“I would call it cautious optimism. We are experiencing the best market we’ve seen since maybe even ’07,” said Lew Kingdom, the broker-owner of Wright-Kingdom Inc., an independent real estate brokerage firm with offices in Boulder and Longmont.
“Of course, we’ve seen that almost every year (in the interim): The market starts out hot and then it just dwindles away to nothing,” Kingdom said. “But this just feels different. It is difficult to quantify, but it feels like we’ve really built a little momentum.
“I think people are more optimistic, and certainly the financing has loosened up.”
D.B. Wilson, managing broker of Re/Max of Boulder, Inc., said single-family home sales in Boulder County have risen an astounding 27.5 percent during the first six months of this year, compared with the first six months off 2011. Perhaps the most amazing part of that story, Wilson said, is that with the possible exception of luxury homes valued above $2 million, there really doesn’t appear to be any soft spots in either Boulder or Broomfield counties — and that’s including foreclosure-ridden Longmont, which has been the area’s problem child.
“Boulder County as a whole is up 27.5 percent in sales,” Wilson said. “When you compare the number of homes for sale now (compared with the mid-year point in 2001), there are actually 26 percent fewer homes on the market.
“Then, if you look at the percentage of those homes in the market that are currently under contract, today 34 percent of those homes are under contract. If you were to look at that a year ago, only 34 percent of those homes were under contract.”
The Boulder Area Board of Realtors database, which compares yearly data, also reflects that momentum, especially where Longmont is concerned. The city saw a 20.7 percent increase in sales — comparing a year’s data from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012 with the same period from 2010 to 2011.
June was especially kind to Boulder County’s second-largest city, with 115 single-family home sales, which gobbled up more than a quarter of the available market of 390 homes. During those 12 months, sales had risen from 738 to 891 homes in Longmont.
June sales were strong across the area, gobbling up about a third of the available market in Broomfield and Boulder and about half the market in Louisville and Lafayette.
The Realtors board’s data showed that mountain home sales were growing faster than those in Longmont, up 29.4 percent. Lafayette sales were up 25.7 percent, Boulder up 22.8 percent, Broomfield up 19.9 percent, Louisville up 17.1 percent, Superior up 13.6 percent, unincorporated plains homes up 4.8 percent, and Erie up 0.8 percent.
Kingdom said July sales may be hitting a bit of an expected plateau this month, a normal slowing as families take their late-summer vacations. Also the inventory is a little weak, with the exception of homes valued at more than $2 million, for which there is four years of available inventory.
For most values of homes, Wilson said, there is less than five months of available inventory, which is on the short side.
“There have been a lot of frustrated buyers,” he said. “But obviously the best thing these buyers have going are these interest rates — 30-year-fixed mortgage at 3.5 or even 3.25 percent. That just makes these homes that much more affordable. I think everyone knows it’s not going to get much better than this.”
Still of some concern is what is called the “shadow market” — short-sale and bank-owned homes and homes with delinquent payments. But there’s a good deal to be optimistic in that regard, as well, said Lou Barnes, Premier Mortgage Group’s mortgage banker/analyst.
Colorado has the sixth-lowest rate of foreclosure in the nation at 1.6 percent, according to Lender Processing Service, trailing only North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas and Montana. Barnes noted there has been some movement to try to install rules in Colorado that will require a court to declare foreclosure, but he said the existing commercial process has paid dividends in recovery.
“As painful as all these foreclosures have been, it has gotten us out of this quicker,” he said. In Longmont’s case, he said, the city is “repopulating, and as prices rise that unlocks more sellers at each step.”
Home availability may be the biggest problem at this point.
Wilson said he tracks the number of showings at ReMax, and those numbers have been strong, about four showings a week for each available listing.
“We have a sales meeting at the beginning of every week, and we usually have about 25 new listings,” he said. “Every week it seems that four of them are already under contract.”