La Plata County real estate numbers a mixed bag

La Plata County saw more homes sold in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, but the median price declined, according to the latest real estate report.

The statistics from the Durango Area Association of Realtors show an 11 percent increase in the number of homes sold in the county compared with the first half of 2011. In the first half of 2012, 353 homes sold compared with 318 in the same period in 2011.

In the same period, the median price declined from $307,000 in 2011 to $290,000 for this year.

Jarrod Nixon, president of the Durango Area Association of Realtors, said overall numbers look good, but Durango in-town homes took a hit with a 7 percent decrease in sales. The median price of an in-town home also decreased about 7 percent, from $365,364 to $339,500.

There are still some distressed properties, such as foreclosures and short sales, affecting the median home prices, Nixon said.

Buyers also are seeking newly constructed homes, and Durango hasn’t seen much building since 2005, he said.

“People are looking for less projects. They want something that’s not going to require as much work,” Nixon said.

Durango country homes, nearby properties outside city limits, and Bayfield in-town homes saw a substantial increase in the number sold. Durango country home sales increased almost 60 percent, from 77 in the first six months of 2011 to 123 in the same period this year. And Bayfield home sales doubled, from 8 sold January through June in 2011 to 16 in the same months of 2012.

“I think we’re seeing in-town buyers migrating out to rural properties,” Nixon said. “They’re beginning to look at what they can purchase in town versus out of town for the same price.”

Homes are spending fewer days on the market before selling. Through June this year, Durango in-town homes spent an average of 149 days on the market, a 22 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2011.

Durango country homes saw a decrease of 24 percent, with the average days going from 228 last year to 173 this year.

Condo prices and sales remain low, and Nixon attributed this to potential condo owners facing lending challenges from the banks.

Nixon predicts the county will continue to see a lower number of condo sales until lending improves.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort-area home sales are down 60 percent in the report, but Nixon says the area saw a late start in its sale season, and there are a significant number of properties currently under contract that probably will close soon.

Nixon said the report is a small representation of the overall market, and the county will have to wait until the end of the year to see what the market is really doing.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, but things are improving overall, and we are very happy with our numbers right now year-to-date,” he said.

jdahl@durangoherald.com