September real estate sales break all records in Routt County as pandemic pushes more home buyers to Yampa Valley |

September real estate sales break all records in Routt County as pandemic pushes more home buyers to Yampa Valley

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While COVID-19 was raging in San Francisco earlier this summer, Olan Kenneally and his wife took a trip to Steamboat Springs to visit family as they have for many years.

The original plan was to stay for two weeks. Instead they stayed for three-and-a-half months. They also bought a house.

Kenneally said they had always considered moving to Steamboat, but the pandemic is what pushed them to buy now.

A combination of people wanting to live in less dense areas, a lack of things to do in cities that had been shut down and adjusting to working from home has led to an increase in sales throughout the country, especially in Colorado’s mountain towns. Add in historically low interest rates and people are more willing to make a move.

After a slow start to the year, Steamboat had by all accounts a record month for real estate sales topping $178 million in September, an increase of more than 170% over September 2019. Local Realtors point to the pandemic as the catalyst for the historic month.

But earlier this year, as COVID-19 upended people’s lives, closed businesses and replaced some workers’ office with a kitchen table, the real estate industry was at a standstill.

“In March, April, May it was dead. We couldn’t show houses, showings weren’t allowed, sales volume was down by half,” said Steve Goldman, CEO of Colorado Group Realty in Steamboat. “As soon as they allowed everything, the spigot had been turned on.”

Looking at the third quarter of this year, from July to September, 604 properties were sold, and sales totaled $438 million, which are both records, according to Doug Labor, general manager and associate broker at Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty in downtown Steamboat.

Realtors are seeing a shorter sales period, a myriad of competitive offers, many cash offers and more people looking to relocate.

“COVID changed the way people view how they live. When you are stuck at home quarantining with nothing to do, or you are in a city with a ton of people around you, that is not a desirable place to be,” Goldman said. “People saw this as a time to go live where (they) want to live.”

Sales in Telluride, Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail all saw large increases this year compared to last, many of them larger than the increase in Steamboat.

The average home sold in Steamboat last month had a price tag of more than $1 million, according to the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.

But the flurry of sales has only increased a problem that has plagued Steamboat for a long time: a depleted housing stock.

There were just 801 new listings in the third quarter of this year, a record low, Labor said.

“One of our biggest problems is lack of inventory,” said Urlich Salzgeber, CEO of the Board of Realtors. “We are like avocados. If the batch has an early freeze and there are not as many avocados, the price goes up.”

Sales in September outpaced new listings, and houses spent less time on the market, 18 days fewer than September 2019.

Salzgeber said what is most concerning about the surge in sales is what it could mean long term for the Steamboat community and the workers who keep it going year-round.

“This is pushing the workers of Steamboat out of the market,” Salzgeber said. “We have always been an exception in the resort towns in that we remain a true community, but to keep that, we have to have inventory for our teachers and our firefighters and police officers and snowplow drivers and hospital workers.”

One advantage Steamboat has compared to other mountain towns, Salzgeber said, is that there is the open land to build more housing. But building new housing has also seen cost increases. Tradespeople like plumbers and electricians charge more to do work on construction projects in Steamboat, so they can get by, Goldman said.

“We are at a crossroads right now, in my opinion,” Salzgeber said. “If we don’t start increasing our supply and target that supply for the workers of our community, then we are going to start losing our community feel.”

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