Weld County housing market gaining strength

Weld County’s residential market is picking up steam, albeit slowly, according to new statistics and industry professionals.

John DeWitt, managing broker of Re/Max Alliance of Greeley and chairman of the board of Upstate Colorado, says that both new and existing home sales are up, and home prices are increasing, however incrementally.

Existing home sales have increased in recent months, while new housing developments are also becoming more attractive to those in the market, according to DeWitt.

Buyers are willing to pay more for a new house than an existing one, DeWitt said, and following the recent wave of foreclosures, developers can build homes on vacant lots in a subdivision at lower cost than in previous years.

According to the most recent data by Information and Real Estate Services LLC, a multiple listing service for Northern Colorado sponsored by the boards and associations of Realtors in Fort Collins, Loveland-Berthoud, Greeley, Longmont and Boulder, the median home price in Greeley/Weld County was $136,900 in July, up 1.4 percent from $135,000 in July 2010.

“The market has picked up year-over-year and prices have come up in some neighborhoods simply because there is less inventory,” DeWitt said.

IRES data released last month showed listings for single-family detached residences in Greeley/Weld County decreased year-over-year from 733 in July 2010 to 555 this July.

In addition to increased affordability, an influx of people to the Northern Colorado region has also been beneficial to the Greeley housing market, according to DeWitt. He credits companies such as JBS USA, which purchased a majority of Pilgrim’s Pride out of bankruptcy last year, and Vestas Blades in Windsor for bringing jobs to the area. Even when such businesses aren’t located in Weld County, Greeley benefits from having large employers within commuting distance.

Rental vacancy rates in Greeley have increased, causing median rents to dip, both of which are expected when more homes are purchased rather than rented. The vacancy rate in Greeley increased from 3.8 percent in the first quarter to 6.7 percent in the second quarter of this year, while the average rent decreased from $660 to $649.

Firestone on the upswing

Further south in Weld County, another community is experiencing an uptick in residential activity, and can also partially credit job opportunities in nearby cities.

Because of its close proximity to Interstate 25 and its affordable homes, Firestone serves as a bedroom community for workers employed in places such as Boulder, Longmont, Loveland and Fort Collins, according to town manager Wesley LaVanchy.

“We have housing within a mile of I-25,” LaVanchy said. “And that makes Firestone attractive to people who might work in other cities.”

With “the majority” of Firestone residents commuting to other cities, town government is trying to come up with ways to cut back on traveling expenses, according to LaVanchy. For example, carpooling is prevalent among residents who work in the same destination city.

The median home price in Firestone is a bit higher than in Greeley, at $194,000 in 2010, but LaVanchy said the town of just over 10,000 is experiencing an infill of subdivisions that were previously unfinished.

Rick Jablonski, developer of Firestone Villas, consisting of 45 single-family homes located three miles northeast of the interchange of I-25 and Colorado Highway 52, has found a good niche and price point, LaVanchy said.

Investors can purchase homes in the Firestone Villas development in groups of five for $995,000, which brings the cost of each home to $199,000, just above the median home price.

Other developments are under way, according to LaVanchy, who said the outlook on the residential market in Firestone is “optimistic.”

“Right now there’s a lot of waiting for building permits to catch up,” LaVanchy said. “There’s just some lag time between proposing a project and actually getting the project started.”

Molly Armbrister covers real estate for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-221-5400, ext. 209 or at marmbrister@ncbr.com.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR

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