Little change in Craig’s tight housing market, but relief could be on the distant horizon
It’s not getting any easier to find a house in Craig.
Real estate agents in the market report that, relative to the beginning of the summer, houses are taking a little longer to come off the market — maybe a couple or three weeks compared to a week or less — but the demand seems to be just as high, and the supply just as low.
“Inventory is still really low,” said Realtor Brandi Meek, broker associate with Cornerstone Realty and the newly installed president of the Craig Association of Realtors. “For a while, homes were going under contract within a few days of being listed. There were a lot of homes getting multiple offers. Now we’re starting to see homes on the market for a little longer — but not tremendously longer.”
The low supply and continued relatively high demand keeps Craig’s housing market firmly in the “seller’s” category, but as the seasons change, the scale might not tip quite as dramatically.
“In years past, it hasn’t been uncommon for the market to slow in the fall going into the winter,” Meek said. “Last year, it didn’t seem to do that as much, but we’ll wait and see what happens this year.”
Andrea Camp, broker associate with Country Living Realty, said that’s pretty typical.
“We see people with school-aged children have something already in place by this point,” Camp said.
Camp said she’s showing houses to a mix of both newcomers and in-town purchasers.
“Probably a little more right now are clients who are already living in the community and purchasing for the first time or something bigger,” Camp said. “But we see both.”
All the standard inputs can and will change the paradigm with Craig’s housing market — interest rates, which are still quite low, chief among them — but it’s possible a more intentionally applied local impact is coming to the market in the future.
The city, under the direction of relatively new economic development director Shannon Scott, is nearing the release of a crucial housing assessment study. Once it’s released late this fall, the supply issue could begin to be shifted as the city begins to impact the inputs that dictate the market.
Camp, who is also an outgoing Craig city councilmember — she’s not running for re-election this cycle — noted that it’s something to look forward.
“I think this assessment will give us good direction,” Camp said. “The city might consider infrastructure assistance that could help a developer build those (hypothetical) 40 single-family homes or multi-family projects. I’m not sure exactly what it’d look like, but I know they’ll take the study and figure out the best way to help development.”
Scott said the decision to enlist a consulting firm this spring to conduct the study was influenced by the city’s concern that the low housing supply creates larger problems.
“We’re in a big crunch as far as any type of housing,” Scott said. “Single-family homes, rentals, senior housing — we’re still struggling to find housing for teachers and medical staff. I think it’s well know we have a huge gap in inventory in all housing segments. Most people think, ‘Well everyone knows we have a housing shortage, developers should be knocking on our doors to build.’”
That’s not how it works, Scott explained.
“The housing shortage is statewide and even nationwide,” she said. “As a city, we have to be able to provide an incentive to developers to come in and build here and get that inventory back up.”
Scott said the housing assessment is due out in full in December, and a preliminary report was expected next month.
“That will help us specifically identify the gaps we have,” she said. “It could be mainly one- or two-bedroom apartments, it could be single-family homes, condos, townhomes. We need data and information to present to a developer so they’re enticed to come in and build with a return on investment for them.”
On top of that is the possibility of incentives. With practically every community in the state and region looking to bring developers in to build more housing, the market for developers favors the builders. That means the city must consider improving the return on investment for a developer by diminishing the developer’s costs to build.
“We’re looking at how can we potentially provide ready sites for developers to come in?” Scott said. “The city owns some property identified as potentially developable property within city limits, and we’re looking at infrastructure — water, sewer, sidewalks. We’ve applied for a couple grants to help aid with that infrastructure cost, so when a developer comes in, has identified a site, it’s shovel-ready. That helps them save on costs, which they also don’t have to pass on to the buyer.”
There are other levers that can be pulled, too, including fees, water requirements, and other costs that the city controls on one level or another. Scott says it’s all being considered.
“The housing situation has been an issue at least 10 to 15 years, but my understanding is it’s never been quite this bad,” Scott said. “We have an influx of people coming in, and that’s tied up our current inventory.”
The housing assessment cost the city $53,000, of which $20,000 was paid by a Colorado Housing Finance Authority grant, Scott said.
“We wanted to have not just data and nothing to do,” Scott said. “We wanted to have an action plan — next steps. We’ll have an idea of how to put this into motion beginning next year and get it going.”
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