Panel discusses real estate market in the High Country


Summit Daily News

November 17, 2006


BRECKENRIDGE - First, economics forced ranchers to address sustainability in Breckenridge. Then, miners. Thursday night, Realtors in Breckenridge took their turn to address the tough question about their popular industry: Is it a good investment, or false hope?

In a half-filled town hall auditorium in Breckenridge Thursday night, Summit County residents attended a panel discussion about real estate in Summit County in the latest in a series of topical discussions sponsored by Our Future Summit.

According to panel member Ken Deshaies, the Summit Association of Realtors (SAR) has a membership of 662 licensed real estate agents, close to the number of homes on the market. While Deshaies doesn't see the number of Realtors decreasing any time soon, he feels there is a perception that real estate is easy money, and he feels that people jumping into the profession don't understand how competitive of a market Summit County really is.

Fellow panel member Gail McDonald of SAR said she sees the impact of unexpected hardships among Realtors.

"We're seeing 25 percent attrition in any given year," McDonald said. "We see the number of Realtors increase and decrease as the market moves."

Panelist Ken McDonald, a local financial resources consultant, alluded to the idea that we're in a capitalistic society and the more realtors who exist, the better options it provides for the consumer.

In a jovial yet subtly serious setting, topics of discussion also included foreclosures, affordable housing and the real estate bubble.

Affordable housing is still topical after ballot measure 5A recently passed to help fund the Summit County affordable housing initiative. Many in the audience were concerned about the growing dynamic of second homeowners.

Gail McDonald believes that 68 to 70 percent of all households are second homes, and that is what is keeping the real estate market strong. The increase in real estate prices is a concern for locals, because fewer locals are afforded the opportunity to reside in the county and perform the necessary day-to-day jobs the county depends on.

Newly elected County Assessor and panelist Beverly Breakstone sees the real estate market as a double-edge sword. Recently, Breakstone had a neighbor sell to a second homeowner, but she desires a neighborhood with full-time residents and not just the occasional weekend visitor. Breakstone does acknowledge the value the second homeowner market provides in driving up value of properties.

The panel didn't see foreclosures to be a serious problem here in Summit County compared to locations like Greeley and Denver, because the marketplace is much different than those locations.

Some reasons why the panel is doesn't see a bubble in the county is because of the unique variable that exist here like proximity to build-out, baby boomers desire to own and live in a resort community, relatively low interest rates and the start to another strong snow year.

Finishing the discussion, Pine Beetle Task Force member Sandy Briggs voiced a strong concern about the epidemic killing our forests. He remarked that within two to three years the pine beetle will have impacted 60 percent of the views in the county, and that will have a detrimental effect on real estate.

This panel was moderated by Jennifer Kermode.