Housing demand outpaces supply

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— Looking for a home in the $2-million-to-$3-million price range? Not to worry, Steamboat Springs has a 12-year supply.

Most prospective buyers likely are searching for homes priced at less than $1 million, however. There's only three- to four-month supply of those, based on sales in that range last year, said Realtor Doug Labor, who tracks statistics for the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.

Growing demand and shrinking inventory, particularly in the $500,000-or-less price range, has resulted in an interesting situation: For the first time since 1995 (when the board began tracking real estate activity), the total number of sales in January through September exceeded the average number of listings during those nine months.

That may not be surprising, considering 2005 has been a record year for real estate activity.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 1,400 transactions and $532 million in sales, according to data from the board's Multiple Listing Service, which includes activity mostly in Routt County.

Last year, there were 1,230 transactions and $442 million in sales.

Short supply and big demand are pushing up prices. So far this year, the median sale price of a single-family home in Steamboat was $638,000, compared with $525,000 in 2004, Labor said.

Real estate brokers can hardly keep up with demand for condominiums and townhouses.

"I've been in a lot of bidding wars," said Jennifer Fritz, a broker at Prudential Steamboat Realty.

Units $250,000 or less with reasonable Homeowners Assoc--iation fees typically aren't on the market for more than 48 hours, and sellers are getting their asking prices and sometimes more, she said.

Mitch Cantele, a co-owner and broker at RE/MAX Steam--boat, noted that last week, there were about 14 listings for townhouses in the $300,000-to-$500,000 range.

There have been 106 townhouse sales in that price range in the past 12 months.

"A listing that's priced right in that price range will fly off the market," he said.

Labor expects the Steamboat market will continue to challenge buyers.

Costly development regulations, growth limits and a moratorium on building at the ski base area have not helped the situation, he said.

The city of Steamboat Springs put the moratorium, which ends this month, in place while establishing standards for base area development.

"Part of the reason housing prices have gone up in the Steamboat area is because the brakes have been put on production," Labor said. "It has made a bad situation worse.

"If you want to provide more affordable housing to the community, more product needs to be made available. Otherwise, with the exception of prices continuing to increase, nothing will change."

Many brokers look west of Steamboat for potential future development. Steamboat and Routt County officials are revising the West of Steamboat Plan to encourage development proposals.

If or when development happens in that direction, lots and homes sold at market value likely won't be considered affordable, Cantele said, adding that lots alone likely would cost at least $200,000.

Steamboat's increasingly untouchable market means more buyers are heading to outlying communities, particularly Stagecoach, where land sales this year have increased 134 percent compared with sales during the same time in 2004, Labor said.

Developers are ready to meet the demand: A 111-lot subdivision, The Neighborhoods at Young's Peak, is slated for final approval soon.

In Hayden, developers are preparing to break ground on the first phase of the large Villages at Hayden project, and another residential development, Dry Creek Village, is close to approval.

"I'm really happy this stuff is popping up in surrounding communities, because that's what new locals need," Cantele said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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