2003 a real estate boom

Slow start turned into third best in sales transactions

Despite starting out as one of the slowest years for regional real estate sales, 2003 developed into the second best year for sales volume and the third best for total sale transactions, according to the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

The Steamboat Springs MLS encompasses real estate listed by Realtors in Routt County, but some of those Realtors have listings in Moffat and Grand counties, as well.

MLS real estate sales volume in 2003 totaled almost $336.6 million, second only to 2000 when the sales volume was more than $376 million. Also, 2003 marks a 9.4 percent increase over total sales volume in 2002, which brought about $307.7 million.

A trend of increases in sales figures across the board continued in 2003.

Patti MacArthur, broker/owner of MacArthur Real Estate Co., said people are buying more real estate because of the rebounding economy and the quality of life Steamboat offers.

"Steamboat is a wonderful place to live, and anyone who comes here knows it," MacArthur said. "Also, Steamboat is probably the lowest priced market for a resort town in Colorado, and on top of that, sellers are willing to negotiate ... because we have a vast amount of inventory."

Cameron Boyd, broker/owner of Prudential Steamboat Realty, said the year started off slowly because of lack of confidence in the market, and sales picked up as confidence did.

"It's amazing how much our market goes along with the stock market," Boyd said. "If people are not confident in the economy, they're not going to buy a second home."

People are realizing that the real estate market is a good investment, Boyd added.

Sales-volume growth is helped in part by the fact that the median price and value for the region's real estate has grown to its highest level ever.

The median price for real estate in the MLS-covered region is $233,250, a 6.7 percent increase compared with 2002. The median price has grown every year for the past five years, and the 2003 year-to-year increase is second only to 2000, when the median price jumped 8.5 percent over 1999. Boyd attributed the median-price growth to the many homeowners here who chose to wait and make a profit rather than sell and take a loss.

Also adding to the overall median-price increase is single-family home sales, which jumped about 10 percent from 2002 for three- to five-bedroom homes.

Looking at residential and land sales, the median price has increased gradually during the past few years and dramatically during the past year. The 2003 year-to-year median price for land jumped a huge 26 percent, $126,000 compared with $100,000 between 2001 and 2002. The residential median price increased about 10 percent, going from $243,000 in 2002 to $266,500 in 2003.

Several small but expensive properties at the Cottages at Lake Catamount helped raise the median land price, said Doug Labor, owner/broker of Buyer's Resource Real Estate and president-elect of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.

As lot values increase, the cost of construction rises, contributing to the rising value of all properties, Boyd said.

A big indicator of the rising value of real estate is in the single-family home category, in which the 2003 dollar volume for 253 sales was $125.3 million, compared to 316 sales in 1999 equaling $121.7 million -- a $4 million increase in dollar volume compared with four years ago, despite 63 fewer home sales.

The year 2003 brought in 982 total transactions, a number exceeded only by 1,176 in 2000 and 1,125 in 1999.

The fourth quarter of 2003 shows increases across the board compared to 2002. Total transactions were up 8.5 percent, from 236 to 256; dollar volume up 14.5 percent, from $73.4 million to $84 million; and median price up 16.5 percent, from $209,000 to $243,500.

The fourth-quarter numbers, combined with a strong third quarter, add to the success of the 2003 real estate market.

"The way the year ended off is tremendous because of the way the year started," Labor said. "The first quarter was one of worst we ever had in terms of transactions, so the way the year ended is a positive sign that shows the strength of the market."

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