A darn site too many
An oversupply of high-end building sites has many real estate developers squirming.The developers are sitting on up to four years inventory of unsold, high-end residential building sites in the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale area, according to listings compiled by the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors.Carbondale real estate broker Mike Kennedy estimates the four-year inventory is 30 percent higher than in recent years. That figure doesnt include dozens of high-end building sites not yet listed, and hundreds of lots in subdivisions that have not received final Garfield County approval.The unsold inventory is so big, some real estate agents say it is scaring off developers from buying raw land or starting new subdivisions in eastern Garfield County.Developers arent looking at new projects right now, due to the inventory, said Karen Toth, a broker at Carol Ann Jacobson Realty in Aspen and part owner of High Aspen Ranch subdivision south of Carbondale.Any developer will be cautious, said Frank X. Taverna, a Carbondale broker with 29 years experience in the Roaring Fork Valley real estate business.Taverna said developers are dragging their feet on new projects until they can determine how the high-end market reacts to the existing inventory. Some developers might buy land now to get a jump on competitors when the market improves, he said.But there arent a lot of developers willing to do that, he said.Many real estate agents point to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the resulting nationwide economic downturn as one reason for the slump in high-end residential real estate.People dont have the disposable income they had two years ago, said Kennedy, a broker at Re/Max Mountain West in Carbondale.Donna Fell, at Mountain Estates Inc., said a lot of factors are holding down the high-end residential building site market in the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale area, including similarly priced properties in the Basalt and El Jebel area, an increased inventory of homesites and new homes in New Castle, and increased costs of construction materials.Its never just one thing, Fell said.
Real estate agents and developers size up the high-end, single-family, residential building site market in different ways, but most agree the starting price is around $150,000.In the $150,000 to $1 million range, there are 255 active listings in the Glenwood Springs to Carbondale area, with an average price of $306,000, according to Shannon Kyle, president of the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors. To date this year, 50 homesites in that price range have sold, and 12 are under contract.Fell ran numbers on Glenwood Springs and Carbondale residential lots priced at $150,000 to $300,000, and came up with 137 active listings, with 49 sold this year.Pat Fitzgerald, at Glenwood Brokers, focused on the $150,000 to $225,000 price range, and estimates theres a two-year inventory at that level.An often-used real estate rule-of-thumb says a home should cost about three times more to build than the land its built on. So, a home built on $150,000 lot should resell for about $600,000.Fell said theres a glut of existing homes in the $600,000 to $1 million range on the Glenwood Springs area market. That glut is keeping high-end building sites from selling.Theres no way you can build a house, for what you can buy a comparable house for, Fell said.Buyers interested in purchasing high-end building sites have plenty to look at. Kyle said of the 267 properties listed or under contract in the $150,000 to $1 million range, there are 65 listings at River Valley Ranch, 35 at Blue Creek Ranch, 30 at The Ranch at Coulter Creek, 25 at Aspen Glen and14 at Los Amigos. The remaining 118 listings are scattered in 29 other subdivisions.Fell pointed to the high-end real estate market from New Castle to El Jebel, and said, We dont have that many million-dollar buyers.The listings Kyle mentioned dont include approximately 700 single-family building sites that have not been priced at Spring Valley, Lake Springs, and Spring Ridge II subdivisions in east Garfield County. None of the three subdivisions have received final Garfield County approval.At least one subdivision, Spring Valley (formerly Chenoa), was first proposed in the 1980s, and still hasnt been developed.Some existing subdivisions, including Oak Meadows, have filed for additional building sites, according to Garfield County records.
The 57 residential lots at Four Mile Ranch are not included in the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors inventory because they are not listed as individual properties. Real estate agents know the Four Mile lots are there, and are watching them with interest.The 132-acre, platted subdivision, located just south of Glenwood Springs on Four Mile Road, is on the market as an entire package for $7.75 million, said listing agent Chuck Arnold of the Denver based Frederick Ross & Co.The subdivisions owner, MidFirst Bank of Oklahoma City, failed to win voter approval in June to annex the property into the city.The two-acre lots were originally offered at approximately $200,000 each under the propertys previous owner. At $7.75 million for the entire property, the lots would average approximately $135,000 each, without any developer mark-up for profit.Fell said if Four Mile sells for its asking price, the homes built on it would probably be priced at least $750,000, and we dont have a market for that.Arnold said theres been good interest in Four Mile Ranch, but he hasnt identified the right buyer.Arnold said there is a market for building sites at Four Mile Ranch, due to its close proximity to Glenwood Springs.Theres a pent-up demand for new houses close to Glenwood Springs, he said.
The local real estate community is also keeping an eye on the 1,500-acre, family-owned Bershenyi Ranch, just south of Four Mile Ranch along Four Mile Road.Family spokesperson Jim Bershenyi said the working ranch has been on the market for about three years, and the asking price is $7.9 million.There are two or three potential markets for premier properties such as the Bershenyis, say area ranchers and real estate brokers.Some buyers are interested in prime ranches for their own personal horse properties, said Mike Strang, who has owned a 450-acre ranch on Missouri Heights since 1965.There will always be a market for super properties, Strang said. The big boys dont care about the money. … They have unlimited funds.Strang said one such big boy bought a 2,500-acre ranch south of Carbondale, of which he was a part owner, for $18 million last year.He bought it because he wanted it, Strang said.Kennedy, at Re/Max Mountain West, said other buyers are interested in ranches as corporate retreats, or to divide up into two or three parcels to sell to friends or family.Fewer buyers these days are interested in ranches to develop into residential subdivisions.Developers are aware of the inventory out there, said Toth, whose 29-lot High Aspen Ranch south of Carbondale offers 35-acre sites at $400,000 to $675,000.Bershenyi, whose family has lived in the Glenwood Springs area for 100 years, said there have been two or three serious buyers for the ranch since its listing in 2000. One group of buyers was interested in a cluster housing subdivision on the property, while another buyer just wanted the ranch for himself.Bershenyi said the adverse publicity surrounding Four Mile Ranch has probably affected his own ranchs sale as much as the four-year inventory in high-end lots.Any potential buyer is going to be willing to sit on the property for four years, Bershenyi said.The current real estate marketing is not forcing the Bershenyi family to lower its price.Wed like to get out of the area, but were not going to sell ourselves short, Bershenyi said.Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgFiguring inventoryThe real estate business calculates unsold inventory by dividing the number of active listings by the number of sales and contracts written in the previous 12 months. In the case of building sites priced at $150,000 to $1 million mentioned in this story, there are 255 properties listed, and there have been 62 sales or contracts written, so there is a four-year inventory.
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