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RISMEDIA, Nov. 20, 2007-What goes up, must… We all know the rest. The old saying is quite tired now in the northern Colorado real estate industry. After being up for a good five years, the boon that defined the Weld County area as the fastest-growing region in the nation came crashing down in the last two, taking a lot of Realtors with it.

This year, 50 fewer Realtors renewed their memberships with the Greeley Area Realtor Association in September. Some consider it quite a dent in the roster, now down to 420 in a state with more than 25,000 Realtors.

For others, it’s just a necessary correction — much like that going on with the glut of homes on the market.

“The new construction market in Greeley has been down for two to three years and the majority of Realtors living off of new construction shifted focus and had to change their business plans,” said John DeWitt, president of the Greeley Area Realtor Association. “The boom we experienced of people getting their licenses, the people who got a license to do it part time, that shake-up was coming.”

The fast times created an over supply of new homes as early as 2005; record numbers of foreclosures put more resale homes on the market to compete with new construction, creating the glut. Last summer, Realtors were struggling to sell homes they listed.

The eventual “buyer’s market” has made it rough on sellers who can’t unload their properties, and the Realtors representing them.

“Because the market is down, a lot of Realtors have gotten out of it. They just can’t make a good living. They can barely make $25,000 a year,” said Jason Mahoney, a broker with RE/Max Alliance in Greeley. “On the flip side, we had too many Realtors to begin with.”

Mahoney started in the business in 2001 and was prepared early for the eventual downtown as soon as he got his license. When that downturn hit, he changed strategies, and eventually took on an almost exclusive load of foreclosed properties owned by banks.

“I started back then and it seemed like it would be my forte,” Mahoney said of the standard market. “I didn’t know it would turn into this.”

Kim Barbour, the former president of the Association and a broker with The Group Inc., called it quits this year after almost seven years in the business. She now is the programs and communications director for the Greeley Chamber of Commerce.

“When you get down to it, there are certain things about the Realtor lifestyle I was not willing to do anymore,” she said. “You work really, really hard on behalf of your buyers and sellers and too often, that hard work was not rewarded with a sale at the end — no matter how hard you worked.”

Those in the Greeley association caution that some of the loss in Realtor renewals was due to retirements and agents moving to other northern Colorado Realtor associations. A majority, however, were those who got licensed to make some money in a hot market.

“I predict you’ll probably see more dropping, I really do,” Mahoney said. “… The Realtors who did not focus on certain aspects of the business and expect the phone to ring, I’d guess there will probably be another 50.”

Buyer’s market

The northern Colorado real estate industry may not be all that bad.

John DeWitt, president of the Greeley Area Realtor Association, said the recent tough times with foreclosures and the excess new homes on the landscape has created a ‘buyer’s market,’ or simply, more supply than demand, which helps drop prices.

“I don’t think the word is getting out enough that we’re in good shape,” DeWitt said.

He said the evidence is in the numbers:

–Greeley/Evans inventory is at a three year low (by about 100 houses.)
–Houses are sitting on the market an average of 96 days, down from 120.

“Yeah, housing starts are way down in Greeley, but maybe it’s about time we see a little less inventory,” DeWitt said. “I’m thinking overall, by the end of the year, we’re going to be down about 9 percent (in sales). At the beginning of the year, I thought we’d be 15-20 percent down.”

The doom and gloom, he said, comes from sellers, who are not getting as much as they hoped for their homes, or investments.

“We’re hearing nothing but negativity on the market because sellers aren’t making money,” DeWitt said. “But it’s a fantastic buyer’s market.”

Copyright © 2007, Greeley Tribune, Colo.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.