Happy Summer to you all! It is summer yes? Rivers are still running high all over the western slope and many high elevation roads in Colorado remain closed due to snow. My wife and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the southern San Juans for some hot springs and a taste of the high country. After confirming that the road to Yankee Boy Basin high above Ouray was indeed finally open, we loaded up the 4X4 and headed up to find Mother nature’s carnage was everywhere! Thousands upon thousands of avalanche devastated trees littered the mountainsides on the way up. Many snow slide paths we drove through were still close to 20 feet deep where snow plows had trenched through! Up high, where typically by now the basin is carpeted in wildflowers, there was still snow and lots of it. What a crazy year in Colorado! From extreme drought and heat last summer to record snows and cool temperatures in 2019. Down low in the North Fork valley the cool, wet, but not frosty spring is bringing bumper crops of fruit and hay. The big winner this year are cherries and apricots! Its been a while since Ive witnessed wild cherry trees fruiting around here and this year they are out there. Neat!
Its been a cool spring but the hot real estate market in the North Fork continues! Year to date median property sales are up an astounding 33%! Last May the median price for a home in the North Fork was $246k. In May 2019 it stands at $322k. Things are changing in our valley. Demand remains extremely high, especially in the Paonia area where price increases are even steeper. Supply of homes remains low, even lower than May of 2018 to the tune of 33% fewer listings. Also homes are staying on the market 80% longer than they were in May a year ago. This seems to be a reflection of price increases. Also of interest there have been a slew of properties hitting the market in the Valley this summer with $500k+ price tags. In the past 2 years in the 81419 zipcode 9 homes have sold, in the 81428 zip 12 homes, and in 81415 8 homes have sold in this price range. In the 3 years PRIOR to 2017 a sum total of 14 properties sold valley wide above $500k. For perspective currently there are 41 properties in the valley priced over $500k. Are we due for a correction? Will these higher priced properties stay on the market longer and longer? Nationwide statistics in hot housing markets suggest yes.
Word on the street (and local Facebook Forums) is that we’re in a housing crisis…and that very well may be. All of a sudden there are few to no starter homes (that don’t require complete renovation) in the North Fork that are attainable by middle income earners. Quickly following increased home values, rents are way up in the nosebleeds with 2 bedroom homes often renting for $1200 or more. Average income earners in this valley just cant afford the new housing reality and thus are being driven out. And all of a sudden we are starting to fit the classic Mountain Town Paradigm where the people that make our town a town can no longer afford to live here. It happened so quick!
Unfortunately there are no easy solutions and really no bad guys to point the finger at! When a place is recognized as appealing to someone and that desire spreads but there’s only so much of that place to go around, prices go up until only those that can afford it can move here. Unfortunately demand is changing the place we call home. I for one am thankful there isn’t enough property to please everyone. As a realtor this low inventory of sell-able properties is a tough way to make a living! Lots of clamoring over rare new listings, emotions running high with buyers. But as a resident of this place I am thankful that growth is problematic. I moved here 13 years ago because Paonia in particular was unknown, off the beaten path, and felt just like Mayberry might feel back in the 1960’s. I don’t want that small town feel to change and I don’t want my town to be “discovered”. On the other side of this coin however this North Fork “discovery” is taking up where the diminishing coal industry has left us. There is a new “energy” in the Valley and its seems to be sustainable. Food growers and producers and little cottage industries are popping up. The quality of life here is outstanding but jobs are and will continue to be problematic. On a limited basis other mountain towns like Crested Butte, Telluride, and Durango etc… have provided deed restricted affordable housing and parcels of land, but that takes resources and doesn’t seem to put much of a dent in overall demand. Here in the valley Paonia based Space to Create is diving headlong into the effort of addressing affordable housing and the Town of Paonia seems aware of whats happening but do they have the resources to divert from other critical infrastructure upgrades that Town requires to address a housing crisis? We shall see.
Meanwhile Cherry days are upon us already ad I can’t remember such glorious weather in the North Fork valley! So luscious, and temperate! I am enjoying it while it lasts and I hope you all can get out and enjoy with you and yours. Hopefully we’ll see you out and about!