As if to confirm that the high-country heydays are forever gone, real-estate sales in Colorado’s resort counties declined slightly in 2013, maintaining the back-to-reality theme of the past few years.
The mountain market crashed spectacularly five years ago, ending a real-estate gold rush from 2005 to 2008 that was powered by record numbers of sales and sky-high prices.
In a slow climb out of the recession, the total value of mountain home sales has barely reached the halfway point of the high-country zenith of about $10.1 billion in 2007. Sales in 2012 reached a post-recession high of just over $4.8 billion, suggesting that the market was recovering. But a slight slide to less than $4.7 billion last year reveals that Colorado’s once-impervious resort real-estate market is still wobbly.
Declines in high-end real estate — those mountain manses priced higher than $10 million — pushed down overall sales volume in Vail’s Eagle County, Telluride’s San Miguel County and Aspen’s Pitkin County in 2013. But homebuying locals and sales of more affordable vacation homes fueled increases in Grand, Routt and Summit counties.
In nearly every county, the total number of transactions increased slightly.
The varied high-country real-estate landscape is the new normal: It looks a lot like a typical real-estate market.
“I think the days of rampant growth and rampant volume probably are behind us,” said Vail Board of Realtors chairman Mike Budd, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Edwards.
In the Vail Valley, where home purchases typically are evenly split between locals and second-home buyers, sales were brisk on the low end as locals scoured a tight market. Sales flattened in the mid-range — $750,000 to $1.5 million — and the high end declined.
The total number of transactions in Eagle County in 2013 — 1,766 — was close to the long-term historical average.
“What we really saw was a pretty stable market,” Budd said. “It looks like a more normal scenario.”
A similar scene unfolded in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, home to Aspen and Snowmass Village. Sales volume was flat. The high end wilted, especially toward the end of the year. But around Aspen, the number of transactions climbed 27 percent. For Pitkin County, transactions increased about 10 percent.
“The theme I used for the year was ‘More for less,’ ” said Tim Estin, an Aspen-area broker who tracks Roaring Fork transactions in his Estin Report.
Land Title Guarantee Co., which tracks high-country sales, reported that average single-family home prices fell in pricey Eagle and Pitkin, and remained close to even with 2012 in Grand, Summit, Routt and San Miguel.
The average home price in Eagle County fell below $1 million for the first time in several years, and the average in Pitkin fell to $3.48 million, down from a record $5.12 million in 2008.
Median prices increased in Eagle, Grand and Routt, while they fell slightly in Summit and dropped 14 percent in Pitkin.
The uptick in total transactions around Aspen and Snowmass prompted Estin to call 2013 “a healthy year.”
“Buyers are coming into the marketplace, and they are finding bargains,” Estin said. “Plus, the fact that inventory is falling and demand increasing suggests that at some point in the future, we are going to see an uptick in prices.”
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasontblevins