The Perfect Storm
If you’ve been thinking about buying a new home, 2012 might be the perfect year. Thinking of selling? Well, 2012 might be just right for that, too. But, you may ask, how can both be true?
“This will be a terrific year for people looking to move up,” says Chris Mygatt, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Colorado. In other words, for those looking to unload a mid-priced Denver home in good condition, sales will likely move quickly; it’s once again a seller’s market in the $250,000-$350,000 range. And home shoppers looking to “buy up” and move into a house at a higher price point (more than $500,000) will be pleased to find slashed prices and a large inventory. Cue the perfect storm for both selling and buying.
Mygatt notes that the total number of units sold was up a bit last year, and luxury market sales volume—for homes listed at more than $500,000—inched up 4.4 percent. While the average price dipped a tad, inventory fell as well. That’s the statistical way of saying that things are improving, if slowly. In that picture, a lot of owners are hanging on to their current homes to ride out the storm; for folks who want a slice of luxury, Mygatt adds, the Front Range market is ripe for the buyer.
Kathy Cole, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Vail, is optimistic about the Vail market. “We had a lot of activity during the winter,” she says, describing renewed interest and excitement after a number of difficult years. “We expect a lot of movement in terms of how many places actually sell, but prices are still lower,” she says.
Cole uses figures prepared by Trevor Theelke, account manager at Land Title Guarantee Company, to point out that 2011 total transactions for Eagle County were up 9 percent from 2010 and 45 percent from 2009. “That’s pointing in the right direction for 2012,” she says. Vail’s luxury market starts at $4 million, and sales of homes in that league comprised 28 percent of Vail’s 2011 sales volume of $1.15 billion. “We’re aiming for $1.5 billion in 2012.”
Robert Bray, president of Grand Junction-based Bray & Co., says that activity on the Western Slope is mirroring the rest of the state: sales are up, but prices are still down. “We are looking for sales to continue to rise, and hoping for prices to level off or lift a little,” Bray says, who covers the territory in Garfield and Mesa Counties with several offices.
According to Bray, a number of factors are influencing the region. Interest rates are extremely low and prices are down, but employment is soft. “It’s a great time to buy, but we need a shot of consumer confidence,” he says.
All three experts say they feel the Colorado real estate market appears to be at, or very near the bottom of, a long low dip. “When we look back in 10 years,” says Mygatt, “I believe we’ll see 2011 as the bottom and 2012 as the year of opportunity.”
Preparing to sell? Take some advice from designer and home staging expert Marilyn Cornelison of Denver-based Home Again Interiors. “Staging your home is all about making a good first impression,” she says. “And you only have about five seconds to do that.”
Start with curb appeal. Plant some blooming flowers, spread fresh bark and put out a new welcome mat. Paint the front door and trim.
“The house must smell clean,” insists Cornelison. Shampoo the carpets and furniture and have the draperies cleaned. Clear the air of last night’s dinner. Put clean linens on all the beds, and even paint if you can afford to. “Nothing says ‘fresh’ like new paint,” she adds.
Make your house look spiffy. Wash the windows—“They should sparkle,” Cornelison says—and clean out the garage. Purge and arrange all the closets by pulling out at least half of the contents and spacing the hangers evenly. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers should be immaculate and sparse too.
Depersonalize. Paint that chartreuse accent wall to match the other walls. Put away personal photos and diplomas and remove medications and personal products from sight.
Dress it up. If you are going to buy furniture, art or even pillows for your new home, buy them now and use them to stage the house you’re selling. To keep your space cozy, casually place a throw and a book on the living room sofa. Add flowers and candles.
Place fresh soaps—not pump bottles—and new towels in the bathrooms. Pull out all the floor mats. “Channel your inner Martha Stewart,” Cornelison says. “You want people to think, 'I'd love to spend time here.’”