At a table made complete with an array of aromatic appetizers, we gathered together at the Irish Embassy Pub, delighting in our pints of Guinness. Through the great picture window, the budding trees heralded the hope of springtime. Essential Durango joined four of the area’s realtors to look back over the past six months of the housing market and to discuss predictions for the upcoming season.
Aaron Schenk from Coldwell Banker and Zane Wells of Wells Group sat down with Keller Williams’ Logan Austin and Phil Wehmeyer from Durango Mountain Realty. To shed some light on the goings on up the mountain at Purgatory Resort—with recent weather and natural events being such huge factors—we started the conversation by looking to Phil for some insight on how the past year has affected Purgatory. Having been in real estate at the resort for 19 years now, Phil is as hopeful as ever. “Up at the resort I think it’s going to be a huge year,” Phil said. “There are going to be a bunch of people who wanted to come last summer and couldn’t.” The 416 Fire, which started on June 2, 2018, forced many visitors to change their summer plans.
Phil cited a few other promising factors for the coming season’s market. For one, the attention in homes over a million dollars is increasing after a several-year lull. Also, there are plans for new additions to inventory in the coming years, as well as to the mountain’s visitor capacity. Phil explained, “We have some spec projects on the books at the mountain. One is a duplex project on the lake up there called ‘Lakeside at Tacoma,’ and there are going to be eight new units built up there.” Phil also shared plans for a new 104-room hotel and a ski lift going in near the current overflow lot, explaining that it’s still a few years out, but the results will be interesting to watch. All in all, with this increased activity around the mountain, Purgatory appears to be set up well for the near future.
The intown market is also looking quite healthy. Discussions broached the main issues affecting the Durango market including seasonality, inventory numbers, the redirection of U.S. Route 550 and the new flight schedules coming out of the airport. Aaron Schenk, who has been in real estate for about five years and sits on the board for the Durango Area Association of Realtors, noted that listings are down by about 100 units from last year. He attributed this mainly to the return of big, intown snows this past season. Building projects were halted and listings were late to the market as owners dug themselves out and made repairs to any winter damage. Growing up right here in Durango, Zane Wells returned to the family business and has been a broker at Wells Group for almost five years now. He added some details to the effects of seasonality on the market, stating that 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 winters were dry, allowing construction to continue throughout the winter months.
“Construction had to stop here this winter. So, we are down, but are we really down? I think we are just back to a healthy seasonality of the market that we aren’t used to.” With lower inventory than in recent years, the group discussed what that means for the upcoming months. So far, the response to increased intown prices has been to see greater expansion into the county and into developments like Three Springs and Twin Buttes and projects like Spring Creek and the Green Ridge subdivision, both east of town out Florida Road.
Logan Austin, a Durango resident for almost 20 years and in real estate for four, explained that, in addition to growing interest in these near-town developments, there has also been a spike in the rural market. “These little ranchettes, and any type of multiple acreage property with irrigation, is getting snatched up super quick. It’s kind of an interesting phenomenon.” He believes it’s related to price point, but also, partially, to the aesthetic of living on the frontier. “You see a lot of out-of-state buyers who are looking for that space, or people that have a certain vision of what they want in Colorado. They don’t want to move into a neighborhood. They want to move into the pines and have some room or the mini ranches with the big mountain views.”
As appetizers digested and Guinness departed our glasses, conversation cycled around seasonality and the extent to which it truly affects the market. This included short-term rentals and Airbnb restrictions—how each has, to an extent, preserved intown prices; and low interest rates and the re-stabilization of the economy. Phil then brought up another interesting influence: he is excited to see what impact the once-a-week flights from Durango Airport—direct to Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles—will have on activity up near the resort. Phil thinks direct flights will boost business, especially flights out of Houston. “When that Houston flight becomes something that is year-round or both winter and summer, that will mean huge numbers for the resort. There used to be a direct flight out of Houston way back when, and the skier visits have never been the same since that went away.”
Aaron mentioned they finally received approval of the U.S. Route 550 redirect project. This will streamline traffic from the south through Three Springs rather than through the currently impractical traffic light at Farmington Hill. What changes do [they] expect to see as a result of this project? “They are saying in 2020 it’ll be finished,” Zane said. “That’s what big box stores are waiting for, that traffic count.” Zane explained that Three Springs is already getting good east-west traffic, so with the addition of traffic from the south, there will be justification for big commercial businesses to potentially move [in]. Logan added that a commercial presence in that area would be particularly appealing for those looking to buy in Three Springs.
As the conversation ended and we rose from our seats to shake hands, the feeling in the room was one of optimism. Durango continues to prove its resilience in the face of an ever-changing market. Aaron summed up the general sentiment when he said, “There is so much that Durango offers, and we are such a hub that you can pretty much scatter 45 minutes in any direction and you have something awesome to experience. My projection is that we are going to be busy this summer and people are going to be coming into town!”
“Up at the resort I think it’s going to be a huge year. There are going to be a bunch of people who wanted to come last summer and couldn’t.” - Phil Wehmeyer of Durango Mountain Realty speaks of Purgatory Resort and the 416 fire of June 2018.
Story written by: Sara Knight Photos Provided by: Jennaye Derge