Garfield County a seller’s market
Are you a first-time homebuyer looking for a house under $250,000? Good luck in Glenwood Springs because with prices high and available houses few, you might have to set your sights a ways down valley. De Beque? Palisade? Well, not quite, but close. Real estate agents say it’s not impossible to find an inexpensive home, but you’ll have to look hard and act quickly. Houses less than $200,000 are sparse at best in Rifle, Parachute and Battlement Mesa, and it’s rare for those homes to be on the market more than a week. “If you can find something under $200,000 it’s a miracle,” said Danette Dickey, a broker for Colorado Heritage Real Estate in Rifle. To buy an affordable home could mean moving to De Beque in Mesa County or getting lucky with one of the few affordable lots available in Battlement Mesa, Dickey said. She said the number of available houses in western Garfield County is low. “I wish I had some good advice,” she said, adding that for homebuyers who are willing to make a long drive to work, “the De Beque area is really growing right now.”Manufactured homes average $138,000 in western Garfield County, she said, and townhomes are in the $200,000 range. Otherwise, there’s little else available for $200,000 or less.
The Glenwood Springs real estate market is strong, said John Wendt, managing broker for Mason and Morse Realty in Glenwood, because the selling price of a home is often about 98 percent of the list price on a three-bedroom home. Such a home now has an average sale price of $518,000. The average home remains on the market for about six months, he said. Until recently, three-bedroom homes were selling, on average, for about $317,000 in Glenwood, Wendt said, but more expensive homes are now on the market. A two-bedroom home is quite a bit cheaper, he said, depending on the condition of the home. Wendt said two-bedroom homes, which include condos and other entry-level houses, have been selling for as low as $190,000. Nonetheless, “That’s a tough market for first time homebuyers to get into,” he said. “Most of them are going down valley.”In New Castle, any home less than $300,000 sells immediately, said Beth Cook, owner of a RE/MAX franchise in New Castle. “There’s a lot of demand,” she said. “We don’t have enough inventory.”First-time homebuyers should be aware of real estate values in Garfield County, said Bob Fullerton, president of the Glenwood Springs Board of Realtors. “It’s different here,” he said. “You have to set your sights on working up the latter. You might have to buy a lesser size or townhome.”Traditionally, he said, real estate values form a staircase descending from Aspen down valley to Rifle and Parachute. In Rifle, he said, “traditionally, it’s been better value, bigger home.”
But the commute to the Roaring Fork Valley from Rifle or Parachute is the tradeoff for a better home at a lower price, he said. With the gas industry flourishing in western Garfield County, the real estate market is getting stronger there, too, with rising prices to match, Fullerton said. The bottom line is, the real estate market throughout the county is a tough nut to crack, but it’s not impossible. Getting a mortgageFor first-time homebuyers, the key to meeting the challenge of purchasing a home here is to find an experienced real estate agent willing to honestly lay out the details of home buying, Fullerton said. Some of Fullerton’s tips: Commit to an agent and a lender you’re comfortable with and try to become as qualified as possible for a home loan. Dave Townsley, owner of Liberty Home Loans in Glenwood, said that young first-time homebuyers can easily get themselves in over their heads with the cost of living here. “It’s a matter of being able to afford to live here,” he said. “Just because we can get you a loan doesn’t mean you can afford it at the end of the month. Young kids who have never done it before can get themselves into trouble quickly.”
A variety of loans are available for homebuyers, he said, including 100 percent amortizing loans and 100 percent interest-only loans, which involve higher interest rates than 30 year loans. Depending on your credit score, you can get an interest-only loan with an interest rate around 6.5 percent or higher. A 30-year fixed mortgage can come with a 6 percent interest rate, Townsley said. Many people, he said, buy their first home with a Federal Housing Administration loan with a low down payment. “But that goes up to $200,000, which really doesn’t cut it anymore,” Townsley said, adding that oftentimes first-time homebuyers will try to get their parents to sign on as co-investors. “Half the time there’s nothing we can do for them,” he said. If finding navigating the difficulties of buying a first home seems daunting, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a Web site that attempts to make the process less confusing. Log onto http://www.hud.gov/buying/index.cfmContact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Though it won’t bring major changes for most Garfield County businesses, local public health officials were notified Thursday that the county will move to the less-restrictive Level Blue, effective first thing Friday.