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COVID claustrophobia causing home sale boom in Garfield County

Chelsea Osborne unpacks boxes at her new home in New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

For all the damage COVID-19 has done, it may actually be helping the local real estate market.

According to data from the Colorado Association of Realtors, single-family home sales in Garfield County were up 86% in July as compared to July 2019.

The biggest increases in single-family home sales in July were in New Castle (up 128.6%) and Glenwood Springs (up 233%).

Single-family home sales in every community from Battlement Mesa to Carbondale were up as well.

A recent story in the Washington Post detailed the upheaval caused by office and daycare closures forced by the coronavirus.

Suddenly, with kids and both parents at home, cabin fever set in for some families.

But the ability to work remotely coupled with low mortgage rates has given those families the chance to expand their living space.

“We’ve seen a lot of people who can work remotely really seeking having some space or moving out into the mountains,” said Alisha Riddile, a broker with Roaring Fork Sotheby’s International Realty in Glenwood Springs.

That’s exactly the situation that resulted in Chelsea Osborne and her family moving from the Front Range to New Castle.

“We realized, and the companies we work for realized, how easy telecommuting really is, that working from home is very possible, and that people can be as productive if not more with technology today, so we talked with our firms and they gave us the go-ahead because they don’t think anybody will be back in the office anytime soon anyway,” she said of their move to New Castle from Parker.

Chelsea Osborne at her new home in New Castle.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

And moving here in particular can mean more to people than having a backyard.

“They’ve vacationed here, and it’s been a fantasy to live here. Now they’re able to live out that fantasy because they’re able to telecommute,” said Travis Cox, a broker with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty in Glenwood Springs and board chair of the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors. 

“We’ve always loved the Glenwood area. We really fell in love with New Castle a few years ago when we came here a few years ago to do some camping and hiking,” Osborne said.

The realtors said those two towns have an attractive mix of mountain feel and affordability.

“The nature of single family in Carbondale is very different from the nature in Glenwood or New Castle. … A person can buy a single family home in Glenwood for about the same as a Carbondale townhome. Carbondale is out of reach for a lot of people,” Cox said.

“We knew we wanted to be somewhere between Carbondale and New Castle. We wanted to be in Glenwood if we could, but for the price we could get a lot more house and privacy out here [in New Castle],” Osborne said.

So cheaper than up-valley, but more Rocky Mountain High than down-valley.

“When you head west in the county it does feel more farmish, more agricultural, rather than mountainous,” Cox said.

Despite the increased number of sales, inventory in the county is down 59.8% as compared to July 2019.

“It’s definitely because of COVID,” Riddile said.

She said some potential sellers are saying, “‘We’re high risk, we don’t know if we want to move right now, we don’t know what’s going to happen, the places we want to move there are no homes available,’’’ she recounted. And there may be more restrictive coronavirus restrictions where they want to move.

So, they’re taking a wait and see approach.

The decreased inventory during a period of increased sales means, “We’re running through all the old inventory we have,” Cox said.

“A lot of homes that have sat for a long time and are maybe priced a little bit high are now selling because there’s hardly any inventory,” Riddile said.

Which is good news for sellers.

“At this point, with low inventory, buyers are having to move quickly. … We’re definitely shifting into a seller’s market at this point because of the lack of inventory,” Riddile said.

In contrast, townhomes sales in July are unremarkable. Sales are up 2.2% in the county as a whole, with a wide variation among towns.

One reason is the idea that buyers are looking for more space.

“Buyers I’ve had in the past who would previously consider a condo, townhome or duplex are now saying, ‘No, I want to be in a place where I have a yard,’” Riddile said.

Another is that these are homeowners looking for a new home.

“Townhomes are typically bought by first-time homebuyers. … The people who are moving in from those other metropolitan areas are not typically first-time buyers,” Cox said.

Which is not to say that people moving in to escape cities are older.

“My experience would be that it’s every variety, all the generations,” Cox said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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