Real Estate Q&A |

Real Estate Q&A

Doug Van Etten
Free Press Real Estate Columnist

A quarter of the year has already past, and the word in real estate is . . .

Each quarter, Heritage Title Company compiles real estate statistics to share with the real estate and mortgage industries. Today I will summarize what they reported based on MLS data for the first three months of the year.

Some of the best news so far in 2014 is that the rate of foreclosed properties entering the market for sale has slowed considerably. In 2011, 2013 and this year, the percentage of first-quarter sales that were bank-owned (REO) properties has decreased from 35 percent to 25 percent to just 14 percent of first-quarter sales this year. The first quarter 2013 REO sales totaled 181, with only 91 such sales year to date in 2014. It’s hoped that this trend will continue and allow market prices to again be more driven by private sellers and buyers agreeing on fair market value rather than banks looking to unload properties and buyers looking for bottom of the barrel deals.

REO sales are driven by how many foreclosed properties are on the market, and those numbers are driven by the number of foreclosure filings. Those numbers declined 2014 versus the previous year by 182 to 148; a 19-percent decrease. To see how favorable those numbers are to the health of our local home sales market, there were 397 foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2010.

Overall home sales in 2014 trail sales for the same period a year ago by 649 to 721, about a 10-percent decline. I will be very interested to report these numbers for the second quarter at the end of June, since the past three weeks (after the reporting period) home sales anecdotally seem to have soared. One title company reported 32 new title policies opened the day after the recent city-wide open house weekend; and, I have had three buyers this past week bemoan that homes they saw and liked though did not take action on have sold since last weekend.

While sales numbers fell by 10 percent, the value of real estate sold decreased eight percent compared to the previous year. That can be a deceptive raw number though since just a few large sales can greatly skew that number. For example, there were nine versus six sales of more than $1 million in 2014 compared to 2013.

Of maybe the greatest interest to home buyers and sellers are the median home price and the most actively selling price ranges. While the median — middle point in a list of sold properties — price see-sawed a little through the first quarter’s three months, it averaged to $169,600. At our market’s high point in 2008, that number was $222,000.

As far as the best-selling price ranges, consistently over this and the first quarter of the two previous years, $150,000-200,000 has been the No. 1 selling price range. That and the range on either side of it, encompassing the $120,000-$250,000 segment of our sales prices, account for 50.8 percent of total sales. Number of sales over $500,000 this quarter totaled 29, while there were 150 sales at or below $100,000.

To categorize this as a buyer’s or seller’s market is largely a matter of perspective.

From a buyer’s point of view with the median home price this year being nearly identical to that price last year and interest rates still in the 4.25-4.75 percent for many buyers, the market looks good. On the flip side, there are few well-priced, move-in condition homes on the market for buyers to choose from. And, for those whose dream since the real estate crash of 2008 has been to buy a foreclosure, that window largely seems to be closing.

From a seller’s vantage point, most homes on the market today have few competitors due to overall low inventory. However, since wages have not been increasing and the size of the work force continues to decline, according to the state Labor Department, there are fewer qualified buyers than might make for a more robust market. Sales are strong; multiple offers on well-priced homes are still a happening thing. However, in general, many homes are selling for about the same price this year as last.

GJ Free Press columnist Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty. He has been helping buyers, sellers and investors with their real estate needs since the early 1990s. To submit a question for this column or for your personal real estate needs, contact Van Etten —

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