Midvalley real estate still slow on its recovery

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

The midvalley real estate market has been slow to wake from the recession-induced slumber even though the number of foreclosures fell significantly in 2013.

There were only 12 single-family homes sold in Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale and Missouri Heights last year, according to Wendy Lucas, a real estate agent with Shane Aspen Real Estate. There were 14 home sales over the same geographic area in 2012, she said, citing data from the Aspen-Glenwood Springs Multiple Listing Service.

The dollar volume of those sales fell 24 percent to $6.12 million in 2013 from $8.07 million last year, she said. The average and median sale prices fell 11 and 12 percent, respectively.

The number of sales in that area probably was three times as large when the market was strongest, Lucas said. She believes activity eventually will return to that level. For now, sellers must remain patient.

“It is not a free-for-all out there.”
Wendy Lucas

“I think buyers are still very cautious,” Lucas said. “They want to make sure they’re buying the right property at the right price.”

There were 10 sales of condominiums, townhouses and duplex units in both 2012 and 2013. The dollar volume of those sales increased by about $1 million or 41 percent in 2013.

There are signs of life in new-home construction in the midvalley. The Willits residential developers are building a 10-unit condominium project, and three single-family home are under construction in Willits.

Lynn Kirchner, owner of Amore Realty in Carbondale, said the midvalley market is somewhere between healthy and unhealthy. “I’d say it’s still recovering,” she said.

At times the activity level was busy in 2013, she said. Inventory thinned out among the least expensive properties, triggering an “emotional” approach among some buyers. They felt they had to make an offer on what was available for fear there wouldn’t be other opportunities, according to Kirchner.

“There’s high demand for anything under $300,000,” she said. Inventory is limited in that price range.

On the other hand, she isn’t convinced that prices have bottomed out in all price ranges in the midvalley. Some sellers “didn’t get the memo” that buyers have emerged from the recession in a very cautious mood, Kirchner said.

“In some price points, they still have a ways to go — that’s over $600,000,” she said of price adjustments.

Lucas said midvalley prices were heavily impacted by distressed sales during the recession, starting in 2009. Bank sales and short sales, where sellers took less than they owed, drove down prices and established new “benchmarks.” Those types of sales are tapering off. For the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole, foreclosure filings fell 54 percent from 354 in 2012 to 161 in 2013, according to public trustee records in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.

But Kirchner said she believes the problem hasn’t completely eased even though the economy of the valley has improved.

“We still have too many people out of work,” she said. “We still have too many people struggling to make ends meet. There are people leaving the valley every day.”

Despite the ongoing hardships many people face, Kirchner said she is optimistic about continued improvement in the market in 2014.

Lucas said the Multiple Listing Service shows there are 29 properties currently under contract in the midvalley — 18 in Carbondale and El Jebel; six in Basalt; and five in Missouri Heights.

She sees ample evidence that the market has improved from where it was at three to five years ago. “It was at a standstill in the midvalley,” Lucas said.

But recovery is coming slowly.

“It is not a free-for-all out there,” she said.