Cosu winter 2010 real estate graph xiy7dz

In 2006, Summit County processed approximately 3,600 real estate transactions. In 2009, the number had dropped to 1,245—a decline of nearly two-thirds.

The nationwide economic slowdown and a significantly tightened lending industry were largely to blame for the decline, and the effect was magnified by Summit’s all-time-high market status going into the recession. Local real estate professionals took unprecedented steps to combat the drop in business, right down to removing water coolers in the office. But after waiting out the inactivity, area experts are finally beginning to detect a change for the better. “I think we’re climbing out of the hole,” says Colorado West Real Estate Group broker-owner Barrie Stimson, who has been selling real estate in Summit for 24 years.

The turnaround began to show this past summer. Sales in June 2010 were up 73 percent from sales in June 2009. After a lull in July, sales in August also showed an upswing, increasing 3 percent over the figures from the same month a year before. At the end of August, which offered the most current reliable numbers as of this writing (bear in mind that 60–70 percent of Summit’s closings take place from August through December), total annual sales appeared on pace to eclipse those of 2009, the first step in what Stimson believes will be a slow but steady road back to health.

“People are starting to feel more comfortable about buying real estate,” he said in October 2010. “Just from what I’ve seen in my own office, we’ve had many more walk-ins and less nervousness among potential buyers.”

While it’s impossible to know for sure, most real estate professionals in the area believe that the market has already bottomed out. It took nearly three years for prices to descend to a level that matched the decreased demand, a process further complicated by skewed perspectives that kept list prices too high for too long. “I think we were all in a state of denial for a while, myself included,” Stimson admits.

Since then, asking prices have dropped precipitously, especially among high-end single-family homes, many of which were built on spec. One home that was listed in 2008 for $2.957 million spent two years on the market before selling in July for $1.65 million. If anything has been more stagnant than home listings, it’s been land; buyers can often get a finished house for such a comparatively low price nowadays that investing in the building process is a lot less attractive.

All of this bodes well for deal seekers in the market for a home right now.

“As a broad, general statement, prices are somewhere near what you would’ve paid in 2006,” Stimson notes. “So this is an excellent time to buy, even if it’s just to get your foot in the door.

“I don’t anticipate getting back to where we were at the peak of the market, but I’d like to get back to a normal rate of growth, which I think is about 3 to 5 percent a year.” That would be a welcome pitch back up after the double-black-diamond drop of recent years.

Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil is a contributing writer for and freelances for publications ranging from Outside to O: The Oprah Magazine.

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