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Summit County homebuyers navigate a competitive seller’s market

Sheila Stark poses in front of her new townhome in Dillon on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Stark and her husband recently bought the unit as a second home for their vacations to Colorado.
Photo by Libby Stanford / estanford@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — The Summit County seller’s market appears to be here to stay. 

While some hoped the novel coronavirus pandemic would give buyers a leg up, the opposite has proven to be true. Leah Canfield, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties, said the market is more competitive now than in years past. 

In July, the county saw 387 pending contracts — 177 more than the same month in 2019, according to Summit Realtors data. Prices have remained steady, as well. According to Summit Realtors, the average sales price for single-family homes was up 22.8% compared with July 2019. 

The competitive nature of the market can make buying a home difficult. Winners are the people who act fast and are focused, Canfield said. 

“The local buyers are having a pretty tough time competing with the out-of-area buyers,” she said. “Even my local buyers who have a significant budget for their primary home — over $1 million — they are likely still getting a loan and they’re competing with full price cash offers on properties and it’s tough.” 

Sheila Stark, who lives in Dallas, just bought a townhome in Dillon to visit when her son is on break from school. Stark and her husband were focused on what they wanted, making for an easier process.

“It was relatively easy because we were very specific about what we wanted and what we could afford,” Stark said. “We knew all of that going into it. We knew that it’s not a cheap place to live and there’s not a lot of inventory available, so we had to be patient.”

Sheila Stark poses in front of her new townhome in Dillon on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Stark and her husband recently bought the unit as a second home for their vacations to Colorado.
Photo by Libby Stanford / estanford@summitdaily.com

Stark said she recognizes how difficult it can be for locals to buy a home in the area. 

“For somebody who’s a local and working in an industry that is affected by a business decline, to be able to afford buying a house is going to be hard,” she said. “We’re very fortunate that we’re coming from an area and we’re in a profession where our jobs have not been affected, so we’re still in a financial position to move forward with our goal.” 

For locals, the process of buying a home in Summit County can be a stressful undertaking, especially for those who don’t fall into the luxury category.

Jason McMullin has worked at Copper Mountain Resort for the past 20 years and said he’s unable to afford a home within the county and has tried multiple times to buy. 

“I’m forced to buy something out of the county because it’s unaffordable for an employee unless they want a deed-restricted unit,” he said. “There’s such limited choices here for the working class in Summit County.” 

Not wanting to continue paying rent prices, McMullin ended up buying a home near Leadville. Living alone and being in lower income brackets has made it especially challenging for people like McMullin. 

By The Numbers

Total sales

  • July 2019: 180
  • July 2020: 243
  • Percent change: 35%

Total volume

  • July 2019: $133,847,516
  • July 2020: $190,462,038
  • Percent change: 42%

Sales at or above $1 million

  • July 2019: 34
  • July 2020: 55
  • Percent change: 62%

 

“The home prices, which are inflated based on the interest rates and based on what out-of-state people will pay, are the two major negatives besides my low income, which I can and have worked around,” he said. 

Eric Betts, who has lived in the county for seven years, said he believes a lot of the process comes down to connections and luck. Betts bought his condo in Frisco within 24 hours of it going on the market because he heard about it from his friend who is a Realtor.

“It’s right place, right time with the right people, and that’s the only way housing works in Summit County,” he said.

Ally Macey, who recently bought a condo in Dillon after living in Summit County for about two years, said she spent about eight months looking for a home. 

“When you’re buying, it’s rare that you’re going to get everything on your wish list, but I found out here I was having to give up more than I think I’d have to for the prices I was seeing,” she said. 

Canfield said low inventory is a major issue for anyone who wants to buy a home in the area. Often, there aren’t many homes on the market, and when there are, they get snatched up quickly. 

This home in Breckenridge was recently listed for $2.99 million.
Photo from Leah Canfield / Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties

“Low inventory is really tough because your selection is decreased and you’re less likely to find the property that is really the right fit for you,” she said. 

Buyers also tend to struggle with the competitive nature of the market. Buyers who are using loans or plan to negotiate on price have a more difficult time, Canfield said, because the homes are often closed with better offers in the interim. 

“The conversation I’m having with my buyers right now is, ‘Hey, here’s what’s happening. Here’s what we need to do to be competitive,’” she said. “‘So let’s make sure we set you up for success at the beginning versus just flying by the seat of our pants if we find a property that works for you.’”

While the process might be difficult, Canfield said buyers shouldn’t back away from the urge to buy. She added that success will take great planning and attention to detail. 

“It certainly is not to say that buyers are doomed,” she said. “All that it requires is some more planning with your real estate adviser in advance of looking at property and coming up with a strategy. In a competitive market, it’s the focused buyers who are winning.”


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