Joy Rasmussen has added matchmaker to her skills as a Realtor.
The veteran broker at Colorado Group Realty is attempting to break a bottleneck in sales this summer by matching sellers who are downsizing, with buyers who are reluctant to trade up until they can sell their own condo.
"I have sellers who also have a home in a warmer climate and want to sell their single-family home here," Rasmussen said. "However, their adult son doesn't want to lose the ability to come to Steamboat. So they are considering purchasing a condo or townhome and would be willing to trade for a smaller property plus cash."
It still could prove difficult to make this match made in powder heaven. As a practical matter, both parties have to fall in love, or at least "in like" with each other's real estate. But Rasmussen, looking for a way to make something happen, is giving it a go. She already has a network of Realtors within the broader Steamboat Springs Multiple Listing Service who are cooperators.
Rasmussen was one of 11 Realtors from five brokerages who pooled resources last week to market 15 homes, most just west of Steamboat Springs, in a group open house. The Steamboat II, Heritage Park, West End Village and Silver Spur neighborhoods have long been places where working families could aspire to owning a home with its own yard.
Rasmussen said last weekend's group open house was timed to take advantage of the last really big summer tourism weekend before Labor Day.
"When I organize these open houses, I try to get as many as I can on weekends where bed counts are high," Rasmussen said. "I try to capture the large numbers of people who are visiting."
She estimated eight to 12 people visited each house that was featured last week.
Realtor Christine Hands of Alpenglow Properties said 11 people came through the Steamboat II home she featured in the open house. At an asking price of $489,000, it is one of the least expensive single-family homes listed for sale in Steamboat and offers several recent upgrades including Trex decking.
"Two couples seemed to have strong interest in the home," Hands said. "There were a few people from the neighborhood and a couple of people with homes on the market, which is fairly common."
Considered together, the 14 homes in four neighborhoods just west of Steamboat Springs city limits represent "attainability" in a market where the average price is more than $900,000.
So why haven't they sold this summer?
The homes range in price from $489,000 to $1.03 million.
Hands said she has encountered would-be buyers who have been discouraged by the complexity of qualifying for a mortgage in the current lending climate. Mortgage initiators are having to take increasing amounts of documentation to underwriters, she said.
Kathryn Pedersen, a mortgage lender with First National Bank of Steamboat Springs, agreed the process requires more paperwork than it did a year ago, but she thinks part of the hesitancy on the part of prospective buyers may be perception.
"It depends on who you are," Pedersen said. "It used to be that if you had really good credit (underwriters) might not have asked for anything else. But there isn't anyone who gets away with sending nothing anymore. We can't do a no-doc loan anymore."
Still, Pedersen said, she doesn't think the current process is really cumbersome enough to truly deter buyers.
Rasmussen said one of the challenges in the family home market right now is that the most likely buyers are in a situation where they need a contingency contract. In other words, young families that might be feeling a sense of urgency to get into their first single-family home because a new baby is on the way can't pull the trigger on that purchase until they sell their condo or townhome. And in this financial climate, there's an understandable reluctance to take the leap into a bridge loan that would allow them to purchase a new home before their current home sells.
"These homes are getting showings," Rasmussen said. "And some people have found the house they want, but they're continuing to look while their hands are tied."
The other half of the blockage in the market is that a portion of the homeowners whose properties were featured in last week's open house also hope to move up into another tier of the local market.
Rasmussen is cautiously optimistic that the impending arrival of the school year, with winter just over the horizon, will spur some people into taking action.