“The market has changed significantly from the recent past,´ said D.B. Wilson, managing broker of Re/Max of Boulder, Inc. “You still need to price the property right and have it show well, but if those two things are in place you can expect multiple offers.”
Everything from low interest rates and pent-up demand to good weather and Colorado’s attractive lifestyle spurred the recent uptick in sales and prices, said area real estate agents, with Louisville and Lafayette as the region’s “shining stars.”
“Louisville is pretty hot right now, and the inventory is tight,´ said Mario Jannatpour, an agent with Re/Max Alliance in Louisville. Single-family Louisville homes in price points through $600,000 are garnering offers in a week’s time, provided they have no location issues, Jannatpour said. Louisville’s ranking on Money Magazine’s annual “America’s Best Places to Live” list has driven demand, Jannatpour said. Despite an initial run of overly aggressive pricing spawned by the ranking which might have kept Louisville sales flat in recent years, he said, sale volumes are clearly on the rise and some price appreciation is emerging.
The Colorado lifestyle, good weather and scenic vistas are a draw for many people interested in relocating from other regions, and Louisville remains a hot spot for newcomers, too.
“About half the people I connect with, they want to be in Louisville,” Jannatpour said. “It offers a better value than Boulder and we’re still a very community-oriented, small city.”
Lafayette also boasts strong sales in recent months.
“I think the prices have gone up in Louisville, so people are looking for an alternative and move to Lafayette because prices aren’t where they are in Louisville,” Wilson said. The median Lafayette home price climbed 19 percent in a year, he said. This year’s good weather contributed the animated market, Wilson said, but he also points to pent-up demand.
In recent years, flat housing prices deterred some homeowners from selling as home values hadn’t yet appreciated enough to make listing a property attractive. Economic uncertainty also seemed to keep some properties off the market.
“Now people are just ready to go,” Wilson said, “and they have the confidence to move forward.”
Today’s low interest rates also entice reluctant buyers, some who have been renting in the area while waiting for a previous home to sell in another region of the country, said Risé Staufer, president of the Boulder Area Realtor Association.
“It’s still an emotional market,” Staufer said. “People still have to price right. Homes have to be clean, well staged and be well maintained — and the discount if they’re not can still be pretty large.”
But she agrees there’s been a shift in the market in recent months and things are gaining speed.
“We saw things starting to pick up near the end of last year,” Wilson said. “We seem to have gained quite a bit of momentum in 2012.”
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, a government oversight agency created in 2008, lists Boulder as 10th on a list of 20 metropolitan areas with the nation’s highest rates of home appreciation, including purchased and refinanced properties. Homes appreciated 2.35 percent for the year, according to the agency’s website. While the appreciation isn’t dramatic, Boulder Valley also didn’t see the dramatic depreciation many regions saw in late 2007 and early 2008, Wilson said.
Wilson estimates 5 percent depreciation across the Boulder region, but home values didn’t plunge as did those in some other Western regions. For instance, Bend, Oregon, appreciated 4.85 percent in the past year and is ranked third on the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s appreciation list, but Bend’s five year-appreciation index fell 50.31 percent — a much bigger drop than was seen in Boulder County.
Longmont saw a bigger hit during the economic downturn, said Karen Bernardi of Bernardi Real Estate Group, but things are looking up there, too.
“The absorption rate in Longmont is better,” Bernardi said. “We don’t see the same backlog.” The Bernardi Real Estate Group noticed an increase in sales almost across the board for most areas.
“If it’s a more standard house, it sells faster,” Bernardi said. “If it’s very personalized and appeals to a smaller group of people, it’s harder to sell.”
Also, homes with location issues, such as those near busy streets or power lines, are slower to sell, she said.
Home sales in the mountains also aren’t rebounding quite as quickly as are other areas. The Four Mile fire, high fire danger and rising gas prices all contribute to the slow mountain growth, she said.
While Boulder Valley missed out on the double-digit appreciation that occurred before the housing bubble burst in regions such as Bend. — in part because dot-com jobs fled the area in the early 2000s — it’s something that has been a boon for today’s market.
“It turned out to be a god send,” Wilson said. “It protected values in our area.”
Regardless of the reason, area real estate agents agree the market is rising at the moment, and most expect the trend to continue for the summer.
“We’re all working extremely hard right now, everyone I talk to is,” Staufer said. “And we’re not complaining.”