Real estate market sees major boost in July sales

“It’s hopping…”
It is sort of like going from zero to 60 in a few seconds. The Crested Butte real estate market appears to have gone from plodding down a country road to hitting the autobahn this month.



So far this year, about $30 million in real estate has sold at this end of the valley. About the same amount is pending at the moment, but in the last three weeks, another $17 million in local real estate was put under contract.
“There has been a major uptick in the volume of sales and the amount of money people are spending,” said Bob Kray, a broker at Coldwell Banker Bighorn Realty. “We are hoping for more such activity during the rest of the summer.”
There has been a total year-to-date sales volume of $29,629,307 from 59 transactions between Crested Butte South and Mt. Crested Butte. The properties ranged from a $50,000 lot in Crested Butte South to a $2 million home in Crested Butte and a $3.5 million home in Mt. Crested Butte.
 Currently 40 listings totaling about $29 million are under contract but not yet sold. Of that $29 million, $17,352,399 was put under contract since the start of July.
Crested Butte finance director Lois Rozman said the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) collections are an indication of market activity in town. She said that up until the middle of July, the town had collected about $184,000 in RETT. RETT helps fund area open space purchases and capital improvement projects in town.
“We had three sales close in three days,” Rozman said. “A house for just over $2 million was sold, and then a business property for about $1.6 million and another house on the Bench for just under a million dollars all closed between July 13 and 15. That brought in $139,000 in RETT in just those three days.”
Rozman said nothing has been collected since that three-day period but she is aware of several town properties under contract, so she expects to see more RETT money flowing into the town coffers.
Are we back to boom times for the area real estate market?
“I wouldn’t say we are back to the super-busy times of a few years ago, but after the worst six months in the last five years, we are seeing some good activity,” said Channing Boucher of Benson Sotheby’s International Realty.
“We were probably off 50 percent the first part of the year, so it is good to see positive movement,” Boucher continued. And we are seeing some records at the high end. The town of Crested Butte had its first $2 million home sale, for example. It seems like prices are adjusting and people are getting real, so buyers are starting to jump back in the market. It’s hopping. Even vacant land is starting to move.”
Maggie Dethloff of Red Lady Realty said the activity on the expensive end of the real estate market is catching everyone’s attention. “I think the reason everyone is so wowed right now is that the high end woke up,” she postulated. “There is definitely more interest out there right now than there was earlier this summer. People with money seem to be checking us out a bit more.”
Over at Slate River Real Estate, longtime Crested Butte businessman Mickey Cooper agrees. “Summer is usually good,” explained Cooper. “July, August and September are normally our best months. Right now from what we are hearing from people looking around here, Crested Butte seems to be viewed as the best value in the mountains right now. I would say that it has been rough for a while, but if we aren’t at the bottom of the market, we are leveling off.”
Cooper said that bank-owned properties that have hit the market have been sold. “So now people are putting in lowball offers but the sellers aren’t taking the bargain basement prices. No one is discounting their property 30 or 40 percent.”
Prudential Becky Hamlin Realty owner-broker Tom Filchner also feels like the market is at or close to the bottom. “I’m not sure what normal is any more,” he said. “The market activity is below the hay-days of a few years ago but there is more activity right now than we have seen in a while. There is activity at the high end and the low end, but the middle still appears soft. Properties seem to be selling for 10 percent to 12 percent off the asking price, so people are getting deals.”
The brokers feel those deals ultimately have a positive impact on the overall valley. “The activity is universally beneficial to the community,” said Kray. “The people that bought the $2.5 million and $3.5 million houses in Mt. Crested Butte are probably the type to go out to restaurants and utilize services and businesses in the community. The lots that sold in Skyland can turn into construction projects and jobs for people living here.”
Kray agrees with Cooper and Filchner that the bottom is near if not reached. “I think there is an element that indicates we have hit a bit of the bottom,” he said. “People that are buying want to make sure they aren’t buying at the top and they have the cash to make sure their investment has some room. I am really encouraged by the high-end sales that have taken place because they are choosing to invest in Crested Butte and they certainly have other options.”
Filchner echoed that comment. “People want to live and come to Crested Butte,” he said. “There is definitely a change in attitude both nationally and locally. The paranoia is going away. People want to live here and enjoy the lifestyle we have here.
“My crystal ball is a little fuzzier than it used to be,” Filchner continued. “But overall people that are looking at property now are doing so in a serious way. Everyone in the office is working on something, which wasn’t the case a few months ago.”
Boucher says given the country’s financial situation, condos are still hard to sell because of the difficulty in getting financing for a condo. “The sweet spot in this market right now is single family homes,” he said. “Overall, I think the activity is showing some renewed faith in the Crested Butte market. Plus, in the long term, hard assets like property might be a great place to have your money.”
Nationally, the real estate lag may be turning around as well. It was reported this week that new home sales in June posted the fasted increase in more than eight years as buyers took advantage of bargain prices, low interest rates and a federal tax credit for first-time homeowners. Prices also began to trend upward in June.
Kray said the ups and downs are all part of the business. “In 35 years I’ve seen a lot of peaks and valleys in the business,” he said. “Hopefully we are coming out of a valley. I am encouraged that we are moving to the next phase and people can start looking forward. I have a gut feeling we are turning the corner.”
“We have definitely had a strong July,” said Dethloff. “Now hopefully we’ll see that strength continue through September and into the winter.”

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