. It’s almost a feeding frenzy,” said Ted Borchelt, a real estate agent in Basalt with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty.
The residential market for property priced under $350,000 is incredibly active. There were 25 sales completed in 2012 through mid-March in that price range in the Basalt and Carbondale area, according to research by Borchelt and Garret Brandt, another real estate agent in Borchelt’s office. That compares with 11 closings during the same period in 2011 and just three in 2010.
In addition, there are 46 residences prices under $350,000 under contract, according to Brandt’s research. That compares with eight in 2011 and four in 2010.
Activity is also ahead of pace in the $350,001-to-$550,000 price range. Fourteen properties have sold this year through mid-March compared with 11 in the same period in both 2011 and 2010.
The midvalley has been a buyer’s market since the recession struck in late 2008. Given how severely the recession hit and how far prices fell, it will take time for a recovery to occur, Borchelt said. He is cautiously optimistic that could change this summer if current trends continue.
“The tide could be turning to a seller’s market,” he said.
Farther downvalley, Lynn Kirchner, of Amore Real Estate, said recovery won’t come before 2013 in the Carbondale area. The high number of transactions is the result of low prices, she said, and the prices are low because there are so many foreclosures by banks and short sales by owners trying to avoid foreclosure.
“That’s the only reason” for the activity, Kirchner said.
Lenders are beginning to understand that they have a lot of assets on their hands and another round of foreclosures looming, she said. So they adjusted prices lower on the homes they already held in foreclosure. Kirchner said prices in general have fallen 20 percent since last year and higher in some cases.
A residence on Surrey Road in Carbondale was listed at $330,000 by a bank and drew so much activity that there were ultimately 16 backup contracts, she said. The bidding drove the price up to $425,000.
Kirchner said she suspects prices will continue to drop through this summer because of new foreclosures and short sales. She is playing the role of counselor in many cases for homeowners who don’t want to sell but have so few options because of their financial predicaments. In many cases, the homeowners have struggled to hold on to their houses since the recession started, but circumstances such as lost or reduced income make it an uphill fight. Lots of people are still coming to her and asking, “What the hell do I do?” she said.
The Basalt and Carbondale markets might be different even though they aren’t far apart. Realtors working in Basalt were more bullish on 2012.
Greg Hunter, a real estate agent with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty who specializes in the midvalley, said the Basalt market is no longer dominated by foreclosures and short sales.
“I think we’ve started to work out that inventory,” he said.
The financial hardship took a toll. Prices are down 30 to 40 percent from what they were in pre-recession days, he said. Prices aren’t rising, but they are no longer deteriorating, according to Hunter.
Wendy Lucas, a real estate agent with SDS Real Estate in Aspen who pays special attention to the Basalt area, said anything priced below $400,000 draws immediate interest. There are a lot of young couples who are first-time buyers. They have cash saved for downpayments. They qualify for loans at interest rates below 4 percent for a fixed rate over 30 years.
Despite the presence of favorable conditions, property doesn’t automatically sell. Buyers are well aware of the beating the market has taken, and they are looking for bargains.
“They think everything is overpriced,” Lucas said.
Properties in Sopris Village, Summit Vista and Blue Lake have all sold well in recent months. In the Basalt area, there have been 32 closings of townhomes in the past 12 months, according to Lucas’ research.
She envisions a continued torrid pace of sales, but prices won’t appreciate much in 2012 because of a continued high number of foreclosures and short sales. On the other hand, the market might have hit bottom.
“You’re not going to get too much more of a depression of price,” Lucas said.
Foreclosure filings were up 26 percent in Eagle County in 2011 over 2010 and up 42 percent in Garfield County.
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