192 Tacoma Drive Durango, CO 81301 — MLS # 748185 | $1,599,000 | 4 Bd/5 Ba | 3,802 sqft
Photo | Glenn Tinnin Photography — Photo provided by Durango Mountain Realty

A CONVERSATION WITH INDUSTRY EXPERTS

Story written by Sara Knight | Photos provided by Hank Blum

Gathered around the table in the airy space of El Moro Spirits & Tavern, this fall’s Real Estate Roundtable was as educational as it was lively. The wine flowed, the appetizers disappeared and the conversation with this energetic and knowledgeable group of realtors traveled to all corners of this incredibly diverse market.

We, at Essential Durango, learned that the segments of the Durango real estate market are many, creating a strong foundation in an unlikely place. Most mountain resort towns fall victim to the pitfalls of a limited demographic. Here, with the influences of the second home owner, tourism and college-town markets, along with the presence of a huge oil and gas industry and the contributions of the Southern Ute Indian tribe, the economy is marked by diversity.

The conversation started off with some reflection on how the past six months have played out in the real estate market and the community as a whole. All five realtors at the table agreed that this summer made the Durango community even stronger. More than 54,000 acres burned north of town between Trimble and Purgatory, and everyone banded together.

roundtable“The best word is perseverance,” said Jaime Marquez of Durango Mountain Realty. She moved here from Scottsdale, AZ about twelve years ago and describes the community she now calls home as an interconnected one. “We persevere, whether it’s in your cul de sac, your neighborhood, your school or a bigger need in the community, we all just come together for love.”

She came to Durango with her family when she was five years old and moved away for college. She later chose Durango and it’s tight-knit community as the perfect place to and raise her own children.

Craig commented that in the face of adversity this summer, “The community came together. That is one of the things that is so special about Durango. We are a community. Other resort towns don’t have that base.”

Community and perseverance are great concepts to discuss, and we at Essential wanted to understand how they played into the summer real estate sales. The unanimous statement around the table was that the market is doing just fine. In fact, the shoulder season has been busy enough to make up for the lost month.

“If you look at the numbers, we are doing great. There was hardly an impact,” said Chris Serwe of The Wells Group. She has been in Durango for thirty-four years and in the real estate market here for thirty.

Even from Purgatory Resort, one of the most affected areas by the winter drought and summer fire, Marquez told a story of persistence and strength. She was working at the resort on the day of the fire and had to be evacuated back down to town. It was about a month, July 2, before the resort opened up again and people were able to return.

“It was like a circus,” Marquez remembered. “The locals came out even more than usual. They were so excited that Purg was okay. It was really fun all summer and very busy. Lots of our inventory that had been a long time on the market, is all gone. September was our best month.”

As she looks ahead into the next six months for the resort her attitude is hopeful. “I’m excited! It’s going to snow,” She said with a confident smile.” We are going to have a fabulous winter. We are working on some things and are hoping for new construction and new product at the resort to sell. I feel blessed to be in this town and part of the real estate community.”

In town, the story of this summer was very similar according to Todd Sieger, who has been with Coldwell Banker since college, and who has lived in Durango for about thirty years.

roundtable pics“I have had more listings this September than any other. Probably three times more.” He said, explaining that after a hectic summer September was basically what June should have been.

Drew English, a Durango native and a realtor at Keller Williams, working on the Twin Buttes project, reiterated that this all just goes to highlight the strength of our market here.

“It’s always been very steady,” he said. “There has been an increase year to date, and I think it shows that we are not just reliant on one resource. We are not just a second home market. We have a working community as well, that comes together and helps keep our market strong.”

Drew also has a positive outlook on the future of growth out at Twin Buttes. “We are definitely excited,” he said. “We are looking forward to the future and it’s looking brighter every day.

Despite its strengths and the optimism that abounds, every paradise has its issues. As the discussion of fall sales progressed, it led into a conversation about inventory.

“I have had more listings this September than any other. Probably three times more.” – Todd Sieger

Sieger pointed out that inventory is a real problem in Durango. “I think if we had adequate inventory, our market numbers for 2018 would have been better than 2017, and 2017 was a phenomenal year.”

English added to the inventory conversation by pointing out that local developers are already trying to find creative ways to add inventory without expanding geographically. “We are trying to pack in density where infrastructure is already in place. City developers are already doing that on top of some commercial buildings.”

Also related to the lack of space for growth, is the need for infrastructure.

roundtable photoSerwe pointed out that, “We have growth going on and some of our infrastructure is already taxed. I want to be positive, and there are a lot of things to be positive about but we also need to have some reality checks.”

Craig continued the discussion, adding that the reason our property taxes are so low has been directly related to the presence of so much oil and gas activity in the area.

“They were a third of our property tax revenue base,” she explained. “Now they aren’t any longer, and we are in this situation where we have abysmally low property taxes. They should be raised and we can’t get it passed.”

With BP selling off their assets in the San Juan Basin, there is a hint of uncertainty.

Who will buy those assets and will there still be jobs here for the men and women in that industry? Only time will tell.

Sieger noted that one key player to watch as the community and the real estate market continues to move forward will be the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. They already own and manage a number of companies which are active in the southwest and other areas as well. These include both the Southern Ute Growth Fund, responsible for developing Three Springs, and Red Willow Production Company, working in oil and gas exploration and production. Again, only time will tell how the Tribe will affect the future of the Durango market.

In the meantime though, there is yet another factor contributing to the market here in Durango right now, Fort Lewis College.

Cathy Craig brought up an interesting point. “A factor that we haven’t talked about is the college, and parents who are buying property for their students. That’s another leg of the stool in terms of our market.”

She gave an example of one of her clients who had purchased a house for their son to live in while he went to school. They collected rent from roommates to pay the mortgage, and after their son graduated eight years ago, they kept the house and rented it out for a while. They were able to sell it again just recently.

Everyone around the table nodded in recognition of the story, thinking of their own clients who had done the same thing. Serwe told another variation that she sees a lot.

“I have some clients who bought a second home here,” she said. “They loved it so much, and they got so plugged into the community that they sold their other house and bought another house here full time.”

Stories like these sprouted up throughout the conversation repeatedly, keeping the optimism high and serving as yet another reminder that the Durango market, in all of its diversity, is still so attractive for its strength of community.

As we went around the table and asked for everyone’s forecasts for the coming winter, many of the same themes from the rest of the conversation returned. There was plenty of excitement mixed with a little uncertainty, all wrapped up in a lot of love and optimism.