Local home sales on par with last year

Sellers remain optimistic about summer season; rentals are hot, broker says

The local housing market is mirroring last year's trends, but local realtors are optimistic it will improve.

For both years, the first quarter number of homes sold was almost equivalent with just a few more than 50, said Tim Singleton, a real estate broker and an owner of 4 Corners Properties.

"This year has been pretty much on par with last year," he said.

During the first quarter of 2014, the average home price in Montezuma and Dolores counties was about $184,000, beating out last year's first-quarter average of $141,000,

For the first quarter, the median price, less likely to be skewed by outliers, was about $168,000 which was higher than 2013's price of $139,000.

However, the first quarter from January through March is generally a slow season, and he is optimistic sales for 2014 will exceed last year's.

"The interest level seems to be up, which gives me hope," he said.

Bonnie Leighton, with Southwest Realty, agreed that the market is picking up. She said her office has been busy this spring, and most people are looking for homes under $200,000.

"I think that there are people concerned about interest rates going up, so they are looking to buy now," she said.

Currently mortgage interest rates for a 30-year loan are about 4.5 percent, according to bankrate.com.

Overall recovery

The market overall is steadily recovering after the recession.

"We are definitely busier than we were two years ago," said Gerry Parker, the president of the Four Corners Board of Realtors.

The total number of homes sold fell from a peak of 500 in 2005 to a low of 205 in 2010. Since then, the total number of homes in Montezuma and Dolores counties has increased each year. In 2013, 290 homes sold, said Singleton.

However, the market was insulated compared with metropolitan areas such as Denver and Phoenix.

"We don't have booms and busts like that," Singleton said.

Since 2005, the average yearly price of homes in Montezuma and Dolores counties has never fallen below $170,000, although quarterly averages have fluctuated more dramatically.

Average home prices overall in 2013 dipped slightly to about $174,000 from about $189,000 in 2012.

However, the median price was up slightly to 152,500 in 2013 from 145,750 in 2012. Median prices are less likely to be skewed by one end of the market. The homes available represent a broad range. For sale currently, there is a home for $5 million and one for $25,500, said Leighton.

It is important to recognize different segments of the market are in different stages of recovery, Singleton said.

"The top of the market has been much slower than the lower end," said Singleton.

Retirees from Phoenix and Albuquerque have not been purchasing second homes at the same rate as they were before the recession, he said.

Rentals are hot

The rental market is booming and rental prices are up at Century 21 West Slope Realty, said Parker. However, there is no formal way to track rental prices.

Singleton said 4 Corners Properties, which manages about 100 properties, has had no vacancies during the first quarter for midsize houses, with two and three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Singleton sees this as an opportunity for some to invest.

"There's really a need for people to make investments in these houses to turn them in rentals," he said.

One of the potential reasons for the high demand in rentals is the time it takes to repair a credit score and banks' reluctance to lend, said Singleton.

"If your credit score gets a ding it can take five to 10 years to fix it," he said.