Housing sales will continue to be strong throughout most of the Western states, with California producing exceptional results, according to Coldwell Banker, a national real estate firm.
"With the lower interest rates and the stable economy, home sales should make a strong showing nationally in the second quarter," said Tom Griffin, senior vice president, western sector, for Coldwell Banker."However, unlike the rest of the nation, the Western region remains mixed, with some markets falling off and others experiencing exceptional gains," said Griffin.
Traditionally, sales activity in the West peaks during the second quarter. Griffin predicts a strong spring in most states, although he does not expect the level of activity to be as high as the past two years.
Colorado and Utah are trying to recover from depressed economies. "The worst is over, and we're confident that Colorado will bounce back," says Griffin. "Denver has all the ingredients for a big comeback: available office space, well-trained work force, good climate, central location and a good tax base.
"For consumers looking for an exceptional buy, Colorado is still one of the best markets in the country. Buyers in Colorado will find excellent values, but the investment has to be viewed as long-term," says Griffin. "Once we're on the upswing again, we expect Denver to regain its reputation as a hot market."
Utah also is experiencing economic problems. Primarily tied to the sagging mining- and energy-related industries, Utah has a surplus of inventory and a shortage of buyers. "While the market is stable at this time, we'll need to see an improvement in the local economy and an increase of new industry before the sales and home values take off again," predicts Griffin.
Not surprisingly, California continues to be the "hot spot" of Western sales activity with a strong seller's market. While other regions of the West slowed in the first quarter, according to Griffin, California saw robust sales and escalating home values with price appreciation surging in many areas.
Housing prices have climbed up to 16 percent in some parts of the Bay area, and up to 15 percent in Southern California.
By contrast, the Northwest was sluggish in the first two months of the year, said Griffin, trailing 30 percent behind a similar period in 1987. Unusually bad weather slowed activity in Seattle throughout January and February, but activity began to pick up in March.
Phoenix continues to be a very steady and active market based on well-balanced economic conditions, he said. "Industry is strong in Phoenix, and buyers can still find affordable homes that are relatively low priced, compared to the neighboring California market where values and appreciation are high."
Nationally, the home buying and selling market is expected to be very good during the second quarter, although a bit below levels recorded in the last two years, according to Coldwell Banker.
"Any year where sales volumes tops 3 million is a good year, and in 1988 we expect to reach 3.1 million," points out Joe Hanauer, chairman and president of Coldwell Banker Residential Group. In 1986 and 1987, volume totaled about 3.5 million each year.