February in the North Fork Valley can be a bit trying, you know, not easy. If I could tear a page out of the calendar and fast-forward, it would be February. The worst month ever for local real estate sales was February 2010 when just one property in the entire valley was sold. In case you’re wondering… it was an older single-wide mobile set next to the railroad tracks in Hotchkiss, Linda Lario had it listed and I sold it. The buyers were so happy to have their new home they named their donkey after me. Greater flattery you’ll not soon find, right? But that was then and this is now, and this February there is a palpable feeling in the community that things are on the upswing. It probably doesn’t hurt that winter has taken a hiatus allowing people to get out and about, including shopping for real estate.
Twenty-seventeen was the best in a decade for local real estate sales with $178,000,000 closed through the Delta County Board of Realtors – a 30% increase! ($40M more than 2016) Of that total, $136,000,000 was from residential sales which were up by 21% countywide (up $23.6 million). The Delta area did best posting a 39% gain (to $51.9M total) and where prices rose the most 18% on average to $197,235. North Fork area sales grew 14% (to $41.6M total) and prices rose 12% to $249,000 on average, followed by Surface Creek with volume up 10% (to $42.6M) and on average the value was up 10% to $187,750. All that activity made for a good year but has left the local inventory substantially depleted creating an environment of rising prices and increasing rental rates, and has precipitated more competition among would-be buyers and tenants: a classic seller’s market. Does that mean that people can ask whatever price they want? Of course not. But sometimes when pricing a new listing there can be something like a reverse-limbo effect, where the question becomes “how high can we go?”. If a property is clearly worth $300k, might it be worth $325? $350? It’s not an exact science and there are more variables than price in the equation.
Vacant land sales also rose substantially, up 70% countywide to $15,000,000, with more than half the volume coming from the North Fork area. Commercial sales were flat overall ($6M) but jumped 40% in the North Fork where $3.7M in sales were also more than half of the county total (disclaimer: adding commercial sales posted in the Montrose Board of Realtors would reduce this ratio). The point is that the North Fork area has the healthiest real estate market in the county and that the county is doing well overall. Among the biggest sales of last year was the transfer of 4300 acres formerly owned by Bowie Resources north of Paonia along Stevens Gulch for $4.3M. The new owner has plans to develop the wildlife resource for hunting according to the selling broker. The sale was finalized in mid-December, but it wasn’t until mid-January that the “real” news hit town… the cross-country ski trail known to locals as TV Tower is CLOSED to the public. Although it was always posted “No Trespassing,” Bowie didn’t seem to care that people would park near the water tank and ski up to the east. It was a great place to get some fresh air, fresh snow, and it offered some of the best views around – from the Raggeds to Lone Cone on a clear day. As a Realtor I am an advocate for private property rights, and have explained to some disgruntled skiers that it’s the owner’s right to shut it down. That said, there may be a ray of hope. A small group of advocates has formed to reach out to the new owner with hopes of starting a dialogue that could open the area to limited, seasonal, use. For those who have enjoyed the uncontested use of this private land in the past, it is important to respect the closure if there is to be any hope of it reopening in the future. As I am witness, “TV Tower” made even the most dreary Februaries a lot brighter and winters without it will not be the same.