Two key reports were released this week that indicate dramatic positive increases on the housing front.  First, NAR released its December existing home sales report which revealed that existing home sales rose sharply in December with sales increasing for the fifth time in the past six months.

The organization reported, “Existing home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in December from an upwardly revised 4.7 million in November but remain 2.9 percent below the 5.44 million pace in December 2009.”

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun had this to say about the upward trend, “December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuated more than normal.  The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery,” he said.  “The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level.  The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”

Also revealed this week was Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s must anticipated Denver Luxury Home Report which revealed that luxury home sales in the Denver Metro Area jumped sharply in December compared to a year ago as the luxury end of the market gained momentum heading into the new year.  A total of 51 homes sold for more than $1 million in the Denver Metro Area in December, up 54.5% percent from the 33 that changed hands in December 2009.  Sales were also up nearly 16 percent from November.

The median sale price of million-dollar homes edged higher in December from November, reaching 1.25 million, up from $1.23 million the previous month. However, the median was down 7.4 percent from last year’s level of $1.35 million.  The figures were derived from Multiple Listing Service data of all homes sold for more than $1 million last month in the Denver Metro Area.

An assessment of the market right now?  There definitely has been a lot more optimism in the market lately.  High-end buyers are starting to feel more confident about the economic recovery, both in the U.S. and here in the Denver area.  If you’ll recall the December Reality Check message, it was predicted that the upper-end market would probably be the first area of the market to recover because it has softened since the middle of last year.  Early signs are showing that those buyers feel more confident that the economy is improving nationally as well as in the Denver Metro area and as the employment figures improve and thus, these are the buyers who are going to make a move.  As that happens, then the rest of the real estate industry will be pulled forward.  These are the early signs that the luxury market is on the rebound and may be the first price niche to recover from the housing downturn of the last several years.

Now, to take a look at this week in real estate:

Colorado Springs:  The number of listings have been slowly increasing the past few weeks with only about 15% being short sales (needing bank/owner approval for sale to be completed).  Showings have been up as agents get back to work after the holiday season and that has increased sales.  With interest rates still at an all time low, the Coloardo Springs market is looking very good for future business.

Denver Central: It seems as though Agents have begun to receive more calls from their sphere over the last two weeks wanting to buy or sell.  It also seems that buyers are starting to get off the fence apparently responding to the rise in interest rates.

Devonshire: Welcome to 2011!  It is exciting to see 2010 fade into memories and to have a new year ahead.  It appears that buyers feel the same, as showings are up and buyers seem to feel this new energy.  Mortgage rates remain steady & the economic forecast is beginning to feel more optimistic.  Jobs are still a concern and once the public feel that jobs are opening up, the real estate market will take an upward swing.  Sellers, on the other hand, are getting their homes ready to get on the market.  Why wait until everyone else gets their home listed & face all that competition!  They are better served to put their homes on the market as soon as possible & avoid the increased competition.  It’s great to feel new energy & optimism for the return of a stable real estate market.

Evergreen: One new listing went on the market so far in January.  Listing inventory has stabilized as both new sellers as well as past sellers are beginning to put homes on the market.  Three listings went under contract and three buyers have been put under contract so far this month.  Showing activity is improving as new buyers are coming into the market following the holidays with 103 showings so far this month compared to a total of 167 for all of last month.

Larimer County:  Happiest of New Years from Northern Colorado!!  December ended with quite a bang and it wasn’t just New Years fireworks that were popping!  Following the Christmas dip in activity, showings came roaring back & there was a flurry of closings prior to year-end putting the office ahead of December 2009.  The 12-month statistics are showing some positive trends in terms of stabilizing sales trends.  When you filter out some of the noise from the bumps created by the home buyer tax incentives – January is proving to demonstrate promise.  Inventory levels have continued to drop & sales have remained stable.  The trend in sales looks more like typical historic 4th quarter results which demonstrates a flattening out of what has been downward movement over the last several years.  In spite of the chilly weather & snowy days, showings continue to increase each week as Buyers continue to take advantage of truly terrific interest rates that are still hovering just above 4.5% for a 30 year fixed arte mortgage!

Longmont: Wow, what IS happening to the real estate market?  Some days it seems like one step forward & two steps backward.  Our predictions are for a stable 2011.  Home prices will remain at or near the current range & mortgage interest rates will do the same.  Investors have money to spend & they are looking for “screaming” deals.  Dealing with the event of the shadow inventory coming on the market will keep local real estate market values fluctuating for the near future.  Cautiously optimistic.

Parker: The high activity of the first couple of weeks is now reflected in a decrease of inventory.  Showing activity and contracts written are still increasing!  If the weather cooperates, this trend should continue throughout the spring.  The office is very active and has added four strong agents to our sales force.

Southwest Metro: Our showings have steadily increased since the 2nd of January.  Our agents are seeing an increase in 1st time buyers ready to actually find & write an offer on a home.  It seems that buyers are finally realizing that it is the time to buy before rates begin to move up.  Floor calls have been great with agents receiving 4 leads this last week.  Open house activity has increased & agents are feeling good about the way the new year is starting.  There is lots of activity on weekends in the office.  Agents are busy meeting with buyers & sellers.  Sellers seem to be ready to test the market & list their homes.  Buyers are wanting to buy.  Investors are looking to purchase at this time.

Denver West: Activity continues to be strong in the Denver West office.  The mild weather has helped since it’s relatively easy to show homes without the usual snow storms.  Buyers are still looking “for the good deal.”  Sellers have become more realistic when considering pricing.  Showings are up for the month from the same month last year by nearly 150.

Conifer: One new listing so far for the month of January.  Inventory has stabilized as both new and past sellers are putting homes back on the market.  No listings have gone under contract in January although five buyers have been put under contract so far this month.  Showing activity has improved with 52 showings so far this month compared to 58 for all of December.

Loveland: Showing activity is creeping up in Loveland.  The market’s average sales price is also inching up.  There is an increase in activity for mid-range and upper range properties.  Financing is still a big concern to the overall transaction.  The largest percentage of deals fall due to the Buyer’s financing.  A close watch is being kept on the shadow inventory very closely here in Loveland.  It can impact a small neighborhood/subdivision swiftly.  Loveland is a delightful place to call home and it is beginning to get some national recognition as such.