Record-breaking real estate frenzy is changing the culture of Colorado’s mountain towns |

Record-breaking real estate frenzy is changing the culture of Colorado’s mountain towns

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun

DENVER — Across Colorado’s resort communities, a real estate frenzy is breaking records and transforming cultural landscapes. The record-setting pace of sales over the past year has turbo-charged a trend that has unfolded in recent years with more urban refugees relocating to mountain towns. This resort-home mania has happened before — and it didn’t end well.

In the few years leading up to 2007, mountain real estate brokers trumpeted their successes like a broken record. And, in fact, every month, quarter and year did break a record, thanks largely to loose lending that pushed ill-qualified buyers into homes with no money down and principle-only mortgage payments. When that lending fiasco fell apart, a yearslong recession and mighty crash in real estate values followed, leaving long-lasting impacts.

Last year’s real estate sales in Colorado’s high country looked eerly similar to 2007, with every month in the last half of the year setting sales volume and pricing records. Homes are selling sight unseen for highest-ever prices. Ultra-wealthy buyers, flush with 2020 stock market millions and the recognition they don’t need to be in an office, are flocking to mountain communities. Those who are not quite as rich are swarming into downvalley enclaves.

Phillips Armstrong owns three restaurants in Steamboat and one in Breckenridge. They are higher-end eateries and his employees earn high wages, with managers making about $80,000 a year and servers taking home a few hundred dollars on a busy night. Housing for his well-paid workers “has always been an issue, but mostly background noise,” he said.

“But now, the shift has been dramatic,” Armstrong said, noting how workers are not returning to his restaurants’ jobs after the slow pandemic winter because they can’t find housing. “It’s just been a fever pitch this last six months.”

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