GLENWOOD SPRINGS, COLORADO - Real estate sales activity in Garfield County through mid-summer continued ahead of last year, with sales volume up 33 percent over 2011 after seven months, according to a market analysis issued by Land Title Guarantee Co.
Still accounting for about two-thirds of those sales, though, and keeping real estate prices down, are the large number of foreclosure sales by banks and short sales by property owners who are underwater on their loans, according to local real estate observers.
The Land Title report showed 97 real estate transactions in Garfield County for July, up 17 percent compared to July of 2011.
Total dollars from the month's sales came to $38 million, an increase of 39 percent compared to the same month last year.
One of the more notable transactions in July was the sale of the Storm King Ranch outside Glenwood Springs for $11.5 million.
Year-to-date totals also remain on an upward trend.
Through July, there were 649 Garfield County real estate transactions, including both residential and commercial properties, according to the July report issued earlier this month.
The total dollar amount from sales is also up 28.5 percent for the year, at nearly $198 million.
August numbers will not be finalized until next week. But, according to Land Title's Tammy Sommerfeld, the upward trend is continuing.
"Definitely, August is tracking ahead of last year as well, based on transaction values and the volume of sales coming through," Sommerfeld said.
Of note are the number of foreclosure sales and short sales that are still included in the mix, however.
Of the 97 transactions in July, 28 were bank sales, which totaled $5.9 million, according to the July report. Bank sales accounted for 29 percent of the July transactions, and 16 percent of the dollar volume, according to the report.
From January through July, there were 227 bank sales in Garfield County totaling $41 million, accounting for 35 percent of the transactions and 21 percent of the dollars to date.
Short sales, involving properties for which the owner owes more than the property is worth, also make up about one-third of the real estate activity in the area, said Mike Dunn, who owns the Roaring Fork Property real estate company in Glenwood Springs.
For the three-county area extending from Parachute to Aspen, though mid-year, real estate transactions were about one-third each bank sales, short sales and traditional sales, he said.
"So, you're still basically looking at two-thirds of the activity being distress sales," said Dunn, who specializes in short sales.
Short sales serve as a last resort for property owners to take a loss and get out from under a loan before being foreclosed upon.
Out of 77 residential sales in Garfield County in July, not including mobile homes, 20 were short sales, Dunn said.
"At this point, we are seeing prices creep up a little bit," he said. "And, we're starting to see foreclosures go back down."
That has made for a "strange market," Dunn said, where homes in the $350,000-and-under range are selling within a week of being listed.
"It's not difficult to find homes for buyers, but they are going fast and oftentimes have multiple offers," he said. "And the prices are being held lower because of the distressed properties still coming onto the market."
That could change quickly once the distressed properties clear the market, Dunn also said.
"We will likely see a big price jump after that. And, we could even see another housing bubble, because there hasn't been any new construction," he said.
Year to date, single-family homes have sold for an average of $326,768; an increase of 5 percent over the 2011 average, according to the report.
Through July, 81 percent of the single-family homes sold went for $400,000 or less and 43 percent were $200,000 or less.