Rifle fires up Garco real estate market
January 24, 2007
GARFIELD COUNTY Garfield County joined the billionaires club in 2006 as the volume of all real estate sales in the county topped $1 billion for the first time last year, according to a report by Land Title Guarantee Co. The title company analyzed sales data recorded with the county clerk’s office.The report shows dramatic growth in Garfield County real estate activity over the past three years. The $1.04 billion in total sales for 2006 was an increase of 22 percent over the 2005 mark and growth of 137 percent from 2003, according to Land Title Guarantee Co.’s report.What’s responsible for the soaring real estate sales in Garfield County? “In one word, Rifle,” said Lynn Kirchner, managing broker for the Sothesby’s International Realty branch in Carbondale.The oil and gas boom in western Garfield County is responsible for a huge influx of residents to the Rifle area. That is driving the real estate development boom in western Garfield County, as well as appreciation of property.Using statistics from the Aspen/Glenwood Springs Board of Realtors, Kirchner estimated that at least $75 million of the $1 billion in commercial and residential sales in Garfield County occurred in Rifle last year.Countywide, the number of real estate sales transactions surged from 1,873 in 2003 to 2,852 last year. As that suggests, real estate activity is strong throughout the county, according to Bonnie Daniels, a real estate agent with Vicki Lee Green Realtors in Glenwood Springs.”Where is not hot?” Daniels said. “The western end of Garfield County has had the biggest increase in home purchase transactions and construction of new homes, in my opinion. Low inventory of available, affordable homes plague the majority of Garfield County communities.”In the portion of Garfield County in the Roaring Fork Valley, the supply of single-family homes dwindled and prices soared, according to Kirchner. The average single-family-home price in Carbondale jumped to nearly $500,000 last year, she said. The biggest surge in appreciation came between April and September.The millionaires have pushed the working public out of town, Kirchner said. Million-dollar homes are also selling in New Castle and Rifle, something unheard of five years ago, she said.Homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range were a scarce commodity in Carbondale last summer. On the rare occasions they went on the market, they spurred bidding wars and sold in hours, Kirchner said. In some cases where she worked as an agent for the buyers, “We would write an offer before we would even see it,” she said.Daniels said homes priced at less than $400,000 receive multiple offers everywhere in the county.Pitkin County has remained above the $1 billion level in annual sales volume for each of the last four years. Sales volume topped $2 billion in 2005 and soared to $2.64 billion last year.Kirchner said chances are good that sales volume will remain above $1 billion in Garfield County this year, in large part because of all the construction of homes and commercial property in Rifle.”The No. 1 question people ask me is when will it stop,” Kirchner said of the property appreciation. She tells them that values in the Roaring Fork Valley are unlike most in the country. While there are occasional plateaus in values, they never drop in the local market.Daniels was also bullish on 2007. “All indications show 2007 will be a repeat of 2006 in the housing market as long as interest rates stay down and the job opportunities stay at current levels,” she said. “Demand will still be greater than supply.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.