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Local real estate sales up, median sales price down

Real estate sales for homes of all types in Archuleta County were up 22 percent during the first quarter of 2011 (relative to the same quarter last year), according to a report released by the Pagosa Springs Area Association of Realtors last week.

However, those numbers appear to represent the number of bargains on the market as the same report indicated a 16-percent drop in the median price of single family homes.

As reported in this edition of The SUN (see related article), the drop in housing prices is reflected in decreased sales tax revenues collected on real estate sales — down 19 percent for January and February 2011 compared to the same months last year.

In fact, almost all sectors of the industry saw a significant drop in prices during the first quarter of 2011. While average sales prices for single-family homes saw an increase of 3 percent, median prices fell 16 percent, probably leading to an almost reciprocal rise in sales of 17 percent. Also according to the PSAAR report, the median price of condominiums and townhouses decreased by 36 percent from last year (with average sale prices decreasing by 27 percent), playing a part in a 33-percent increase in sales.

Likewise, residential land sales were up in 2011 by 21 percent over the same quarter in 2010 with those sales likely driven by depressed prices, with average prices down 8 percent and median prices down 29 percent. For all types of land sales, median sale prices were down 36 percent, while average sale prices were down 64 percent — probably part of the reason that the 2011 first quarter saw a 16-percent increase in sales over the same quarter last year.

Finally, commercial properties — five sold the first quarter of 2011 compared to four during the same period last year — not only displayed a 43-percent drop in average sale price, but a 50-percent decline in median prices.

The decline in property prices across the county has been fueled by an increasing number of foreclosures. With the second highest number of foreclosures in Colorado, the PSAAR report showed that foreclosed properties in Pagosa Country increased 38 percent during the first quarter of 2011, while average selling prices for those properties fell 21 percent during that time. Unfortunately, the number of foreclosed properties is expected to increase during 2011 (with as many as an estimated 150-plus properties expected to fall into foreclosure this year).

With the good news in the PSAAR report being that real estate sales are up from a year ago — single-family home sales returning to 2007 levels, land sales increasing to above the 2008 levels — the 800-pound gorilla remains plummeting prices. While active listings for all types of residential properties throughout Archuleta County was 521, down from 562 one year ago (as of April 4), bargain basement prices on all properties have no doubt driven the urge to buy (by the fortunate few).

“It is, after all, a buyer’s market,” said PSAAR president Deneice Stacy. “People are looking for deals.”

When asked if speculators are driving the current buying spree, Stacy denied that investors are the majority of real estate customers. “There’s a few,” she said, regarding investor interest, “more families and retirees or people who will be retiring within the next few years.”

When asked how buyers are approaching the Archuleta County housing market, Stacy said, “The buyers are looking for very good deals so they look at a lot of properties, make offers and if they can’t get a really good deal, they look some more.”

By all indications, those bargains are expected to increase. While home sales in 2011 should continue to increase from the first quarter of this year, those sales will no doubt be driven by decreasing prices and the growing availability of foreclosed properties. Great news for buyers in the market for deals — possible bad news for local sellers hoping to maximize a return on their investments.

jim@pagosasun.com

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