Editor’s note: This is the first in a series about real estate in Teller County, beginning with single-family homes in Woodland Park, according to six area Realtors. Five have survived the Great Recession that began in 2008 and one who is relatively new to the business plans to be prepared for a downturn, just in case.
There’s good news out there for people thinking about selling, or buying, a single-family home. According to an informal survey of six real estate brokers, sales in Woodland Park average about five a month, with the median price holding steady from $350,000 to $360,000, a jump from the median range between $250,000 and $275,000 in 2014.
And there are no fisticuffs around to signal bidding wars for homes; that’s pretty much in the past according to the six. Each has built real-estate customer-relations momentum along with the statistics and charts. Each follows trends in the market to gauge what people are thinking.
And the statistics are bad news for people looking to purchase an “affordable” home, because it’s not happening.
Michael Harper, independent broker, founded Michael Harper Real Estate in 2010 at the height of the recession. “It was actually a great time to start because so many of the agents who had worked in residential left the industry,” he said. “It took some time after the market started healing itself in the lower price range, $400,000 and below, but the more expensive homes still lagged in sales for quite some time.”
But in the last two years, sales have taken off, which, in turn, increased the median price range, he added.
But the market is in transition, with homes staying on the market longer. “In 2018, for instance, most homes sold for the listing price or above,” he said. “My recommendation to the seller is to price the home correctly. You can’t expect to get away with pricing a home for more than it’s worth.”
Many of Harper’s clients are second-home buyers, some paying from $500,000 to $1 million. “People are confident because they believe the homes will hold their value,” he said. “But in the last two years, sales have just taken off.”
However, the down side is that, with more inventory, buyers have tougher choices. “We watch, letting our clients know the minute something comes on the market because there will be a number of realtors showing the same home,” he said. “It’s been a wild ride, let me tell you that. But interesting.”
Harper’s broker/associate is Tamara Buttery. Realtor Mike Sperry recently joined the business.
With 20 employees, 17 agents and three office staff, real estate is hopping at Your Neighborhood Realty in Woodland Park. “Business is ripe right now in the real estate market for sure,” said Mike Slaback, who, after 21 years of selling real estate in Teller County, opened his own business six years ago.
Along with selling homes, Slaback’s company manages properties, 114 to date. “From my point, business is great. We have all local people here — we all live in Teller County,” he said. “I think that helps, too.”
Slaback also has an office in Cripple Creek.
With prices up about 8% in the second quarter of 2019 in Teller County residential, Slaback is enjoying the good times after riding out the recession that began in 2008.
“The ups, the downs, the foreclosures, that whole thing is over with,” he said. “That’s not even a factor, only every once-in-a while. You don’t want to have a foreclosure market.”
Some buyers reflect a desire to leave the hustle-bustle of Colorado Springs.
“A lot of those people want to be up here,” he said. “I think our market will be good for quite a few years.”
Beth Gregory, a 15-year veteran of the business, switched from selling in Colorado Springs to opening Woodland Realty in her hometown. “I started advertising up here with The Courier from the beginning of my career and started getting more business in Teller County,” she said.
Gregory is a recession survivor. “As an independent broker I went through all the hardships; even though I had a pipeline of clients it was still challenging getting my business off the ground,” she said. “It turned out to be one of the hardest things I ever did and the most rewarding.”
Since 2016 housing prices have been appreciating about 30%, she said. “It’s been one of those crazy markets for the past couple of years.”
But the appreciation is not destined to last. “We’ve got sellers right now who are challenging to work with, because they got so used to housing prices jumping — we were seeing bidding wars in the spring and summer seasons, but those have ceased,” she said. “I think prices will continue to rise but at a much more normal rate.”
With the median price upwards of $300,000, fewer people can afford to live in Woodland Park. “It’s hard to find a decent home up here under $350,000,” she said. “A few years ago we were still listing homes at $180,000 to $250,000. People who move here from out of the area are getting sticker shock.”
For independent broker Lenore Hotchkiss, interest rates at around 4% are a breeze. “Twenty six years ago when I started in the business, interest rates were 18%,” she said. “I’ve ridden out the market all these years.”
While there may have been down times, Hotchkiss takes it all in stride. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good interest rate or a bad economy, people are always buying and selling,” she said. “People have reasons for moving all the time. People get divorces, get sick, move to another state because they have grandkids there — that’s a big one.”
With 83 single-family houses on the market in Woodland Park, 43% are priced from $118,000 to $350,000, while 45% are in the $350,000 to $500,000 range, Hotchkiss said.
Seventy-six single-family homes are priced from $500,000 or above. “We have 1% more listings through September this year than last,” she said, adding that while sales are down the median price is up 6.6% to $345,000.”
Sharon Roshek, broker/owner of Coldwell Banker 1st Choice Realty, along with broker Bernie Vayle, sees trends that influence the market. For instance, recently the number of Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBOs) have increased substantially.
The increase, they said, is due to the need for more hotel rooms, but the rentals reduce the number of homes on the market.
As well, there are fewer appraisers these days. “There are more appraisers ready to retire than replacements and that has become a big issue in the whole Pikes Peak Region,” Vayle said.
In turn, the lack of appraisers lengthen the time from sale to closing while increasing the cost. “An appraisal now is about $750,” Vayle said.
Roshek, who has 37 years in real estate, zeroes in on correct pricing. “Prices stay appropriately balanced to the demand,” she said. “It still goes back to Econ 101, supply and demand. Right now the demand is a little bit greater than the supply.”
In the last 12 months in Woodland Park, 351 homes sold, or 29 a month on the average. “But in the last 60 days, 103 houses have been on the market, which is 3 1/2 months of inventory to be absorbed,” Roshek said. “A complete balanced market is six months’ worth of inventory.”
Kellie Case and Connie Sims are part of the Agent Leadership Council for Keller Williams Clients’ Choice Realty who work in the Woodland Park office.
Case saw a shift in demand for single-family homes beginning in July. “There are a few new listings every day and lots of price decreases, because 99% of what drives a home’s ability to sell is price,” she said. “So when you hit the sweet spot on price, the house will sell. There’s someone for every home.”
As far as demand does, homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range are still selling quickly. “We’re still seeing some multiple offers, but not for everything,” she said. “But homes from $500,000 to $700,000 didn’t go as we had thought. I priced them based on the previous six months of comparable sales, but the market didn’t tolerate it.”
Relatively new to real estate, Case acknowledges that she hasn’t been through previous recessions when the market collapsed. “I am preparing me and my business to weather a downturn because it’s really an opportunity, if you look at it, instead of being doom-and-gloom,” she said.
Case’s plan includes diversification, marketing, building relationships, honing her skills and minding her budget. “I’m taking this time to beef up my database, stay in communication with my clients,” she said. “My focus is on referrals. You have an opportunity to thrive in a downturn market because a lot of people will leave the business.”