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12/28/2003

Home sales growing, but mostly flat

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Statistics recently released by the Longmont Association of Realtors reflect a decidedly flat housing market.

Multi-family home sales rose just 2.1 percent during the third quarter of 2003 when compared to the same time last year and dropped 2.9 percent when compared to the year to date, according to the LAR report.

Part of the problem is the still tight economy, said Tom Charles, an agent at Keller Williams 1st Realty Association Inc. in Longmont.

“Sometimes people like to buy a new home because they’re tired of what they’re in,” he said. “But (the economy) makes them think more about remodeling instead of buying.”

Refinancing becomes the next best thing to buying because the money saved or cashed out of home equity can materialize into a finished basement, an add-on room or a remodel.

“If we didn’t have the low interest rates, home sales would be worse than they are,” Charles said.

Though the economy has not steam-rolled house sales, LAR statistics show those sales turning over in slow motion.

For instance, the average number of days for a house on the market jumped from 88 during the third quarter of 2002 to 104 during the same time in 2003.

That’s more than 18 percent. But year-to-date is worse with a 22.5 percent increase between listing and selling.

The resulting property glut has bloated Coldwell’s local inventory by 60 percent above average, according to Larry Clifford, an agent at Coldwell Banker Preferred Realty in Longmont.

Homes priced above $350,000, he said, have slowed the most because so many well-paid jobs have disappeared.

Statistics reported by the Boulder Area Realtor Association show third-quarter sales up in Boulder by 16.3 percent; in Broomfield by 24.7 percent; in Louisville by 19.5 percent and in Superior by a dizzying 29.5 percent.

All of those communities, however, also reflected increased days on the market during the third quarter except Broomfield, which dropped 8 percent from 76 days on the market in 2002 to 70 days in 2003.

Still, Longmont’s median sales price did inch up 4.3 percent, from $219,000 in third quarter of 2002 to $228,5000 in 2003.

“We’re looking at 2004 as being a fairly significant improvement — barring mad cow disease or a terrorist attack,” Clifford said. “But I actually consider this year to be more of a normal market. We’ve been spoiled in the past eight years, and now we’re back to reality. It’s still a good market.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.