Real Estate Watch: Slope Side

The term “Western Slope” is used to describe all the land west of the Continental Divide—a third of the state of Colorado. Compared to the Front Range, it’s a thinly populated region, with huge swaths of land (and its economy) dedicated to outdoor recreation, ranching, energy mining, and, along the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, fruit farming and wineries. The myriad towns there vary as greatly in personality as they do in topography—from the ski- and college-town of Durango to the agricultural burg of Paonia. “We are a quality-of-life place to live—with moderate weather that allows you to pursue a variety of activities year-round,” says Erika Doyle, Chair of the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association. And when it comes to real estate, there’s a little something for every kind of buyer, too. “You have everything from multi-million-dollar ranches in Telluride to modest, single-family homes in Rifle,” says Joe Tripoli, Chair Elect of the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association and broker with Re/Max 4000. If you’re looking for a deal along a river or a quiet spot to retire, consider these three towns. 

Population: 16,000
History: During the gold and silver boom of the 1800s, Durango served as a railroad hub, receiving hauled-in ore from nearby Silverton. Today, the still-functioning Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is a tourist attraction, as are the Animas River and nearby Durango Mountain Resort.
The Draw: A scenic, outdoorsy mountain vibe—without the glitzy, resort-town feel; historic Victorian housing stock and mining-era architecture downtown; surrounded by national forest and public land; home to Fort Lewis College.
Good For: Young families who don’t want to raise their kids in a larger city, active retirees and students.
Realtor’s Forecast: “Durango didn’t suffer the deep housing-market lows that other, bigger cities saw during the recent economic downturn. I predict we’ll soon see a leveling out, and I expect prices to stay there for a year, followed by slow appreciation.” —Gina Piccoli, co-owner Coldwell Banker Heritage House Realtors 

Grand Junction
Population: 50,000
History: Located at the junction of two major rivers—the Colorado and the Gunnison—the town was settled in the 1800s as an agriculture and cattle town. Oil and gas mining has provided Grand Junction with a few economic booms (and busts) in recent history. Today, it’s the Western Slope’s most populous city, with a diverse economy and population.
The Draw: The nearby Grand Mesa and Bookcliff mountains; more-temperate climate; robust medical community, including the newly-renovated Saint Mary’s hospital; good school system; affordable and diverse housing stock.

Good For: Retirees looking for warmer weather and active lifestyles, young families, and energy-industry and medical professionals.
Realtor’s Forecast: “Between 2006 and 2008, an oil and gas boom led to huge run-ups in housing prices in Grand Junction. Today, we have a wealth of inventory at very competitive prices. (The average sale price for a three-bedroom house fell from $230,000 in 2009 to $195,000 in 2010.) Yet we’re seeing a rebound: in the first quarter of 2010, sales increased in Mesa County for the first time since 2006—by almost seven percent. In the long run, once we work through the existing inventory, we’ll have a more healthy market.”
—Joe Tripoli, Chair Elect of the Grand Junction Realtor Association and broker associate with Re/Max 4000

Population: 15,000
History: Founded as a gold-rush town in the 1800s (claim to fame: one-time home to Wyatt Earp). Today it has a cattle- and tourism-based economy.
The Draw: Proximity to the West Elk and Collegiate Peaks wilderness, Gunnison National Forest and Crested Butte Mountain Resort; easy access to skiing, fishing and kayaking; home to Western State College of Colorado; small-town living.           Good For: Second-home owners, active retirees, students and families with a history of vacationing in the region.
Realtor’s Forecast: “Until we start seeing lending happening on a more consistent basis and with guidelines that are actually attainable, real estate sales are going to be very tough here in Gunnison. The activity we are starting to see is in the very high-end market and with foreclosure properties.” —Karen Redden, broker associate, Benson Sotheby’s International Realty Crested Butte

Hot Properties
Two developments to watch on the Western Slope

Redlands Mesa

Location: Grand Junction
Completion Date: Ongoing
Details: A master-planned golf course community on 500 acres near the Colorado National Monument. Featuring an award-
winning, 18-hole public golf course and clubhouse with workout facility. One-third of land dedicated to
open space.
Price: $100,000–$800,000 for lots; $450,000–$2.5 million for existing homes (2,000–10,000 square feet)
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Cobble Creek

Location: Montrose
Completion Date: Ongoing

Details: A 530-acre master planned golf community; 18-hole championship golf course; members-only spa and fitness center; discounted skiing at nearby Telluride Ski Resort; 10 lakes on site; views of the Cimarron and San Juan mountain ranges.
Price: $60,000–$95,000 for lots; $320,000–$650,000 for existing homes (1,600–3,200 square feet)
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Categories: Exteriors