Sales of less-expensive homes slow |

Sales of less-expensive homes slow

Edward StonerVail correspondent

VAIL The Eagle County second-home market appears to be staying strong despite a national slowdown.We havent seen it yet, and frankly, Id be surprised if we did, said Led Gardner of Led Gardner & Associates, a local real estate agent who caters to second-home buyers.Total real estate sales are staying on track with last years record thanks to sales of high-end homes. The overall number of home sales is down 12 percent, but sales of million-dollar homes has increased by 8 percent.We are seeing no slowdown at all, said Cathy Miskell of Sonnenalp Real Estate, who sells mostly high-end properties to second-home owners. She has a list of four clients who want to buy homes worth $10 million or more, she said.Eagle County encompasses the Vailarea , but also a sliver of the Roaring Fork Valley, including the increasingly mansion-strewn Missouri Heights above El Jebel.Total real estate sales in the county are 2 percent above last years total through June, according to Land Title Guarantee Co. Last year was a record year for real estate in the county, with $2.8 billion in sales.Also, average home price sales are up considerably compared with last year. Average home sale price is $910,957 this year, compared with $722,417 last year.Fewer homes that cost less than a million dollars are being sold. The lower end of the market is whats been impacted, Gardner said.This year, 823 have been sold through June compared with 1,114 through June of last year. Still, the average price of those homes is up 14 percent. Gardner cited higher interest rates and fewer homes available. Michael Slevin of Prudential Colorado Properties said low-end buyers are waiting longer and being more selective in purchasing homes. The market is more balanced between a sellers market and a buyers market, he said.The once-high-flying second-home market is cooling in Florida; Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Long Island, N.Y.; and on the Jersey Shore, The New York Times reported Aug. 10. The newspaper cited fewer transactions and softening prices in these markets.That trend accompanies a nationwide downturn for the housing market. After a five-year boom, mortgage rates are at their highest levels in more than four years. Nationally, sales were down 7 percent in the April-June quarter this year compared with the same period in 2005, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday in its latest state-by-state look at housing conditions around the country.In Eagle County, 49 percent of homeowners are second-home owners, according to a 2004 study by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.Weve always been insulated because in our little valley and our part of the world, a high-end buyer is not tied to interest-rate fluctuations, Miskell said.Eagle County could later see effects of the trend, Slevin said. Many times the county lags behind national trends, he said.To think that were not going to have any type of impact would probably be shortsighted, he said. Were still affected by the economy, as isolated as we are.The Southern California and Florida second-home markets have been subject to speculators who have pushed up home prices, Slevin said. In contrast, people buy homes in Eagle County in large part for the lifestyle rather than speculation.Baby boomers will continue to drive second-home growth, Gardner said.I do think were very demographic-driven here, Gardner said. If there are more buyers now that can afford a second house, it will just make sense that there will be more sales.For Miskell, the outlook remains bright.All I can say is that right now were not filled with doom and gloom in our office, she said.