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Real estate market gains ground

The Pagosa Springs Area Association of Realtors (PSAAR) released its most recent sales and listings statistics last week, reflecting mixed market activity in the third quarter of 2010, but overall improvement year to date.

From July 1 through Sept. 30 of this year, 54 recorded sales of site-built single-family homes equaled the number sold over the same period last year, though the dollar volume increased slightly (1.7 percent).

While falling short of the number recorded in 2008 (61), site-built home sales did exceed the third-quarter total seen in 2007, but only by four transactions. As expected, sales of site-built single-family homes lagged far behind the third-quarter totals seen in 2005 and 2006.

Considering all types of residential sales, including site-built, townhome/condominium, manufactured and modular homes, 2010 third-quarter sales fell just shy of those in 2009 by three total sales. Of the 69 total residential sales recorded during this year’s third quarter, seven were either condos or townhomes, while eight were either manufactured or modular homes. Twelve were “bank-owned,” accounting for 18 percent of sales, up 20 percent over last year.

Year to date (Jan. 1 through Sept. 30), PSAAR Realtors and agents sold 149 Archuleta County site-built homes, compared to just 105 in the first nine months of 2009. Reflecting a 42-percent increase in closed sales, this year’s total dollar volume (through Sept. 30) equaled $44.85 million — also up 42 percent over last year, in just site-built home sales.

This year’s average sale price was $300,998, compared to $301,207 last year.

From the beginning of 2010 to the end of September, agents sold 182 residential homes of all types, compared to 138 in the same timeframe a year ago. With this year’s closings climbing 32 percent over 2009, the 2010 total dollar volume increased by $13.4 million, or 38 percent over last year. This year’s median sale price was $203,225.

Of the 182 homes sold this year, 48, or 26 percent, were “bank owned.” That equates to a 78-percent increase in such sales over 2009.

This year’s land sales (of all types) also increased over last, though its overall activity still fell short of total home sales. Nevertheless, 86 unimproved properties changed hands between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, compared to 68 in the same period a year ago. In 2010, third-quarter sales totaled 38 compared to 28 in the third quarter of 2009.

Among vacant lots less than half-an-acre in size, 35 sold between last Jan. 1 and the end of September, compared with just 27 changing hands through the first three quarters of 2009.

While this year’s overall real estate sales are up from a year ago, so are active residential listings. By Oct. 5, 668 residential properties of all types were included in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), compared to 616 at the same time last year. The average list price is now $439,372, while the median list price is $294,800.

Total land listings (of all types), on the other hand, are somewhat less than a year ago, with 978 listed on the MLS earlier this month. In 2009, 1,014 parcels were listed for sale by the first week of October. Among this year’s listings, 852 are residential properties with an average list price of $123,952 and a median asking price of $65,000.

Meanwhile, Archuleta County Development Services (building department) issued 31 site-built, single-family building permits during the first three quarters of 2010, compared with 30 in the same timeframe last year.

The department also issued eight commercial permits in 2010, compared to just four in the first nine months of 2009. Though single-family and commercial building permits for this year and last were nearly equal, both trailed far behind the three previous years.

While the PSAAR statistics clearly point to an upturn in this year’s county residential real estate market, they don’t offer much insight as to the specific nature of homes listed, or the size-range of lots included in today’s listings. Too, they contain only Archuleta County properties sold or listed by PSAAR members, while excluding all listings by Realtors from outside the county, as well as all “for sale by owner” properties.

Regardless, local agents feel now is a good time to purchase real estate, and they’re probably right. They cite low interest rates, a lot of inventory, and slowly rising list prices as reasons serious buyers should act now.

Certainly, such factors make for an appealing market often resulting in reasonable contract prices, yet many potential buyers now face difficulty in obtaining a loan. Today, versus four or five years ago, most buyers must put significant money down and have a steady, verifiable source of income.

Nevertheless, qualified buyers waiting for list prices to bottom out might think about reviewing today’s available inventory. Though numerous foreclosures have taken their toll on comparable values in recent years, the PSAAR believes listings may have stabilized, and average prices could creep upward.

chuck@pagosasun.com