National Housing Market Plunged in July, But Not in Montrose
by Beverly Corbell
Sep 01, 2010 | 1957 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTROSE – The nation cringed when the National Association of Realtors announced last week that housing sales in July plunged 25.5 percent below the level of a year earlier, but that wasn’t the case in Montrose.

Although it’s an isolated number, there was a zero percent change in sales of single-family homes in Montrose County, with 48 sold in July of 2009 and 48 sold in July of 2010, according to Lynn Vogel of Comparable Sales Research.

Single home sales in Delta County were down 50 percent from last year, according to Vogel, with 26 sales in July of 2009 and 13 in July of 2010. The numbers were up 12.5 percent for Ouray County, with 5 sales last year and 7 sales in 2010.

But just where the local housing market is going depends on who you ask.

Nick Zappa, broker/associate for Re/Max Alpine View in Montrose said a lot of variables are at play in home sales, but it’s still a buyer’s market.

“It’s a real interesting market because of the amount of inventory we have, and people are looking at enormous amounts of properties before making a decision,” he said.

Interest rates are still down, he said, but the lack of jobs is keeping sales low.

“We’re a microcosm of national trends and overall, it’s slowed last year in Montrose County,” he said. “We have 26 pages of Notice of Election demands, the precursor to foreclosure, and there’s like 12 to a page.”

Although foreclosure laws have been eased, foreclosures have jumped because many people who used to make good money in construction trades are unemployed, he said.

“A lot of plumbers, electricians, dry-wallers and other trades that were really making good money are out of work,” he said. “Telluride’s dead. Nothing’s happening. Some are buying condo units because they’re good deals, but construction has slumped to nothing.”

While there’s some construction in Montrose, there’s not much, he said, and a lot of people who lost their jobs are leaving town and losing their homes.

“I’m seeing similar conditions to 20 years ago,” he said.

Ginny Blaylock, broker/associate at Coldwell banker, said Montrose County may show home sales numbers similar to last year’s, but prices of homes have dropped, partly due to foreclosures.

“We were hit with foreclosures much later than Denver,” she said. “They were hit two years before we were, but they’re coming out of it quite well and hopefully that will roll over into our area. Foreclosures are on the upswing here and on the downswing there.”

Blaylock said the county saw 175 foreclosures in 2009 and she expects at least twice that many in 2010.

“Until we move through the foreclosures, the market can’t stabilize very well,” she said. “For a seller doing a resale it’s hard to compete with those foreclosures. But are we dead in the water? Absolutely not.”

The real estate business is still functioning, she said, but just with fewer buyers. Qualified buyers have it made, she said, but sellers must also understand the market.

“Their houses need to shine and be priced to sell in today’s market, not the market they bought it in or the market they wish it was in,” she said.

John Renfro, owner of Renfro Realty, agreed that prices are down, and said a house marked at $250,000 last year in Montrose would probably be priced at $200,000 this year.

Renfro, who also works in commercial real estate, said that “bubble” has been bursting locally, for example, when the Foxworth-Galbraith lumberyard recently “came in at 50 cents on the dollar,” appraised at $950,000 but put on the market for $500,000.

Lot prices are also down, Renfro said, due to foreclosures.

“We have to move some of these in 30 days, and I had two one-acre lots in Montrose that closed at $22,500,” he said. “Five years ago, they easily would probably have gotten $70,000 to $85,000.”

A lot of people are suffering as they’ve lost their homes, Renfro said, and his office has become “a bit of a ministry” to people whose houses get taken away, often giving them gas money “to get over the hill,” he said.

“For some people, the last thing they had is equity in their homes,” he said. “They’ve been living on credit card debt with no additional savings, and basically losing it all.”

But Renfro does see hope for the future, and it’s all about jobs. He said plans for Extra Aviation to open an aircraft manufacturing plant in Montrose and the expected expansion of BrightLeaf Solar will create several hundred jobs, and that should help everything.

“This will create some positive stuff if we can get some traction with these guys,” he said.
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