Routt real estate market hits $1.12B

County's December sales set record

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— The dollar volume of real estate transactions in Routt County shot up in uncharacteristic fashion during December 2006.

December typically ranks in the bottom 25 percent of the annual calendar in terms of sales, but that wasn't the case last month when the local market grew 174 percent to $97.8 million.

The late surge pushed the total 2006 dollar volume to $1.21 billion, establishing a new record.

Mike Woolverton, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, said area real estate agents and their clients, mindful that there was limited inventory available at the close of a record year, snapped up many properties.

"The market had hit that perfect storm level," Woolverton said. "We had a little frenzy with agents and their clients. There is almost no land on the market and people realized it was time to buy up what real estate you could find."

Woolverton, a principal in Elk River Realty, has been practicing here for 19 years.

Woolverton believes the real estate community and clients in Steamboat came to understand late in the year that the clouds hanging over the national real estate market were not going to curtail the Routt County market. That sense of optimism was reflected in the flurry of late activity.

Real estate professionals here knew by Dec. 5 that the market had crested $1 billion for the first time. What remained to be seen during the final four weeks of the year was whether the market would respond to the news that the sale of the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. to Fortress Investments/Intrawest had been placed under contract.

December's activity, which was achieved on significantly fewer transactions than took place the previous year, suggests buyers took note of the $265 million Ski Corp. deal, which could close as soon as the end of March.

However, Woolverton disputes that notion.

"That was just our natural market," he said. "The Ski Corp. news had nothing to do with it."

Woolverton pointed out Routt County's dollar volume began putting up substantial year-over-year increases in August and the trend continued throughout the fall. The autumn business was attributable to contracts written in the spring, he said, long before American Skiing announced its intent to sell the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Similarly, the genesis of early winter transactions can be found in contracts written in late summer.

Woolverton said December's numbers were affected by an anomaly - the rush to close sales of single-family lots at Wildhorse Meadows before the end of the calendar year.

A significant number of the 20-plus lots closed on Dec. 31, he noted. And their aggregate value, based on an average price of about $500,000, skewed December figures.

Bruce Carta of Land Title Guarantee Company in Steam-

boat Springs compiled figures maintained by Routt County this week that show the local market has nearly doubled since the end of 2004.

Routt County saw $637 million in sales in 2004. The number grew to $886 million in 2005 before eclipsing $1.1 billion in 2006.

The biggest single month in 2005 was July, when $99.46 million in transactions closed. July 2006 fell by the wayside despite hitting $102.8 million.

September 2006 hit $133 million, October notched $124.7 million (152 percent of the preceding year) and November topped $138 million.

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