Home sales tick up

RBC | “2020 sucks,” is a universal mantra these days, but despite pandemics, wildfires, disasters and election season, it’s not all bad news. One bright spot? Colorado’s housing market.

According to the Colorado Realtors Association (CRA), buyers are snapping up homes in Colorado as fast as they can, pandemic be darned, with price tags to match. The median home price in Colorado is up to a record high of $443,925, and dwindling supply is keeping prices stable despite huge economic hiccups in other areas.

In Denver, the average price of a home is $601,863, and it appears some buyers have said, “enough,” to the sky high prices, looking for more affordable and less crowded communities elsewhere.

One such place is Rio Blanco County, where population density is a whopping two people per sqaure mile, and the median listing price of a single family home has hovered in the $200,000 to $300,000 range for more than five years. Add to that an affordable cost of living, quality amenities, low crime rates and the proximity to millions of acres of wilderness, and many families are sold.

On average, fewer than 10 homes sell every month in Rio Blanco County. In July 2020, 20 homes were sold. Inventory is dropping, from a nine month supply to a five month supply according to a CRA report, but prices don’t seem to be increasing as quickly as demand. According to area realtor Suzan Pelloni, prices are “relatively stable,” but it’s both a buyer and seller’s market right now. “Sellers are getting higher sales. Buyers are getting great interest rates.”

One new resident to RBC hails from the Front Range, and couldn’t stand the congestion and crime anymore despite Denver being her hometown. She brought her job with her thanks to Rio Blanco County’s broadband availability, and her family is in the process of relocating to Meeker full-time.

Of course, most new residents aren’t moving here for jobs, which are few and far between, especially as the county struggles to attract new industries to replace extraction jobs in the Piceance Basin, the Colowyo coal mine closure looms in the not-too-distant future, and small businesses continue to slog through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many newcomers are retirees or those, like the former Denverite, who can make a living from home with just an internet connection. Rio Blanco County’s broadband project was heavily promoted throughout the state by former Economic Development Director Katelin Cook a few years ago, and the county may be just now seeing a return on that investment.

“I do believe the broadband internet has put Meeker on the map and is drawing interest from buyers,” area real estate agent Alex Plumb told the HT. “I had multiple clients from out of town (larger cities), looking at Meeker. The high speed internet was a huge plus for them, and most would be working remotely from home. Additionally, they all wanted to stay within town limits,” which is unusual, according to Plumb.

Plumb also mentioned the lower interest rates, which have catalyzed many in-town transfers as residents relocate to homes with the amenities they’ve always wanted, while saving on monthly payments.

Pelloni has seen similar trends. “A number of the 2020 transactions are local buyers, looking to upsize/downsize,” but the second largest set of buyers she’s worked with are actually Carbondale transplants. “Some buyers are retired (or close to retiring) and have found Meeker to be a nice retreat. Young families are drawn here for the recreation opportunities and safe place to raise their children.”

Unfortunately, there’s no way even a large increase in residential tax incomes could offset the oil and gas fallout currently faced by local taxing districts. According to RBC Assessor Renae Nielsen, “Oil and gas is taxed at 87.5% of actual value, homes are 7.15%.” On top of that, there’s not nearly enough property available for development of these hypothetical new homes, anyway. 74% of the county land is owned by the federal government.

In August, home sales were back in a normal range, with seven properties changing hands. Will the trend continue? Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you do have new neighbors, please give them a warm welcome.

By Caitlin Walker | caitlin@ht1885.com