According real estate brokers here, some buyers who have sat out the recession on the sidelines waiting for the best bargains appear as though they may finally be making their moves to purchase.
“We’re seeing contracts being written and accepted,” said Sally Puff Courtney of Peaks Real Estate, who recently returned to Telluride from the vacation to the East Coast she takes every year in early August.
In lieu of the week of rest and relaxation Courtney expected, what she got instead was a lot of telephone calls – not that she was complaining.
“As soon as I left I put three [properties] under contact,” she said, adding that she has another three properties that she believes may go under contract soon.
“Things have definitely picked up,” she said.
In a letter he recently wrote to his clients, T.D. Smith, co-founder of the Telluride Real Estate Corp., indicated his belief that market activity is increasing.
Pointing to a statistic that nearly 80 percent of all real estate buyers begin their searches online, “My inquiry traffic has increased 300 percent in the past 90 days,” and, “Showing appointments have increased dramatically to qualified buyers with renewed confidence in the Telluride market and its lifestyle,” he wrote.
“I think there is a gentle thawing,” he said.
“There’s clearly more interest; a few are going into contract,” agreed Nevasca Realty president Erik Fallenius.
Local real estate analyst Judi Kiernan of Telluride Consulting has also perceived a recent increase in interest compared to the year’s slow start.
“My sense is that at last some of the brokers have buyers,” she said.
Still, there’s a long way to go.
According to the comparative sales report Kiernan produces every month, 19 properties in San Miguel County sold for a total of $15.5 million during the month of July.
“I’m seeing a lot of sales in the west end, and more sales without realtors,” she said.
Additionally, “We’re seeing good interest in the fractional market because it’s less expensive.”
At this point during 2007, Telluride’s record-breaking sales year, 42 timeshares had sold, compared to 37 this year.
“That’s normal in a market like this,” said Eric Saunders, a broker at Telluride Properties and president of the Telluride Association of Realtors, of the timeshare sales. “People are worried about putting a lot of money in a market like this.”
Kiernan’s latest tally represents a five percent decrease in the number of sales and a 38 percent decrease in combined sales amount versus the 20 sales totaling $25 million that took place in July 2008.
And those two months fall dramatically short of the 62 sales totaling $90.1 million that took place in July 2007.
Year-to-date through this past July the county had 140 sales totaling $171 million, compared to 201 sales totaling $227.1 million during the same period in 2008.
Both periods are down from 393 sales totaling $441.9 million in 2007, according to Kiernan’s report.
Whether or not the perceived uptick in activity is a reflection of the market’s natural cycles or something more is anyone’s guess.
“Our market typically picks up [around the Fourth of July] anyway, so its not surprising to see an increased activity in terms of showings and people looking at property in July and August,” Teddy Errico, a TREC broker and TAR president-elect, wrote in an email to The Watch.
“We always see a pick up during the summertime,” Saunders agreed. “The question is whether it will carry over into the fall.”
What is clear is that unlike the high rollers of yesterday who would willingly overpay for properties if that’s what it took to acquire them, today’s potential purchasers are much more price-conscious.
“People are going for the values and looking for the really great deals,” said Saunders.
“[People are] clearly buying based on value shopping,” said Fallenius.
Although he declined to give specific numbers, Fallenius said that he recently sold a property in town for 23 percent less than its fair market value 18 months ago, and that he currently has a property in Mountain Village under contract at a price that is “rolling back six years in terms of value.”
“These are the bargains and they’re the ones that are going to get sold,” he said.
It is still too early to tell whether the recession is lifting or if the local market has reached its nadir, but people do seem to be adjusting their expectations, and that could be just the trigger this market needs to start its recovery.
“We are seeing sellers adjust their prices to reflect the economy and accept that its not 2006 anymore,” wrote Errico. “What’s not important is that they are dropping prices, what’s important are that certain properties are now priced to have a chance at selling this summer because the sellers in conjunction with their real estate brokers are getting more realistic at what the current market will bear. That will help out market rebound much faster.”