Crested Butte and entire valley feel impacts of real estate boom

Million-dollar homes the norm

[ By Mark Reaman ]

Some call it the Zoom Boom—the act of people realizing that they don’t have to live where they work so they decide to move and live in a nice, safe place instead of a crowded city. That leads to a rush of real estate sales, which in turn leads to higher home prices and lower inventory in a particular place.

As 2020 sees record local sales in terms of dollar volume and the average selling price, Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley are officially part of the Zoom Boom.

Crested Butte finance director Rob Zillioux has seen the evidence of the Zoom Boom with the town. He said the town’s 3 percent Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) for 2020 is exploding and that, along with a major increase in grocery store sales tax revenue, is evidence that people are buying and moving here.

“2020 has been a monster year for real estate sales in Crested Butte,” he said. “This phenomenon is similar to other Colorado mountain resort towns such as Telluride and Aspen. RETT collections year-to-date up to December 28 have been $2,923,636 (excluding affordable housing sales) versus $1,827,822 for all of 2019. The total transactional value this year has been $104,572,007 versus $60,927,433 in 2019. This represents a 72 percent year over year increase in total sales volume.”
Zillioux calculates there were 42 transactions of $1 million or more in 2020 versus 27 such transactions in 2019 just in Crested Butte proper. That is a 56 percent increase.

Local real estate brokers will not dispute the numbers and many are so busy right now they couldn’t take time to comment on the numbers. But those that did said the valley is indeed experiencing an unexpected boom.

“Bluebird’s sales more than doubled this year, and the overall sales for the region will be up substantially for the year, following a slow start in the spring. More young professionals have been able to work remotely and are moving here to do so, and enjoy the outdoors all the time,” said principal of Bluebird Real Estate Bud Bush. “Demand is still very high even though we are in the holiday season. Sellers are testing new highs for prices and obtaining them. We put two houses on the market just before Christmas and they both went under contract right away. Multi-million dollar sales have more than doubled over 2019.”

That is leading to lean inventory for people to choose from. Chris Kopf, a broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties in Crested Butte, said numbers in every market category are fewer than a year ago. “Inventory levels are definitely lower than normal, which is to be expected given the buyer demand. And prices are reflecting that as a single-family home in Mt. Crested Butte has seen a 22 percent increase over 2019, in Crested Butte the price is up 2.5 percent, Skyland homes are up almost 30 percent and in Crested Butte South houses are selling 5.7 percent higher than a year ago.”

Kopf’s numbers show that in terms of all real estate on the market, there are 456 properties available now compared to 532 a year ago.

While that number shows a decrease in choice, Scout Walton, managing broker of the LIV Sotheby’s International Realty office in Crested Butte’s said that, “In the Upper Valley, current active inventory of all property types is at a low point since the mid 2000s; however, even at current levels, the number of active listings in the Crested Butte/Gunnison market still exceeds that found in other larger ski town markets, such as Summit and Eagle Counties.”

Walton noted that sales up are up in every geographic area and property type this year. “Crested Butte/Gunnison is still a bargain compared to other ski towns considering relative prices and availability,” he said. “Our amenities and assets are hard to beat. The full effects of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass and long-term capital investments have yet to play out completely. Property prices are on the rise, which is drawing new sellers into the market. That is making vacant land more attractive for individual single-family home construction as well as multi-unit development, even as construction costs increase. So, for buyers and sellers alike, Crested Butte/Gunnison has never been more attractive.”

Kopf too said that the amenities of the valley are drawing people here during the pandemic.

“All quality homes at all price points and that do not need a major remodel are selling briskly. Many more people are also living here in their second homes due to COVID. There are probably more Front Range buyers now, as that has picked up since we started the Rocky Mountain Superpass and now the Vail Epic Pass. We are being discovered or re-discovered by many,” he said.

“People say this is a great valley and recreation opportunity is key for sure,” Kopf explained. “The vibe is mentioned—but more in terms of charm than a ‘keep CB weird’ comment. Amenities are important—restaurants, shops [not “shopping” as an activity] and connectivity. That is a bit of a drawback, actually, as connectivity is important and in my humble opinion cell service could certainly be better.”

Bush said the valley is attracting a broad swath of people ready to buy here. “Everything is selling very well, even fixer-uppers. Our agents all have buyers waiting for the right property to come on the market. They are ready to buy, and likely will be met with multiple offers and in many cases paying the asking price or even higher,” he said. “Homes between $750,000 and $1.5 million are probably the hottest sector and in the shortest supply in the upper valley.”

Walton believes there are several reasons for the current boom. “Coronavirus, remote working, urban uprisings, low interest rates and rising equity markets have certainly accelerated the exodus from the cities. But the underlying motivator driving real estate activity in Crested Butte/Gunnison is families shifting their priorities to realize their dream to live, or at least spend more time, in a genuine mountain community,” he observed. “The abundant recreation, outrageous scenic beauty, quality schools, top-notch healthcare, reliable access, diverse arts offerings are just some of our competitive advantages that will outlast the effects of the pandemic.”

Bush agreed with that assessment. “For people looking here, it is a dream come true to be able to live and work in this paradise,” Bush concluded. “With the great schools, lack of crime, a friendly community, panoramic beauty and clean air—it is hard to beat. We originally thought this boom was an overreaction to COVID, but we are now realizing that it is also due to the Vail effect. Crested Butte is now on the map, on the radar. We’ve been discovered and this attraction to our community looks like it might continue for a while.”

As a side note, Zillioux said more visitors are staying in Crested Butte. “Short Term Rental excise tax collections have boomed this year as well,“ he said. “Through November, collections were $324,245 versus $261,575 in 2019. The 24 percent increase is remarkable due to the spring and early summer lockdowns.”

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