Throughout the past five years, Lake County’s real estate market value has more than doubled as housing inventory decreases and demand skyrockets.

In 2015, 329 properties were sold in Lake County for a total of $40,596,408 in sales. In 2020, those figures jumped to 710 homes sold for a total of $89,140,913. And in 2019, total sales dropped from $75,240,892 in 2018 to $70,000,814, then increasing by more than $19 million in 2020, according to data collected by the Lake County Assessor’s Office (LCA).

“I really think it’s insane,” said Mark Heyde, associate broker with Independence Realty and Property Management (IRPM) in Leadville. “Every time a home pops up, especially new builds, there are offers almost immediately. It’s the lowest housing inventory we’ve experienced in probably 40 years.”

Heyde began selling homes in Lake County in 2015. At the time, he said the market was still reasonable, with the average home selling for $188,579. Just five years later, the average home went for $344,940. There were also nine homes that sold for over $700,000 in 2020. In 2015, only one property closed at that price. Only 2017 came close to 2020 on sales over $700,000 with seven properties, according to LCA.

As sale prices increase in Lake County, so have the number of out-of-state buyers. In 2015, 31 properties were sold to non-Coloradans. That figure has risen significantly over that past five years to 213 in 2020, an increase of 92 since 2019, according to LCA. Although some are buying second homes in Lake County, Heyde says many of his clients are settling into primary residences.

“People are sick of the city,” said Heyde, who added that there was a particular spike in the local market during the COVID-19 pandemic, when masses flocked to mountain towns throughout the country to work virtually.

Last summer, property sales rose by more than eight million dollars in one month. In May 2020, 35 homes sold for a total of $2,213,010. In June, 76 properties closed for a total of $10,240,000 in sales. Monthly sales hovered above $7 million for the remainder of the year, peaking in October at $15,038,496 in sales. The number of property sales saw a high of 101 in September.

Heyde said buyers are primarily seeking single-family, newly-built homes. When similar listings are posted with IRPM, Heyde said he receives upwards of 15 offers within days. Many buyers offer far above the asking price, and some pay cash. “It’s happening way more than you’d think,” said Heyde of cash transactions.

According to Heyde, many of Lake County’s latest home owners are millennials with young families. Of primary concern for them is internet connectivity, as many are not necessarily employed in Lake County.

To meet this demand, several contractors in Lake County are building subdivisions of single-family homes that are full of amenities, like new appliances and high-speed internet.

Since 2016, High County Developers, owned by John Lichtenegger, has been building a 40-acre housing development on the north side of Leadville. A 2016 site plan for the development calls for 35 single-family homes, 36 townhomes, a 28-unit apartment complex and seven condominiums. Complete with fiber optic network, the Railyard will also offer commercial vendors on site.

Although the Railyard is not yet complete, the development has already generated over $7 million in property sales.

Heyde, who has worked primarily on selling Railyard properties over the past year, said 16 of his sales are currently under contract, and that four have closed. Of those 20 properties that Heyde is selling, only three buyers are non-Coloradans. Nine of the 20 buyers are interested in making the Railyard their primary residence, Heyde said.

KW Construction and Restoration (KWCR), a contracting company owned by Kyle Welch, an area local of 33 years, is building a subdivision off Evergreen Drive called Westwoods Subdivision. Welch said his company is erecting 54 homes on the property, 15 of which will be completed by the end of 2021.

In addition to the subdivision, Welch said he receives three or four calls every week from individuals requesting a newly built home. Although some are local, Welch added that most live out of state. KWCR is currently involved in 147 projects throughout central Colorado.

“We need to get homes built,” said Welch. “The demand just keeps growing.”

Another Leadville resident, Jack Saunders, who has operated the contracting firm Saunders Company for more than 40 years, is proposing a 20-home subdivision called Tabor’s Star in Leadville. Development plans for the subdivision are slated for review with the Lake County Planning Commission later this month.

Saunders said his company is currently booked through 2023 with construction projects. The contractor added that a rise in material costs during the pandemic is not deterring families from wanting to build in Lake County.

“Leadville has always been boom or bust, and that goes for the housing market as well,” said Saunders. “People are just bent on getting to Lake County.”

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