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  • Local homebuyers’ market ebbing?

    Increased sales, tightening supply point to higher prices

    Year-end statistics show 2012 may have started out slow but ended on a high note for the local real estate industry.

    La Plata County home sales in the second half of the year were up almost 20 percent compared with the first half of the year, and the median price was up 3 percent, hitting $304,950 in the final six months of 2012.

    During the first six months of the year the median price was $290,000.

    Overall, 834 properties sold in 2012, 16 percent more than in 2011. The median price decreased 0.8 percent compared with 2011, though the median price for homes less than $500,000 is up 2 percent compared to last year.

    Home prices above $500,000 stayed relatively steady, said Denise Storm, president of the Durango Area Association of Realtors, which compiled the data.

    The year also saw a significant increase in county land sales. The number of transactions increased 37 percent from 134 in 2011 to 183 in 2012. And though there were fewer commercial transactions than last year, the value of commercial sales increased 30 percent.

    Property sales in 2012 increased compared with 2011 in every area of the county except for one. The number of Durango mountain-area homes sold last year nose-dived from 29 to 12, a decrease of almost 60 percent.

    The low numbers are a product of a smaller inventory in the Durango mountain area, Storm said.

    Many homeowners have been holding onto their property until there is less competition and a better market for sellers, Storm said. She said she expects this year to bring a resurgence in the number of Durango Mountain Resort-area homes coming on the market.

    The Colorado Association of Realtors also released statewide and regional data for the fourth quarter on Wednesday. That data showed the median home price for the state is increasing at a much faster pace than La Plata County. Statewide, the median price in 2012 rose 10 percent compared with 2011, while the median price in the county barely budged year over year.

    The larger rise in state median price isn’t surprising because La Plata County tends to trail the Front Range when it comes to real estate trends, said Don Ricedorff, a real estate broker with the Wells Group.

    The recovery of house prices in places such as the Front Range, Phoenix and California, all feeder markets for La Plata County, is good news for the buyers side of the real estate market here, Ricedorff said.

    The 16 percent increase in the number of properties sold in La Plata County is in line with the 15 percent increase in sold listings statewide, though local home prices continue to be well above the state’s. The median home price in Colorado in 2012 was $220,000, while the price in Southwest Colorado was even lower at $200,000.

    In the state, southwest Colorado and La Plata County, one of five listings sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 were some type of distressed property. But some encouraging signs are emerging, said Ricedorff, including the fact that bank-owned property sales statewide decreased by almost 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the fourth quarter of 2011.

    Realtors are predicting a deterioration of the buyers’ market in 2013 as demand grows and supply continues to shrink. The decrease in availability of homes on the market will bring supply and demand into a “closer relationship,” the Durango Area Realtors Association report said.

    ecowan@durangoherald.com

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