Real estate trends hold steady

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— Real estate sales here were on track at midyear to finish with the second highest dollar volume in 20 years, despite the general malaise in the economy.

Realtor David Baldinger Jr. said a look at the statistics behind the trends reveals that demand for real estate in Steamboat has been steady for almost a decade, but the buying public shifts from one category of real estate to another.

"All categories are still relatively strong, and the demand is relatively constant," Baldinger said. "What people are buying has changed, but the number buying and selling is pretty constant. That's surprising to me."

Baldinger, a principle in Steamboat Village Brokers, maintains a spreadsheet going back 20 years. It details trends in four primary real estate categories: condominiums, single family homes, lots and acreages.

Through June 30, combined dollar volume in Steamboat Springs stood at $124.38 million. That's about $20 million ahead of 2001 and still well behind the pace set in 2000, when the Steamboat market set a record of almost $304 million.

Mitch Clementson of Steamboat Real Estate Inc., said there are many buyers in the market right now, and they are aware that it's a buyer's market in many ways.

"Almost anything right now will move if it's perceived by the buyers to be a good deal," Clementson said. "If it isn't very clean, if it doesn't have very few negatives, they'll expect a deal."

September is typically a busy month because buyers are feeling some urgency to accomplish a purchase before winter sets in, he added.

The source of Baldinger's fascination is that although total dollar volume in this market and the average sale prices in the different categories have all changed drastically, the number of transactions hasn't varied that much from year to year.

For example, 169 condominiums had changed hands here at the midway point of 2002, putting the market on pace for 338 sales. That's not that much different from 2001, when there were 336 condo sales. It's also not that much different from 1993, when 346 condo sales closed, or 1992, when 307 condos were sold. What has changed in the intervening decade is the average sale price, Baldinger pointed out.

Through June 30, condo dollar volume was $59.7 million, for an average sale price of $353,000. The record year for condo dollar volume was 2000 when the number topped $94.5 million on 384 sales for an average price of $246,240. Back in 1992, when the number of transactions was still above 300, dollar volume was just $28.7 million, for an average sale price of $93,616.

Most Realtors in Steamboat would be quick to point out that one condo project in particular, The Antlers, skewed the numbers in the first half of 2002.

The Antlers, able to boast true ski-in, ski-out access at the bottom of the Christie chairlift, broke the $1 million threshold for condos here. Baldinger said that the Antlers accounts for about $10 million of the $59 million six-month total. Subtract that amount and Steamboat is still on pace for a record year for condo sales volume.

It's all part of a trend toward bigger, more luxurious condos, Baldinger concluded. He said the year 2001 was fueled in the same category by the Creekside project, which converted about 45 sales ranging from $400,000 to $600,000.

Baldinger is most struck by the demand for single-family homes here. Even as values have spiraled up here, the number of transactions rarely strays very far from 200.

Through June of this year, single-family home sales were lagging a little behind the pace for 200 annual sales, at 87 units sold. That's due largely in part to a lack of inventory at the lower end of the range, Baldinger believes. And dollar volume, at $49.8 million, was ahead of all years but 1999 and 2000. Average home price through June was the highest it has ever been $572,490, but that number isn't as meaningful as it once was, he said.

Baldinger said the single-family home market here must be broken into three segments in order to understand it.

The first market consists of primary residences up to the level of $325,000 or $350,000.

The second market rises all the way up to $800,000. People buying homes in that category are typically either second-home owners or longtime locals purchasing their last homes. Finally, there is the market for homes priced at $1 million or more. That niche is occupied almost exclusively by retirement couples or second-home buyers, Baldinger said.

Of the 87 home sales through the first six months of the year, 15 were in the market segment greater than $1 million.

Clementson agreed with Baldinger that there is encouraging activity on the high end. But he said sales of homes between $600,000 and $1 million in price are stagnating. "I don't even like to use the word slow, but they are slow," Clementson said.

Of most concern to Baldinger is the market for building lots. In Steamboat Springs. Lot sales through June 30 numbered 46 compared to 51 on the same date a year earlier. The dollar volume was $9.4 million and the average price was $204,000. Both numbers are down 1 to 2 percent from the previous year.

A trend behind those numbers is the fact that the bulk of those sales came in Silver Spur and Heritage Park, a couple of residential subdivisions that will sell out in the near future.

Clementson said he recently worked with a client who wanted to see lots within the city limits priced at $125,000 and down. He gave his client a short list for a drive around. He quickly came back to slightly more expensive lots in Silver Spur and purchased a pair, Clementson said.

As the number of entry-level lots in Steamboat dwindles, Clementson said, buyers will be looking at lots that are less desirable or a challenge to build on.

Baldinger doesn't see where building lots will become available in 2003. "That's a big question for the community to tackle," he said.

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