New signs of life in real estate market

It’s no secret that the housing market is showing signs of life, so much so that local real estate companies have resumed hiring brokers and some developers are working on new single-family construction.

Now we see that homes are on the market for shorter periods of time, according to data from Information Real Estate Services, and real estate agents are even getting multiple offers on homes, something that hasn’t happened regularly in a long time, according to Lauren Hansen, CEO of IRES.

“After the dry spell, this is welcome news,” she said.

The dry spell, of course, refers to the years following the 2008 housing bubble burst. In 2009, the number of homes sold decreased in each of the three major cities in Northern Colorado, by 5 percent in Loveland, 6 percent in Fort Collins and 13 percent in Greeley.

In the same year, median home prices slid as inventory increased and real estates agents struggled to find buyers while new-home construction screeched to a halt.

In January 2011, at the Business Report’s Economic Forecast, Mark Snead, vice president and branch executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Denver branch, declared the recession over.

Nearly a year and a half later, the housing market is beginning to agree.

The number of homes sold is back up in all three cities, by 5 percent in Loveland and Greeley, and by 1 percent in Fort Collins. One percent doesn’t sound like much, but considering the same metric dropped by 14 percent in 2008, and has decreased every year since 2007, we’ll take it.

Besides, as both the Larimer and Weld County assessors put it, “flat is the new up.”

According to IRES data, the always-critical “days to offer” metric has been falling, especially in Larimer County. Days to offer measures the amount of time it takes for a home to be put under contract after hitting the market.

In the first quarter, the number of days to offer in Larimer County averaged 103. In the weeks between April 1 and May 25, that number fell to 85, a difference of more than two weeks.

The metric also fell in Weld County, although the change was less dramatic. In the entire first quarter, it took an average of 84 days for an offer to be made on a home. To date in the second quarter, that number is 77.

Hansen points to supply and demand as the reason for the changes.

“Inventory is down and interest rates have reached record lows,” Hansen said. Because there are fewer homes on the market, buyers are more motivated to make an offer on a home and hopefully stake a claim on it.

In other words, there’s a sense of competition in the market, and the inventory data explain why. The number of active listings recorded by IRES has been significantly lower than the same month of the previous year in every month so far in 2012.

The biggest drops in inventory occur in the Greeley-Evans metropolitan statistical area, where an inventory decrease of at least 30 percent has been seen in three of the last four months when compared to the previous year.

Year-over-year in April, Fort Collins’ number of active listings dropped by 19 percent, and Loveland-Berthoud’s plunged 28.7 percent.

City of Fort Collins combining long-range, current planning

Effective June 11, two city departments with which commercial developers are familiar will merge into one.

The current planning department and the portion of advance planning known as long-range planning will merge into one, bringing together internal resources, according to Laurie Kadrich, interim director of Community Development and Neighborhood Services.

The advance planning department has many divisions, including transportation planning and affordable housing and human services, as well as long-range planning. The long-range planning department has three employees, all of which will be merged with the current planning department, which is home to five employees.

The other parts of advance planning will be moved to the Office of Sustainability, a months-old department headed up by Bruce Hendee. Current Director of Advance Planning Joe Frank will also move to the Office of Sustainability.

The newly merged current planning department, or Community Development and Neighborhood Services, will be overseen by Kadrich for the time being, but a search is under way to find a permanent director. Kadrich took over in an interim capacity on Feb. 1.

Developers and residents should not see many changes as the merge occurs, Kadrich said, because the number of employees working on the project will remain the same. The change allows those within the departments to communicate more effectively.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at marmbrister@ncbr.com or 970-232-3139.

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