Kara Mason


active 2 hours, 36 minutes ago

Who’s buying homes in this Pueblo’s sellers market?

Retirees seem to be a common thread when weaving a tapestry to represent the diverse types of homebuyers now flooding Pueblo’s real estate market.

“Baby Boomers like me,” is how Susan McCarthy of Coldwell Banker in Pueblo enthusiastically responds when asked who is buying homes.

Although Gary Miller, broker/owner of Remax of Pueblo Inc., lists an array of recent homebuyers, he does spend a lot of time addressing retirees. Saying that many older buyers who are local and from outside the area are looking to get out of their larger or high-maintenance homes to homes requiring much less upkeep. He says some buyers are leaving the Denver area.

“Retirees from Denver don’t want to have to put up with all the traffic,” Miller says, adding that couples living in Denver for 35 years are finding homes in Pueblo that on average cost 50 percent less than what they can find in Northern Colorado.

But to look at just retirees is to miss an entire forest of homebuyers. Miller says no one seems to have demographics on who is buying homes in the Pueblo area. A call to the Pueblo County Assessor’s office also reveals that government entity does not keep track of who is buying homes here.

Miller says at his Remax office about 75 percent of the homebuyers are from the area, but cautions that the 25 percent outside-of-Pueblo buyers represent a significant number.

“Our population has increased,” he says, adding that in addition to retirees there are a number of out-of-town buyers coming to take jobs at places like the Colorado State University, Pueblo, and area hospitals.

For the record, Pueblo County’s population as of July 2016 was 165.123, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, or nearly a 4 percent increase from April 2010.

Miller says a significant chunk of the local home-buying market is a result of what he calls “new family formation” or kids wanting to be free from mom and dad now that the economy is gradually starting to improve.

Miller describes the Pueblo area as experiencing a sense of relief from years of pent up home-buying frustration, which had been due to an uncertain economy. The bad economy had created a large inventory of unsold homes in the Pueblo market that is now shrinking because consumers seem more confident.

In addition to retirees, jobseekers and young adults looking to leave the nest, Miller says divorcees also are represented in Pueblo’s home-sale surge as evidenced by the growing number of single people buying homes.

Scott Moore, a Coldwell Banker real estate executive who handles primarily out-of-town homebuyers, describes himself as a third generation Pueblo business leader.

“It’s so hard to generalize right now,” Moore says when asked who’s buying homes in the area. He says the buyers are not only coming from the Denver area, people are buying homes from as far off as the East Coast and West Coast. He adds that buyers from out of state are attracted to Pueblo’s low cost of living and abundant water supply citing Lake Pueblo as a big draw.

Moore, who also mentioned retirees as among the out-of-towners moving here, says that the Pueblo market’s offering of homes at between $100,000 and $250,000 is unheard of in most markets not only in Denver and along the Front Range (i.e. Colorado Springs) but in other parts of the country as well.

Also military folk from Fort Carson have added “a whole nother niche” for home sellers. Miller says military personnel and others are attracted to Pueblo’s amenities citing the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and the area’s climate in addition to the aforementioned Pueblo Reservoir area.

Moore says Pueblo is on “a path of progress” and predicts that new industries coming to the area will keep the housing market here booming. “I am excited about the future of the community,” he says.

Yet Pueblo soon may not have the enough homes to handle the growing number of buyers. Kevin Cooter, chairman of the Pueblo Association of Realtors, says.

“Right now in Pueblo (east, south, north, westside) there are 235 listings with a median asking price of $162,000,” Cooter says, adding that a year ago the median selling price was $134,000 and over the past year since July 2016 homes were selling at the rate of 146 per month.

“That means we only have a 49-day supply of inventory  –  DEFINITELY a seller's market,” Cooter says. “Up until a couple years ago, it's almost always has been a buyer's market, which is typically defined as a five- to six-month supply of inventory. Ninety percent of homes are priced over $70,000 in Pueblo. The median asking price has gone up over 20 percent in the last 12 months.”

As for Pueblo West, Cooter says there are currently 76 homes for sale at a median asking price of $270,000. Over the past year there were 58 homes per month sold in Pueblo West at an average of $225,000 each, which translates to a 40-day supply of inventory there.

So given the fact that there doesn’t seem to be enough homes, why doesn’t the community build more?

It is, according to Tom Hausman of the Pueblo Association of Home Builders.

Hausman, who is also the land developer of Crestwood Hills (a single-family residential neighborhood on Pueblo’s northside), says 180 building permits were issued in Pueblo County from the beginning of the year till June 30. That compares with 120 for the same six-month period in 2016, 82 in 2015 and 80 in 2014.

But building within the city limits is getting more difficult. Hausman explains: “Of particular note is the percentage of permits issued in the county versus the city. In recent years the activity has been evenly split. However, with the dwindling supply of lots in city limits, the ratio (of city to county permits) this year has been 2 to 3.”

And between changes in building code requirements and so many building materials price increases, Hausman says the average cost of new construction has increased as much as 20 percent over the past three years – further hindering a greater building boom needed to keep up with Pueblo’s demand.

But that hasn’t discouraged homebuilders.

“With this rebounding economy of late, there have been a number of different contractors who exited during the recession who are re-entering the market now,” Hausman says. He agrees with Cooter that there is a one- to two-month supply of existing homes for sale now and that, he says, compares with a six-month supply two years ago.

Yet Hausman, like Cooter and others consulted for this story, hasn’t seen any statistics that address who the buyers of these new homes are.

