Wells: In fast-moving market, a Real Estate pro is buyer’s best chance

For house hunters this spring, the latest data can be daunting.

Inventory that was already tight before the pandemic is even tighter a year later. At the end of the first quarter (March 31), the number of homes for sale was down 67% across the Northern Colorado region compared with the same time last year (3,555 vs. 10,792).

But if you’re ready to buy — or have been testing the marketing recently without success — know that there will be opportunities that may not be readily apparent just from staring at the statistics. In fact, there are slices of the Northern Colorado market that have witnessed better inventory at times through these past 12 months.

Your best tool for unlocking these little pockets of availability? Connect with a trusted Realtor who is trained and equipped to monitor the market and help you respond quickly when the opportunity arises.

This is where the business paradox of “going slow to go fast” becomes meaningful. A professional can help you map out a strategy for what type of home you want, where you want to look, and what you’re ready to invest. All of which puts you in a position to move fast when the time is right — and avoid some of the bumps and bruises that can happen to buyers when they simply jump in with both feet.

Deals are still getting done (more on that below). But the people with a plan are best suited to make it happen.

Sales up in most Northern Colorado communities

Even with inventory at a premium, that magical combination of low interest rates, heavy inbound migration, and high demand has continued to keep total sales on an upward trajectory around the region. Sales increased 6.7% year over year, most notably in Mead in southwest Weld County, which saw sales go from 11 in the first quarter last year to 68 this year.

Only four out of Northern Colorado’s 14 sub-markets experienced a decline in closings from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021. For Estes Park, which initially saw a surge of activity last spring and summer — thanks in part to demand from second-home purchasers — sales slipped 15.3% this year primarily due to lack of inventory. Greeley/Evans declined 3.5%, Severance dropped 16%, and Longmont sales fell 17.2%. More than other communities, tight inventory (down 73%) did seem to squeeze sales in Longmont last quarter.

Lack of inventory continued to keep the pressure on prices in the last quarter, as many sellers are fielding multiple offers and sale prices are commonly ending up well above list values. The average sale price-to-list price ratio currently sits at 102.5% for all Northern Colorado. Using a 12-month rolling average (to mitigate the statistical impact of high-end home sales), average prices across Northern Colorado were up 9% between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, from $433,821 to $473,035.

Among local sub-markets, Estes Park reported the greatest year-over-year average price growth at 16.8%, followed by Longmont (15.1%), Wellington (11.9%), Fort Collins (11.4%), and Berthoud (11%).

Brandon Wells is president of The Group Inc. Real Estate, founded in Fort Collins in 1976 with six locations in Northern Colorado.