Real Estate & Construction  January 28, 2011

2010 home sales ended on mostly flat note

Northern Colorado turned in another lackluster year for home sales in 2010, and local realtors say 2011 is likely to offer a repeat performance. But at least one regional real estate broker says 2010 was a move toward a better balance between supply and demand – an indication that home prices may be on their way back up.

Only the Estes Park area market – much different than the rest of the region in that it is heavy with pricey second homes – recorded a fairly healthy 10.2 percent increase over the previous year.

Figures compiled by Information and Real Estate Services in Loveland paint the picture of a year that basically held its own over the previous year, with gains in the first half of the year mostly lost in the second half.

“I think the first part of 2010 our market was kind of distorted because of the (federal first-time homebuyer) tax credit,´ said Sharon Taylor, president of the Greeley Area Realtors Association. “Reality started to set in about July.”

The $8,000 tax credit was set to expire in 2009 but was extended through April 2010 and required closings by the end of June.

The Greeley-Evans market’s best three months of the year were April, May and June, reflecting the approaching end of the tax credit. Sales began to fall off quickly starting in July, the IRES figures show.

Taylor said she’s somewhat surprised that sales fell off as quickly as they did in the latter part of 2010. “I think what baffled me the most in the last six months was, with low interest rates and low home prices, there weren’t that many buyers.”

At the other end of the Northern Colorado home sales spectrum was the Estes Park area, which recorded 206 single-family home sales in 2010, up from 187 last year.

“I would say we had a much better year than 2009, but 2009 was atrocious,´ said Sam Basel, an independent agent and owner of Estes Park Realty. “2010 was a good year, but still not where we’d like it to be.”

The Loveland-Berthoud market managed to put 2010 on the plus side, with 3.3 percent more homes sold than in 2009. Again, the April-June period saw the highest numbers of homes sold with numbers trailing downward after that.

“I think the tax credits borrowed from a future buying pool, so we expected a decline in activity in that (second) part of the year,´ said Billie Jo Downing, president of the Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors.

Home inventory for 2010 was basically flat in the Loveland-Berthoud market – as it was in Greeley-Evans and down in Fort Collins – reflecting fewer foreclosed homes on the market and sellers who could wait for a rise in home prices holding off putting their houses on the market.

Buyers more cautious

“Certainly, the buyers are being very cautious today and trying to stay on the conservative side,” Downing said. “Now, people are being much more conservative – not borrowing up to what they’re qualified for.”

One strong piece of good news for the Loveland-Berthoud market was a $10,000 rise in the median sales price in 2010, from $205,000 in 2009 to $215,000. The median sales price rose in Fort Collins from $226,500 last year to $232,000 in 2010.

The median sales price in Greeley-Evans held fairly flat, dropping $2,000 from $135,000 in 2009 to $133,000 in 2010.

Fort Collins mirrored Greeley-Evans and Loveland-Berthoud with the most sales in the April-June period. Curt Schreiber, vice president of the Fort Collins Board of Realtors, said he looks at 2010 as a year of getting things back in balance.

“I think it was a year of balancing the market, putting the supply and demand more in balance than in 2009,” he said. “We saw the inventory decline, but sales went up so we’re getting closer to balancing the two.”

While sales for the year did go up in Fort Collins, it wasn’t by much. Only 12 more single-family homes were sold in 2010 than in 2009, reflecting an increase of 0.5 percent.

Schreiber said despite the higher sales that occurred with the tax credit, he wasn’t sorry to see it go away. “I think the home market needs to go forward on its own,” he said. “They did help – absolutely – but I think it was time to let go.”

So what’s the outlook for 2011? Realtors say they expect a market that will continue to slowly make gains but nothing dramatic.

“I think it’ll be a year of slow growth and rebuilding,” Schreiber said. “No leaps and bounds but slow, steady growth.”

Taylor said January is showing some life creeping back into the market. “I have seen in the first few weeks of January things picking up,” she said. “We’ve got the holidays behind us and people are ready to buy.

“My crystal ball says (2011) is going to be a whole lot better than 2010, because we’ve been extremely busy.”

Downing said continuing low interest rates, improvements in the economy and the region’s ability to attract people should help raise 2011 at least a little above 2010.

“We’re anticipating 2011 to be much like 2010,” she said. “No huge gains or huge losses. Obviously, all of us want to see a recovery but it’s going to take some time.”

Northern Colorado turned in another lackluster year for home sales in 2010, and local realtors say 2011 is likely to offer a repeat performance. But at least one regional real estate broker says 2010 was a move toward a better balance between supply and demand – an indication that home prices may be on their way back up.

Only the Estes Park area market – much different than the rest of the region in that it is heavy with pricey second homes – recorded a fairly healthy 10.2 percent increase over the previous year.

Figures compiled by Information and…

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