Steamboat Springs Routt County's real estate market continued its record-setting pace in the first quarter of 2005.
The first three months of 2005, usually the slowest time of the year for real estate, broke the first-quarter record for sales dollars with nearly $97 million in sales, according to statistics from the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.
That easily topped the 2002 record of about $76 million.
First-quarter sales this year were about 47 percent higher than the same period last year.
"It was surprising because the first quarter of last year was so good," said Doug Labor, president of the board and owner/broker of Buyer's Resource Real Estate. "To be up almost 50 percent from the first quarter of 2004 was pretty amazing."
Labor tracks MLS statistics encompassing real estate mostly in Routt County but parts of surrounding counties, as well. About 10 percent to 20 percent of real estate in the area is not listed by the service.
The first three months of 2005 also saw a record number of first-quarter real estate sales with 270 -- about 50 percent more transactions than occurred during the first quarter of 2004.
Although the number of sales in Steamboat Springs dropped by about 35 percent between the two quarters, some outlying areas saw a significant increase in transactions, Labor said.
In Stagecoach, home sales and lot sales tripled from 11 to 33 in the first quarter of 2005. North Routt and Hayden sales also increased.
"We might be reaching some price resistance in the Steamboat market, which is bringing people to look at less expensive properties in outlying areas," Labor said.
A dramatic indicator of the demand for real estate in Routt County is MLS inventory, which amounted to 1,123 listings at the end of the first quarter -- about 200 fewer properties than is typical for that time of year, Labor said.
The absorption rate, which compares the number of listings to the number of sales, was 25 percent first quarter this year -- almost double the rate in 2004.
Those numbers mean a lot less negotiating power for buyers, particularly in Steamboat Springs.
The challenging market, where some properties sell within days or weeks of being listed, puts even more emphasis on buyer experience, said Tom Wilson, a real estate broker at Prudential Steamboat Real--ty.
Many shoppers are seeing opportunities to invest in Steamboat snatch--ed up by buyers who make full-price offers.
"They realize our inventory is so limited compared to bigger markets," he said.
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