Real estate sales top 2000 record

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Boosted by record third-quarter sales, real estate sales volume in the Steamboat Springs region already has beaten the end-of-year record set four years ago.

At more than $132 million, sales volume from July 1 to Sept. 30 easily topped the record mark of $118.7 million set during the third quarter of 2003. The third quarter also saw a record 396 transactions.

Area brokers weren't surprised by the figures.

"The third quarter is typically the busiest anyway. ... It definitely broke the record -- it more or less smashed it," said Doug Labor, owner/broker of Buyer's Resource Real Estate and president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.

Labor tracks Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service statistics encompassing real estate in Routt County and parts of surrounding counties. The board has been keeping statistics since 1995.

About 10 percent to 20 percent of real estate in the area, including properties for sale by owner, is not tracked by the service.

Total sales volume through Wednesday was more than $342 million -- about 4 percent more than total sales at the end of 2000 -- the last record year.

Renewed consumer confidence -- particularly among would-be second-home owners -- is a driving force behind the sales activity, said Randall Hannaway, owner/broker of Colorado Group Realty.

For three years, the second-home demographic has "waited on the sidelines" as unprecedented events, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and major corporate scandals, swayed buyers' confidence.

"I think they are getting past those fears and are ready to re-engage, so I'm expecting a very busy winter and upcoming year," he said.

From the high-end Porches townhomes to the more affordable Sunray Meadows condominiums, strong sales across the board are fueling big sales numbers, Hannaway said.

This year, 37 more condominiums have sold by this time than in 2003, and the number of townhome sales has jumped 22 percent from year-to-date sales last year, Labor said.

About 33 percent more homes have sold this year. Land transactions, which have been somewhat sluggish for a while, Hannaway said, jumped 34 percent.

"All segments of the market have been pretty consistent," Labor said. "We have seen a median price increase across the board, and land in the Steamboat city limits is becoming harder and harder to find."

He recently attended a Colorado Association of Realtors conference and noted that resort markets throughout the state are doing well.

The multi-million dollar sale of the Seven Lakes Lodge near Meeker to professional golfer Greg Norman is a strong indication that Colorado is attracting high-profile buyers, Hannaway said.

The lodge's former owner, Wall Street financier Henry Kravis, rented it out as an executive sporting retreat. Norman's plans are to use the property as a private getaway for family and friends.

"I think what we're really seeing is a true demographic move to the lifestyle," Hannaway said.

With home and property sale prices averaging about 96 percent of the listed price in the third quarter of 2004, sellers can hold firmer on their pricing, he said.

"The sellers are becoming more bullish ... but at the same time, I think there are very solid values to be obtained," he said, noting that overpricing was a big trend a few years ago, but sellers now are doing their homework and pricing their properties more accurately.

Real estate activity in the final quarter of the year tends to slump off a bit, but the market has given no sign it will slow down.

Although fewer people typically look at real estate in the winter, they tend to be more focused on obtaining their piece of Steamboat.

"They are very serious," he said. "They know they want a second home in Steamboat, and they want to buy."

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