“There’s even a new market in the county that one might call the farm-to-table market,´ said Joel Ripmaster, founder of Colorado Landmark Realtors in Boulder, which specializes in high-end homes valued at more than $1 million. “Buyers are now looking at large plots of land where they can put organic farms or products and have their own food source and then have these wonderful dinner parties with each other.”
Aesthetics aside, Boulder Valley did not suffer as badly in the housing crisis as did the other sections of the state or nation as a whole. But the upper tier of the market, one of the hardest-hit sectors, is apparently making a big comeback.
In Boulder County, there were only 56 homes valued at more than $900,000 sold in the past two years, which has almost been equaled in the first quarter of this year alone by 51 such homes sold or under contract close to closing, said Scott Franklund, broker associate with Legendary Properties at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boulder, which also specializes in the high-end market. For homes valued at more than $1.7 million, the 22 sales already reported so far this year have already easily eclipsed the 14 total sales reported in 2009 and 2010.
The city of Boulder has accounted for 29 of those sales this year, with the 21 sales in the suburban plains, three in the mountains and one each in Louisville and Longmont.
“Since (the) high point in 2008, the Boulder County luxury home market (had) declined as drastically as anywhere in the country,” Franklund said. “Our upper-end homes plummeted 50 percent in valuations, supply was high, and inventory sat on the market. Then the shadow market hit with numerous foreclosures, and every home was affected from 2008 to 2010. I have witnessed several $6 million homes on sale for $2.5 million.
“However, it seems the clouds that hovered over the Boulder’s luxury housing market have parted,” Franklund continued. “Price per square foot is back to the numbers we experienced in 2007 and some specialty homes even higher.”
Across the spectrum of home prices, the Boulder Valley’s story during the national housing slump was at least partially one of local resiliency. For the most part, values held firm, or depreciated only slightly, in much of the valley, especially in Superior and Louisville, said Karen Bernardi, broker/owner of The Bernardi Real Estate Group at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
“In Superior and Louisville, average prices for single-family homes in 2010 actually increased in 2010 above the 2007 average price,” Bernardi said. “For example, the average price of a single-family home in Louisville in 2007 was about $388,000 and in 2010 was almost $442,000. In Superior, the average in 2007 was about $411,000 and in 2010 was almost $428,000.”
Traditionally, Louisville has always been a fairly tight, confined market, with little new construction over the last decade, which has helped support home prices. However, price point was also important in Louisville/Superior, experts said, as homes prices qualified for Federal Housing Administration financing.
In Lafayette, many areas also held their value, much in line with neighboring Louisville, said D.B. Wilson, managing broker for Re/Max of Boulder. Some of that resiliency might be attributed to the expected impact of ConocoPhillips moving into the old StorageTek campus, bringing in new homebuyers.
The actual city of Boulder is still off 2007 levels, Bernardi said, but does appear to be stabilizing.
“In the city of Boulder, the median price for single-family homes was $550,500 in 2007 and decreased in 2008 ($538,000) and 2009 ($525,000) but recovered somewhat in 2010 ($535,000),” she said. “Certain areas of Boulder — south and east — saw homes move briskly in the more moderate price range.”
In particular, Table Mesa and Martin Acres have seen a lot of the action, Bernardi said, and even condos sales have picked up over 2010.
Things were decidedly less rosy in Broomfield and particularly in Longmont, where falling values and foreclosures still haunt the market.
“Broomfield, because of its newness and the price point, as well as the location (easy access to both Denver metro and Boulder) is starting to do very well,” Wilson said, noting that sale prices had declined about 4.6 percent from 2007/2008 highs. “Broomfield is coming back — not as fast as Louisville and Superior, because the size of the market — but it’s coming back.”
While Longmont saw the worse of the slump in Boulder Valley, it is perhaps the most intriguing area for prospective buyers, some experts think.
Longmont’s average sale price in 2007 was about $275,000, and 1,058 homes were sold that year, Bernardi said, but in 2010, the average price had fallen to 254,000 and 793 homes sold.
There is some concern that the market hasn’t found any firm footing yet, either.
“Longmont has a lot of inventory and a lot of shadow inventory, so they are really fighting,” Ripmaster said. “There’s been a lot of sales but at discounted prices.”
But others think the market has stabilized, especially at key price points and locations. “What I found fascinating, is that inventory (is) at an all-time low. Average inventories would be 500 homes, and this (recent study) showed about 300 homes on the market,” Wilson said. “The number of homes under contract was even exceeding 2009 — with that homebuyer (tax) credit — and I thought that was very significant.
“It may be a good time to look at Longmont – maybe the prices are starting to rise again.”
Jason Thomas, a mortgage adviser with Premier Mortgage Group of Boulder, said that prices have held better in the western sections of Longmont. In the Southmoor Park area, a very affordable area for first-time homeowners, he said, prices have been very steady and may already exceed those from 2007.
In the high-end market, there were also hot areas, one of them an area known as Carolyn Heights, north of Linden Avenue between 19th and 26th streets, Ripmaster said. “The (one-acre) lot size and the fact that it’s still in Boulder, make it very, very popular.”
Franklund said that Mapleton Hill in Boulder, Davidson Mesa in Louisville and Spanish Hill, an older rural subdivision just west of Davidson Mesa off South Boulder Road, were hot tickets.
Also, Ripmaster picked out the Niwot area, including Somerset Estates, Legend Ridge and Niwot Hill as seeing action, as well as White Hawk Ranch, near Arapahoe Road and 95th Street.
“Horse properties are starting to wake up a little bit too,” he said.
In Boulder proper, Ripmaster also thought that the core area of the town – downtown, Mapleton Hill and University Hill – have also held their value.
“Boulder has protected their past and their downtown, and our highest prices and best values are downtown,” he said.
But much of the same thing can be said for the rest of the valley, as well.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ripmaster continued. “But this is one of the more safe havens in the U.S. and the world. Out-of-state buyers are seeking us out, and we’re getting some decent deals.”