First-quarter sales down

Number, value of transactions lowest in five years

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Real estate sales dipped in the first quarter of 2003, according to Steamboat's multiple listing service.

Both the number of transactions and the dollar amounts of those transactions dropped by more than 20 percent from the previous year, marking the lowest first-quarter numbers in five years.

The first quarter of 2002 could be somewhat inflated from projects coming online at that time said Doug Labor, who is the vice president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors. Closings that should have happened in the fourth quarter of 2001 were pushed into the first quarter of 2002 by the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, Labor said.

This year, the war in Iraq could have had an effect on the low first-quarter sales numbers, he added.

"The threat of war had some people hesitant," Labor said. "Now that it has pretty much been resolved, the rest of 2003 looks pretty promising."

For the first quarter of 2003, sales of homes, land, commercial property and farms totaled 131 and brought in $51 million. The first quarter of 2002 had 166 total sales worth $69.7 million.

The biggest drop came in residential sales, which saw a 30 percent decrease in transactions and a 40 percent decrease in dollar volume from the year before. In the first three months of the year, 91 residential units sold for almost $33 million.

Labor said the main difference comes from two major projects coming into the market in the first quarter of 2002.

He pointed to the Antlers at Christie Base, which created 11 closings, each worth about $1 million, in the first quarter of 2002. Another 14 units were sold in the Mountain Vista development.

The single-family home market also saw a significant drop in units sold, with 28 in 2003 compared with 35 in 2002.

The biggest decrease came in homes under $500,000. Just 18 homes under the half-million-dollar mark have sold so far this year, compared with 29 the year before.

While the low-end market suffered, higher-end homes saw an increase. Six homes sold for more than $1 million, compared with four the year before.

"It is part of the market that is still pretty active. They are looking to get out of the stock market and invest in something else," Labor said.

The dollar volume numbers had a boost from a $10 million property that closed in January. The property, which is across from Strawberry Park Elementary School, included 388 acres and a five-bedroom house and was on the market for almost a year.

Residential numbers were particularly strong for the first quarter of 2002. Two years before, numbers were more inline with the first quarter of 2003. In 2000, there were 95 transactions that sold for a combined $35 million.

"For residential sales, what we had in the first quarter of 2003 is very close to the beginning of the record year in 2000," Labor said.

The first-quarter 2003 numbers are also a marked drop from the previous quarter, which is not all that unusual in the real estate market. For the past five years, the first quarter has been the lowest grossing quarter of the year.

Labor said the first quarter is down because primary home buyers generally want to close in the spring or summer to get into homes before the winter, and second homeowners want to close before the ski season starts.

"People come in for the ski season, it is our greatest influx of guests. They come in, like what they see, but want to come back in the summertime to see what the summer is like," Labor said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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