Garfield banker: Real estate biz bouncing back

NEW CASTLE — It may not feel like it to homeowners, but Garfield and Pitkin counties’ real estate market is in the beginnings of a comeback, a local bank official said.

“We have already seen a reversal. We are off the bottom and working our way back,” Joe Carpenter, a vice president with American National Bank in Rifle, said Tuesday night during a real estate roundtable hosted by the New Castle Chamber of Commerce.

The average number of monthly residential transactions from Aspen to Parachute fell from 172 in 2007 to 47 two years later, he said. But that figure is now at 71. Once it tops 100, sellers should start to notice a difference, Carpenter said.

The problem for now is a market inventory bloated by foreclosures and short sales. At the end of 2007, the market had an inventory of 787 for-sale homes, an amount it would take five months to sell based on transaction rates then, he said. The inventory rose to a peak of 1,957 in 2009 and a 46-month absorption rate. Inventory has fallen some, but at current sales rates it still would take about two years to sell all of the homes now for sale.

Foreclosures in Garfield County are on pace to total 900, said John Gorman, a former real estate agent who served as county assessor from 2007–10. That’s another record pace after foreclosures in the county exceeded 600 last year and 400 the year before.

Another problem is that many people want to put their homes on the market as it improves, which will further drag out the amount of time it will take to meaningfully reduce the outstanding inventory, Carpenter said.

If current trends continue, the turnaround should be more apparent probably by 2013, he said.

Real estate broker Cheryl Chandler described the current market as “better, but not great.”

Homeowner Franci Candlin of Glenwood Springs sees little to be excited about.

“I’ve talked to four different Realtors, and I’m getting a picture that’s much less optimistic than what I’m hearing here in the room,” she said.

She said she wants to sell her home but is being told it’s worth 40 to 45 percent less than two and a half years ago.

Carpenter agreed times still are difficult, with values generally down at least 35 percent.

“We have a long ways to go to work through this process. … It’s going to be a long time before it feels good again,” he said.


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