Summer sees 'resurgence of the buyer'

Condo sales strongest at low and high ends of market

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— Low interest rates, a good selection of units and a changing economic climate has condominium buyers returning to Steamboat Springs this summer in search of deals.

"In the past month, we've seen the resurgence of the buyer," said Randall Hannaway, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors. "Last winter, they started coming out and looking and now they have the confidence to make the purchase."

Hannaway said the new breed of buyer is quickly absorbing many of the condominiums and townhomes that collected on the market in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, a tumbling stock market and even Colorado forest fires last summer.

So after an extended lull, Hannaway and other Realtors are optimistic as they head into the summer.

"After several years, the pendulum is finally swinging the other way," Hannaway said. "That means a wonderful market for the seller and the buyer."

But despite the swing in the market, Ken Gold of RE/MAX said buyers are a little more conservative than they have been in the past. Sellers are getting good prices for their units, but are finding they may have to be a little more flexible in arriving at the final price. Gold said there is a lot of compromise in today's condominium market.

"It's a buyer's market out there right now," Gold said. "But it's also a good market for the motivated seller. This is one of the best markets we've had in several years."

The Realtors said sales have been steady for condominiums priced below $250,000 and those priced over $1 million. But the market is still looking to rebound in the upper middle range.

"The problem is that there is so much on the market right now," Cook said. "Some buyers are getting overwhelmed."

Sales in the Villas and Quail Run have been strong for several years, but now those units are getting harder to find.

Gold said he expects the new Sunray Meadows project, priced slightly lower than the Villas and Quail Run, to pick up where those left off. Initial interest in the project has been very strong.

He also said that many of the higher end projects remained steady over the past several years.

Gold said he expects new high-end projects such as Elkhorn and the Mountaineer to do well.

He also has high expectations for a less expensive new downtown project called the Residence at Steamboat. It's location at 703 Lincoln Ave. should make it a popular choice among buyers, he said.

Todd Asbury of Colorado Group Realty said there are really two types of buyers driving the market here in Steamboat: People looking for well-priced condos as a primary residence and people with extra money hoping to pick up a second home.

The first type of buyer is looking for a good deal in the Villas or Walton Creek, he said. These units tend to be a little harder to find, but there are still a few out there. The second kind of buyer is looking for a good value, but also wants to purchase a little piece of the Steamboat Springs lifestyle, he said.

"Back in the 1970s, the condo buyer was looking to buy a place where they could come for a couple of weeks each winter and ski," Asbury said. "These days, the buyer wants to buy a place where they can come in the winter and the summer and enjoy the quality of life here in Steamboat."

Hannaway also has seen these new buyers.

They come from metropolitan areas such as Houston, Dallas, Chicago and New York. They are buyers who want to escape from their day-to-day life but are not willing to give it up completely.

The Internet makes that possible for the new generation of buyers.

"The computer is changing our life everyday," he said. "We are starting to see it in the real estate market."

Still missing is the mid-range condo buyer who may have been stung when the stock market plunged a couple of years ago. Hannaway said that type of buyer is coming back -- slowly.

Asbury said one of the biggest needs in the market is condominiums in the $200,000 to $250,000 range. The cost of land and building prices in Steamboat have limited the numbers of these units in Steamboat.

But Cook, of Colorado Group Realty, thinks there are opportunities for working families to move into the area and own a home.

"I've been surprised that the Stagecoach area has been so quiet," Cook said. "People are paying more in rent right now than it would take to buy a unit out there."

It's also not uncommon for sellers to offer 103-percent financing on units in that area.

"Those units are one of the best buys in the area, but you have to be willing to make that 25-minute drive," Cook said.

Cook said buyers can get into three-bedroom, two-bath units for reasonable monthly payments and a small down payment.

"There's no doubt in Stagecoach you get more for your real estate dollar," Cook said. "I'm surprised that more units are not selling out there."

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