Baldinger sees natural shift in market

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— One of Steamboat's leading Realtors believes the local development/real estate market has expanded too rapidly in the last couple of years.

"The challenge for the community is to continue real estate growth, both on a dollar and on a volume basis, but at a slower pace," David Baldinger Jr. said. "We were a little white hot last year."

Baldinger is a Realtor/broker with Steamboat Village Brokers and grew up in Steamboat Springs. He made his remarks this month during Economic Summit 2001 at the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

Although the jaws of Routt County residents drop at the prices on homes in and around Steamboat, when you make direct comparisons to prices at other ski areas, Steamboat doesn't look as expensive, Baldinger said. For example, the average building lot price in Telluride is $488,000 compared to $216,000 in Steamboat.

"As a longtime local, it's very difficult for me, even being in the business, to swallow the prices," Baldinger said.

Still, Baldinger would like to see Steamboat's market grow at a more measured pace.

If the local market continues to grow as fast as it did the last two years, "every year, that's very dangerous," Baldinger said. "If it sustains (at that pace) for a long time, we may not want to live here."

He was referring to the fact that the dollar volume reflected in the Steamboat Springs Multiple Listing Service in 1998 was $280 million and grew to $360 million in 2000. That's an increase of 28 percent over two years.

Baldinger readily admits he was anxious about the short-term prospects for the local real estate market at the outset of 2001. The sources of his fears were the declining stock market and rising energy prices. However, his concerns haven't borne out during the first six months of the year, he said.

"Looking at the numbers during the first quarter, I had the jitters to be honest with you," Baldinger said. "But I was wrong in my prediction."

During the first quarter of 2000, he said, Steamboat did $55 million in real estate sales. During the first quarter this year, that figure grew by 18 percent to $65 million.

That trend tells Baldinger that either the real estate industry lags behind other industries in terms of when it feels the affects of a weakening national economy, or people who are growing wary of the stock market are investing heavily back into real estate.

Another possibility is that the buyers who represent Steamboat's market are relatively immune to the vagaries of the market.

Baldinger believes the typical Steamboat buyer is no longer as likely to be speculating on the upswing of the local market, and he sees that as a healthy trend.

"The type of buyers here during the last three to five years are very different (from buyers) 20 years ago," Baldinger said. "We aren't seeing the 'miner 49er buyers' prospecting and looking to make a killing. Today's buyer is typically a 50-year-old who has saved for a long time and is going after lifestyle.

"There's a lot less leveraging (going on) people are not taking big risks."

As evidence of the trend away from speculation, Baldinger pointed to the Creekside condominium tower in Ski Time Square.

The last of 46 units selling for between $400,000 and $500,000 closed 18 months ago, he said. Today, only two of those units have come back on the market.

Baldinger told his audience of business leaders that he foresees the local real estate market heading in a new direction.

He believes the time has come for the development community to shift its energies away from "brand new, out-of-the-box product" to redevelopment of what Steamboat already has.

"We can rebuild what we have and reposition ourselves as a leader in the resort industry with the bed base we already have,'' Baldinger said.

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