Real estate activity accelerates in Vail area | AspenTimes.com

Real estate activity accelerates in Vail area

Sarah Mausolf
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL – Steve Pywell took a big step toward selling his Cordillera home on Saturday, a year after he put it on the Vail real estate market.

Like many people selling their homes during the recession, the Houston, Texas, resident had to slash the price before attracting a buyer. He said he cut $700,000 from the price of the home, which was listed at $3 million.

“I would say finding buyers today is not easy,” Pywell said. “I think there’s certainly signs in the last couple of months that people are looking again. I think you’ve got to be prepared to discount the pricing somewhat to get people motivated to buy.”

Apparently, more people are motivated lately.

Real estate spiked within the past 30 days in the Vail Valley, with a slew of residential properties going under contract, the Vail Board of Realtors said.

Seventy-seven residential properties went under contract between Aug. 10 and Sept. 10. That compares with 22 contracts between Jan. 1 and July 10, statistics released by the Board of Realtors show.

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“Consumer confidence is up because our economy is not getting worse,” said Scott Bandoni, a real estate broker with Prudential Colorado Properties in Beaver Creek.

Although Vail Valley real estate hit a slump in October 2008, things could be looking up, some say.

“I think people are recognizing that we already hit the bottom back in June or late May,” said Chad Brasington, chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors.

With slow sales have come low home prices, and they’re attractive to buyers.

“There are some great deals out there,” said Amy Dorsey, branch broker of the Park Hyatt Slifer Smith and Frampton office in Beaver Creek and president of the Colorado Association of Realtors.

For sellers, the downside is their homes are losing value, Bandoni said.

“What you paid for a property in early 2008 is going to be sold for less in middle of 2009, so it’s not all roses,” he said.

Two very different types of buyers are snapping up real estate, Bandoni said. First-time home buyers and locals have been buying homes under $500,000, he said.

In fact, homes under half a million dollars account for 39 percent of home sales so far this year, up from 30 percent last year, said Larry Agneberg, a broker with Prudential Colorado Properties in Lionshead.

This year, 119 of the 304 homes that sold as of the end of July fell in that price range, he said. In 2008, 422 of 1,292 homes sold for under half a million, he said.

On the other side of the spectrum, the upcoming ski season has been driving second home-owners to buy luxury homes, Bandoni said.

“That’s helping some people get into the market right now because they want to use their place for the winter time,” he said.

Sellers have their reasons for unloading their properties now, instead of waiting for an upswing in the recession.

Pywell enjoyed vacationing in his Cordillera home but found it a bit desolate in the winter so he bought a home in Beaver Creek in May 2008. Even though Pywell knew he would have to slash the price of his Cordillera home to sell it during the recession, that seemed like the logical thing to do. The house was sitting empty and Pywell no longer wanted to pay $50,000 per year for taxes and other costs.

“I’m just pleased, really, that someone came along and appreciates the home, is going to take the home off us,” he said. “We just need to move on and just realize the market is what it is in today’s world.”

Likewise, Michigan resident Clint Sampson recently signed a contract to sell his Avon townhouse. He and his wife owned the investment property for nine years, put it on the market three months ago. They’re expecting to get $590,000 for it – close to what they paid for it.

“It was part of my portfolio and we thought we might at one time spend some time out there,” Sampson said. “But then we bought our retirement home in northern Michigan on Lake Michigan, so we decided that probably wasn’t going to be what we would do, so we looked at rebalancing our portfolio.”

This spike in contract activity may not necessarily signal the end of the recession, Agneberg said. This is, after all, a busy time of year historically for real estate as buyers prepare for the ski season.

“Time will tell,” he said. “We’re all hoping it says busy up through ski season. Just this recent flurry has people a bit more optimistic. We’ll just hope that it maintains at least this level if not more.”