As to where the buyers are coming from, Cooter says:

“I attribute the increased asking prices to be a result of the economic laws of supply and demand. We've noticed a lot more agents coming down from Colorado Springs since their prices have increased over typical affordability for Colorado Springs clients.” He adds the Springs is also experiencing lower inventory because Denver home prices are “astronomical” and real estate agents there were taking their potential buyers down to the Colorado Springs area.

As for retirees, Cooter says they are opting to buy single-family homes in Pueblo and Pueblo West at the same price ($135,000 let’s say) as they would pay for a small condo in Denver or Colorado Springs.

Also a major home-buying influence is Colorado’s growing economy, which is being buoyed by the marijuana industry. “There is no surprise why this has happened in Colorado over the last few years,” Cooter says. “The major industry change to the marijuana industry has put substantial income into coffers of the Colorado treasury. The state and our county are flush with tax revenue and it appears our state and county populations are growing because of the increasing interest.”

Yet let’s not forget about Pueblo’s attributes.

“Pueblo's a great place to live, anyway,” Cooter says, Over 300 days of sunshine each year, close to the mountains, nearby the state reservoir, the Riverwalk project and revitalization of the downtown Union Ave. historic areas, (low) economic living conditions, a local airport and Vestas windmill (tower) company, the big GCC cement and Black Hills Energy plants just south of Pueblo.”

Yet although part of the focus of the real estate industry has been on retirees, the real estate professionals we spoke with in Pueblo agree that those buying homes here are a broad range of buyers attracted to the area’s amenities and low cost of living.

Downtown Pueblo to get five sidewalk murals by the end of July

Storm drains are not typically seen as a great canvas for art. Not until now, at least.

The Pueblo City Stormwater Department and the Pueblo City-County Health Department are responsible for five new murals that will appear on downtown Pueblo sidewalks around storm drains by the end of July through the Stormwater Education Art Project .

The goal of the new art?

To get people to look down and learn more about what doesn't belong in storm drains -- basically anything other than stormwater. The five murals revolve around the theme of keeping trash out of water ways.

Pueblo artist Sam Morrell, who recently moved to Pueblo from Boulder, completed the first drain mural this week in the historic district already thick with giant wall murals.

He'll paint a second drain after finishing the first of the five. The first drain, located next to the Riverwalk on Victoria Ave., will look like this when it's completed:

(PULP/Kara Mason)

The drain Morrell was working on empties into the Pueblo Riverwalk, which eventually drains into Runyon Lake and then into the Arkansas River. So keeping drains clear up stream becomes especially important.

Stormwater and health department officials were awarded a grant for the project, and say they hope to double the number of murals they'll be able to commission next year for the project.

For more information on stormwater rules and regulations, call the City Stormwater Hotline at (719) 553-2899 or visit City of Pueblo-Stormwater Utility Division online.


Inside the Southern Colorado archive that tells the story of Pueblo’s old CF&I Steel Mill

PUEBLO - There’s a paper trail for the company that helped build and develop Pueblo, Southern Colorado and the West -- and it’s massive.

In 2003, the Bessemer Historical Society -- Now the Steelworks Center of the West -- in Pueblo received a donation from Colorado Fuel & Iron that included more than 100,000 photographs, 150 films, an entire room of maps -- 30,000 of them -- and hundreds of books including financial documents and meeting minutes.

The archives, housed in the old CF&I administration building, is one of the biggest public archives in the country. The documents, photos and news clippings tell the stories of several individuals, and collectively, they tell the story of Southern Colorado -- as for many years the steel mill was ingrained in everyday life. CF&I built schools, opened a hospital, published a newspaper and ran a company store.

The mill wasn’t just a job. It was literally a part of life for Puebloans and people living near and working in more than 60 Southern Colorado mines that supplied the mill. Every aspect of the company is documented.

Research is by appointment only at the center. Interim director Chris Scheck said many people come to research their family.

Steelworks Center of the West interim director and archivist Chris Shreck stands in the archives research room at the center. It's where countless people have come to pour over old records, attempting to learn more about a family member that was connected to the CF&I mill. Schrek recalls a time when a person was in the office researching a topic and came across an old photo and gasped, "That's my aunt!" Sometimes, Schreck said, you'll find information you didn't know you were looking for in the archives. (Kara Mason/PULP)


Beyond the office, where people can sprawl out documents, most rooms at the archives look like this:

Many of the documents donated to the Steelworks Center of the West have been archived. They're noted, boxed and stored like this. Archivists have gone through about half of the documents they've recieived, Schrek said.


The Map Room:


More than 30,000 maps make up the map room at the Steelworks Center of the West. Some people come in looking for information on land they've purchased. Often, that land was involved in some kind of mining tied to the mill. Other maps note the geology. Many of the maps date back into the late 1800s. They're kept flat in these cabinets. (Kara Mason/PULP)


Some documents are more popular than others. But even the mundane tell stories of the company. Museum curator Victoria Miller said the thickness of the financial ledgers most often indicate the fiscal health of the mill...

And as the years progressed, so did the documents. Here, Schrek is looking at a hand-written document. Later, of course, documents were typed up instead.

(Kara Mason/PULP)


And fatalgrams were hand-drawn. When an accident resulted in death, the mill would file a report. To do so, they recreated the scene with real people and then sketched the scene. 

Look closely. That's a man being crushed by a coal cart. The hand-drawn fatalgram details how Richard Elze's life ended on Jan. 30, 1940. (Kara Mason/PULP)


The mill's administration building even had a typewriter repair shop. It's not open for public viewing. But walking into the shop is like walking into history. 

"It's as they (the repairmen) just got up and left one day," Shreck said.

(Kara Mason/PULP)


Tools are still in desks, and typewriters still awaiting repair. Ribbons hang in the back, and news clippings still hang around the office.


(Kara Mason/PULP)