Realtors hope trends signal market stabilization

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What: Colorado Group Real Estate Roundup and Expo

When: 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Grand ballroom of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel

4 to 5:30 p.m. - Expo involving 35 local builders, designers, developers, engineers, lenders and title companies, among others

5:30 to 6:30 p.m. - Real estate update followed by a talk on the foreclosure sale process by Richard Evans, of Stewart Title

— Taken as a snapshot, real estate sales consummated Wednesday offer a glimpse of a market in transition.

There was the $1.4 million sale of a luxury home in Timbers Preserve on the shoulder of Rabbit Ears Pass on Wednesday. And there was the sale of a modest home in Hayden's Sagewood subdivision for $267,500. An undeveloped 50-acre lot in Murphy Larsen Ranch near Clark sold for $1.35 million. Closer to Steamboat, a rural home on small acreage sold for $550,000.

In a market where year-to-date dollar volume as of the end of the third quarter is down 62 percent, Wednesday's closings suggest there are buyers looking in a variety of price points and at widely ranging properties. There aren't nearly as many buyers as in years past, but there are buyers.

"I'm seeing some really smart, conservative people coming back into the market," Colorado Group broker/owner Jon Wade said. "They wouldn't have the cash to buy right now if they weren't smart."

Doug Labor, of Buyers' Resource Real Estate, tracks market trends for the Board of Realtors and sees room for optimism in transaction volume. After seven consecutive quarters of decline going back to 2007, the end of September marked the second consecutive quarter in which the number of sales has grown.

"That's the biggest thing I saw in the third-quarter statistics," Labor said. "Seven quarters ending in the first quarter of 2009 saw declining activity. Now we've seen two quarters of increasing activity."

The statistic raises the question, "Was the first quarter the bottom (of the market) in terms of activity?" Labor said.

Bruce Carta, of Land Title Guarantee Co., reported that the 86 transactions in September alone compared favorably with the 64 in September 2008.

Realtors and people working in related fields will gather Thursday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel to share information about current real estate market trends during the third Real Estate Roundup and Expo hosted by Colorado Group Realty.

"Since its inception, the goal of CGR's Real Estate Roundup and Expo has been to deliver the facts about our market and our best forecast as to where we believe it's going," said Randall Hannaway, a broker/owner and member of Colorado Group's board of directors.

The Roundup and Expo includes a keynote talk by Richard Evans, of Stewart Title, and an overview of the local market. Evans will speak about Colorado foreclosures and short sales, explaining the different stages of the process, and then take questions from the audience.

Wade said sales of distressed properties will represent a portion of the Routt County market in 2010, but he said a large majority of the listings on the local market do not include property owners under duress and many are reflective of owners who do not feel a particular urgency to sell.

Routt County Public Trustee Jeanne Whiddon confirmed this week that the number of pending foreclosures filed in her office stood at 157. The total number of foreclosure proceedings initiated in 2008 was 55.

Although the number of filings is up, the actual number of properties in foreclosure represents a small fraction of properties on the market, Wade said.

The balance of the program will include an overview of the Steamboat market, putting it in perspective as compared with the Denver and national markets, Wade said. Panel members can be expected to talk about the flattening of the growth in the number of listings and how that signals a return to stability.

In some product categories, Wade said, it's been seen that relatively small changes in inventory have resulted in sales at strong prices that are comparable even to the peak of the market in spring 2007.

He cited his listing of a five-bedroom Eagle Ridge Townhome that sold for $1.05 million in October.

"It's a powerful example of deals that are being made when price and inventory align and all of a sudden we begin seeing sales," Wade said.

"It's a challenging market," he added. "You can navigate it based on your dreams of what you want to happen, or you can navigate based on complete pessimism. But when you navigate it based on real knowledge and data, it's better for all of us."

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