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Real estate market rebounds in 2017

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Higher sales prices and fewer days on the market are clear indicators the real estate market in Delta County is rebounding. Statistics provided by the Delta County Board of Realtors illustrate that the housing market made a huge turnaround in 2017. Average sales price increased 14.6 percent countywide, and prices have topped the pre-recession levels of 2008, observed Portia Vigil.

Vigil, a mortgage loan originator with Guild Mortgage, said many of the folks who were "burned" in the Great Recession have cleared up their finances and are coming back into the market.

"Things are moving really fast right now," said Vigil, who predicts a hike, or perhaps two, in federal interest rates in 2018. She works with a large number of first-time home buyers who are often able to find low-down, no-down options, but then face a shortage of houses in the $200,000 and under price range.

Low inventory in all price ranges is a new phenomenon for real estate agent Marsha Bryan, who recently returned to Delta County. She is with RE/MAX Mountain West in Cedaredge.

"In all the years I've worked here, I don't remember being low in inventory," she said. "Everything is selling pretty fast, and if you don't make a decision on a purchase you might lose out on it."

Bryan said homes in all price ranges sell very quickly, but there's a definite need for homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range. She says that's the range most retirees -- the folks moving here from the Front Range -- like to be in.

She also works with a large number of first-time buyers, many of whom are pre-approved up to $200,000, "but we're having a really hard time finding something decent in that price range. We need more inventory in that market, more properties that are affordable."

Katie Chapman Schmalz of Chapman Real Estate agrees. Homes in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range spend very few days on the market.

While young, local families are ready to get into their first homes, Chapman Schmalz said over half of her clients are coming from the Front Range and other large metropolitan areas, including Las Vegas and Chicago.

"People are looking for our lifestyle," she said. "They love the weather, they love the people, and they love that there's no traffic. But truly, weather tops that list. People really like our climate. There's a lot going for us, as we all know."

Chapman Schmalz said there are also a lot of "untethered" workers moving into Delta County. The high speed broadband that's available in many areas of the county is a "huge draw," she said.

Yet another group of buyers re-entering the market are those local investors who have been biding their time. "Now that they see things are improving, they're buying properties as rentals or fix and flips, which is another great indicator of our rebounding economy," Chapman Schmalz said.

Paonia continues to be one of the hottest destinations, especially for folks who are interested in hemp production, organic fruits and vegetables, and wineries. But that has led to a critical shortage of industry.

For the first time in the North Fork, real estate agents are seeing multiple offers on multiple properties.

Liz Heidrick, broker/owner of Needle Rock Realty & Land in Crawford and Paonia, said when properties are underpriced, perceived to be a good deal, or in that niche of what everybody is looking for, they're selling for more than asking price. "That's new for our area," she said, "and very stressful because somebody is going to be disappointed."

Like Chapman Schmalz, she said Elevate fiber optics are opening up opportunities for residents of all ages to choose to live in our rural country setting.

"We're getting people that aren't just retirees; these are younger professionals moving into our area."

She cites the top factors as quality of life, lower cost of living and our wonderful climate. "We've got all four seasons, and not one of them is too much," she said. "Plus this area is relatively free of natural disasters -- tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fire. We're truly blessed."

While 2017 was a big year, Heidrick says she is "cautiously optimistic" after the tumultuous years following the Great Recession.

"We all got burned," she said. "But we survived the closing of the mines; we survived the crash in the economy. This always has been and always will be a beautiful place to live."

"We're starting to be discovered," said Chapman Schmalz, "and I think 2018 will bring more of the same. I don't think we're a seller's market yet, but prices are definitely becoming more balanced. We're getting closer to equilibrium, which is the best place to be."

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