High end of real estate market starting to come back

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— As consumer confidence continues to rebound from the effects of Sept. 11, so does the Steamboat real estate market, especially homes in the $1 million range or higher.
Steamboat Realtors report that their first quarter sales have jumped from the drop seen at the end of 2001. And most say that the last two months have been particularly profitable at the higher end of the market.
Based on the brisk number of showings David Baldinger Jr. has set up in the last two months, the Realtor from Steamboat Village Brokers said interest in the million-dollar figure real estate market is increasing. With the economy stabilizing at the start of the year, the ski resort business remaining strong and interest rates staying relatively low, Baldinger said people are returning to the upper end of the market.
"I just think buyers and sellers are more confident in the market," he said. "Consumer confidence is up and that crosses over to real estate. People now have more confidence knowing it is O.K. to buy something."
Bob Hall of Remax said customers who drifted away from his office after Sept. 11 have come back and are ready to buy.
Susan Williams of Colorado Group Realty has also seen the market rebound. In her office since January, a $2.65 million home and two other residential units of more than $1 million have sold.
"There were four to six months were there wasn't anything selling. But after the first of the year, it definitely picked up," Wilson said. "When something like (Sept. 11) happens, everybody shuts down. They want to regroup, get close to their families and see what happens. They don't even want to buy a car."
At Prudential, Pam Vanatta said sales increased 9 percent in the first quarter in overall residential units compared to the first quarter of last year. Since January, Prudential has had four $1 million-plus homes under contract ,and Vanatta said February and March had been particularly busy months.
Realtors also said the stock market shakiness in the last year has made the real estate market a more attractive and stable way to invest money.
"People are wanting to spend some money and wanting to spend it on the real estate market," Vanatta said.
The Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors reported 15 residential units in the Realtors' Multiple Listing Service that sold for more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2002. Those sales brought in $21.1 million with an average sale price of $2 million for a single-family home and $1.2 million for a condo.
In the first quarter of 2001, five single-family homes sold for more than $1 million for a combined total of $13.2 million and average price of $2.6 million. In the booming year of 2000, the first quarter had four single-family, high-end homes sold for a combined total of $9.4 million and an average selling price of $2.4 million.
Ruth Krinke, a broker for Steamboat Real Estate Inc., cautioned the 2002 number could be misleading since nine of the condo units were under contract for more than a year as part of the Antlers development. The condos at the base of Mount Werner were officially sold when construction was completed in January.
But, she said the four single-family homes sold this quarter and the three more under contract are still remarkable first quarter figures.
And, most Realtors said the aftermath of Sept. 11 was not as bad as predicted.
Krinke said she thought one of her four buyers under contract pre-Sept. 11 would back out of the deal, but all of them went forward with closing.
None of Krinke's sales this winter have been in the high end range, but she said it has been a strong year for selling condos under $500,000, especially those near the base of the ski area.
Baldinger has seen a slightly similar buyer's demographic with the strongest market in the under $325,000 range, a market that is driven by locals and some visitors buying vacation homes.
Higher end homes, where the majority are second homeowners, have also rebounded faster than the middle-range priced condos.
More high-end sales are an indicator of a recovering national consumer confidence and confidence in Steamboat's ski resort, Baldinger said.
And Realtors said the strongest selling season is yet to come. In the next few months, Vanatta said she expects high-end homes to continue to sell.
She predicts more homes in the $1 million to $2 million range will be sold than have in the last six months.
"We'll see an increase in activity, but we'll see high end homes selling for less than in 2000," Vanatta said.
"Still, these homes are selling for good prices."

To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229
or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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