Soaring average prices for single-family homes are pricing locals out of the market and causing others to sell and move away
Scott Wilson and his wife, Tasha, knew that Summit County wasn’t going to be their forever home. The couple, who met while working for Copper Mountain Resort, fell in love with the area, but certain factors kept them from settling down.
“It’s kind of tough because, honestly, in the last couple years, it was feeling a lot more like the community was coming together, and we were really starting to make our name in the community,” Wilson said. “But it was the fact that home prices were so expensive and just the idea of owning a single-family home that really you can’t get in for less than like $800,000 to $900,000. It didn’t seem like an achievable goal for us, especially working at the ski resort and not having just that uber big income.”
The Wilsons were living in a townhome in Dillon when they began to consider selling their property. The two weren’t interested in living in a condo when they were ready to have kids, so when the local real estate market became such a strong seller’s market, they began to debate moving from the county sooner rather than later.
“We had our finger on the tip of the real estate market,” he said. “We had a neighbor sell their house, and that gave us the idea of what we could sell our house for, and so we just decided that was enough of a nest egg to get us on to the next stage of our life and that we could really get a lot more home for our value if we do leave Summit County.”
Wilson said that when they sold their townhome in June, only a couple of offers were made on the property, none of which were from locals. This is a common trend in the real estate market: According to Land Title Guarantee Co.’s reports for the third quarter, an average of 77% of buyers are coming from the Front Range and out of state, meaning a good portion of these properties are likely bought as second homes or investments.
Not only that, but the couple decided to move out of the county after living here for 10 years. Occurrences like this further exacerbate the county’s severe labor shortage because it means fewer full-time residents are living in the area.
Though the Wilsons owned a piece of property in the community, they still felt like it was unrealistic to sell it and get into a single-family home in Summit, which is why they ended up moving out of the state. Now living with family in Wisconsin, Wilson said they are eyeing upstate New York because they can get a bigger house for their money.
Moving out of the county to get more bang for your buck isn’t uncommon. In fact, Frisco resident Sarah Graham is considering doing the same thing.
Graham is approaching 10 years living in Summit County. She and her husband, Derek Clark, currently rent a house with other roommates, but they’ve been searching for a place of their own for three years. When the couple wed in October 2020, they began searching more vigorously, but they’re starting to extend their search outside Summit County lines.
“Honestly, we would love to stay in Frisco, but there’s just not a ton of inventory here,” Graham said. “Realistically, we’ve considered everywhere around the county including Alma and actually Kremmling, as well. I think that’s just the reality we came to. If we want to stay in this area and in a normal price range, we’ve been looking at all outlets.”
Like the Wilsons, if Graham and Clark were to move outside the county, they’d be leaving behind open positions, too. Graham is currently working in bar management at Copper, and Clark works at Greco’s Pastaria. If they move out of the county, Graham said they’d likely find different jobs because the commute would be too much.
The process of finding a piece of property hasn’t been easy. Graham said they’ve put two offers in on properties site unseen, have offered to pay the appreciation gap and offered over asking price, but they still haven’t had an offer accepted.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” she said. “You can tell that there’s money coming in from out of state or just investors buying.”
One of Graham and Clark’s offers was on a property in Hot Sulphur Springs. Graham said she and her husband would like to stay on the Western Slope. Their offers aren’t standing up to other offers, though.
“(We’re) trying to hold on to the same lifestyle and keep in the mountains but don’t necessarily have to be tied to Summit County,” Graham said. “It’s kind of just the reality of it. If you want to find something, like a house with a garage in your price range, you really do have to look outside because things that were $350,000 10 years ago are double that now or even crazier. We don’t want to settle for a smaller scenario for more money.”
As the winter season approaches, Graham said she and her husband are planning to take a break from searching, mostly out of buyers’ fatigue. For now, they are going to stay put and cross their fingers that come springtime, a sale will work in their favor.
“We’re going to use the time to focus on getting applied with the (Summit Combined) Housing Authority and making sure that’s all set up and just reexplore the inventory options once it gets a little bit nicer and people start wanting to sell again,” Graham said.
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