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

While home sales in Pueblo are getting hotter, realtors and officials don’t exactly know the trends in the housing market. But they aren’t complaining.

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.

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