TELLURIDE – Perhaps it is a silver lining to the spate of distressed and foreclosure sales that rocked the local real estate market last year (San Miguel County saw the opening of 108 new foreclosure files resulting in 46 sales in 2010), or maybe it’s something else, but the sentiment seems to be gathering in the architectural community that, at long last, activity might just be picking up.
But instead of the trophy home or multi-unit commercial projects of days gone by, these days the projects coming in – or at least those that appear poised to do so – tend toward the relatively small in scale compared to the ground up construction that took place during Telluride’s pre-Great Recession, go-go real-estate boom.
“What I’m seeing are mostly inquiries on a variety of types of remodels,” said Peter Sante of Sante Architects, describing a range varying from 3,000 square-foot remodels to deck additions or tiny alley shed renovations.
“I have talked to other architects about getting more inquiries about homes on vacant land, but that has not been my experience.”
Sante speculated that spurt might be the result of people having gotten deals on distressed properties in recent times, or simply people “feeling comfortable about properties they’ve owned for a while.”
“I totally agree that things are picking up,” said Jodie Wright of One Architects.
While Wright said that her company has been in the fortunate position of having maintained a steady stream of work on new construction throughout the economic downturn, she has nonetheless noticed that the phone is beginning to ring with more regularity all the same.
With spring on the horizon, “people who have been on the fence are a little more interested to call and information gather,” she said.
And while those calls aren’t necessarily netting signed contracts just yet, “I feel like the gears aren’t stuck like they were… It feels like the system is slowly coming back,” she said, adding her impressions to what, at this early point in the year, remains anecdotal evidence, not hard and fast numbers.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good year,” she said. “We have some new projects starting, some under construction, and the phones are ringing.”
“I’ve had inquiries, but nothing hard yet,” said architect Cal Wilbourne, adding that he has also spoken to contractors who are “beginning to get nibbles.”
“I know it’s beginning to happen, but I wouldn’t say it’s full steam ahead.”
Architect Peter Lundeen of Smart Living Designs, who is currently working on a remodel, speculated that the smaller jobs could be related to fixing up foreclosure or other distressed sale properties. Then again, it could just have to do with people being unwilling to invest larger sums in their homes.
Still, “there are more additions and remodels than there have been in the past,” he said.
Wright said that although she expects her office to remain staffed with five people for some time to come, in what could be interpreted as a positive sign, she has thoughts of hiring another part-time consultant.
Meanwhile Sante, who maintains a cautious optimism about the coming year, said he has already hired another part-time person to help him keep up with remodel work.
“Remodels go quicker and you need more of them to keep people employed,” he said. So, “there may continue to be some volatility.”
Still, he is happy to have the work.
“I’m just shifting to doing more remodels,” he said “It’s not as much fresh start design, but I can employ people and buy skis for my kids, stuff like that.”