Marshall Fire wreaks havoc on Boulder County, metro Denver real estate | Subscriber-Only Content

The waves of impact from the Marshall Fire continue to roll from the deadly winter blaze that claimed at least one life and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, especially on metro Denver’s already-tight real estate market.

The most immediate impact comes to those homeowners who were in the process of closing, or had a home on the market, that was destroyed, and the respective buyers. But the wave will likely roll across greater Denver’s real estate market for years to come.

A look at two numbers spells it out: 1,081 and 1,477.

The first is the number of homes estimated destroyed and the later is the number of homes available for sale Jan. 1, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. Some of the destroyed homes were under contract and on the market.

“The housing shortage is really a crisis, then when you add to that the horrific loss of homes with this fire — it’s beyond a crisis at this point,” said Ryan Carter, president of 8Z Real Estate, which has offices in Boulder and Louisville.

As of Friday, there were only 146 single family homes and condominiums available for sale in all of Boulder County.

And it’s going to be years before those families’ homes get rebuilt — if they want to stay in the area where the median price for homes is more than double the national average of $416,900.

“The road for these families going to be challenging,” Carter said, adding several of 8Z’s clients lost everything. “It’s really impacting us and we’re shaken as an organization.”

Susan Schliep’s in-laws lost their Grand County home in the East Troublesome Fire, which started in October 2020.

“Initially they’re talking about replacing tooth brushes and winter coats, not really thinking about where they’re going to live for the next year or more. Once the dust settles, these people are faced with at least a year, maybe two to three, without homes,” said Schleip, who is a realtor for ReMax Alliance. “Fourteen months after East Troublesome and only two homeowners have rebuilt. And they got after it — they were calling builders while the fire was still burning.”

Grand County residents looked for available homes on a spreadsheet that wasn’t live-updated, and Schliep said she got the idea to start a Facebook group for people to list available properties.

“I was driving home on Friday and thinking it would have been so helpful to connect people, in terms of housing, and how can I do something to help,” she said.

Schleip and Amanda DiVito Parle, also with ReMax Alliance, launched the Marshall Fire Housing Needs and Availability group. It’s gained more than 3,000 followers so far.

“We really want to keep it to housing, so we’ve had to approve posts — so many people want to help and have been offering supplies,” she said. “We want to be a trusted resource.”

People have offered basements, spare bedrooms, AirBNB houses, rentals, recreational vehicles and second homes.

“Everyone is thinking of these people,” Schleip said.

Carter said he thinks the market will adjust as best it can, with possibly AirBNB owners turning property into long-term rentals.

“It’s not going to be a pretty solution,” he said. “A lot of these families are going to have to think about a life shift in terms of geography.”

It was just October that Boulder lost 81 apartments in a blaze that destroyed an entire building on Pearl Street.

“We’re trying to focus the page on long-term, private housing,” Schleip said. “While a lot of people have room in their basement, these people need their own space. They need yards. They’re families with kids and dogs who have lost a single-family home. Crashing in someone’s basement long-term is not a great idea.”

“It’s a huge chunk of the population who all need the same thing. And they all need it right now,” said Kelley Moye, spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of Realtors. “They can’t go half an hour away because the kids need to stay in their school district.”

Builders everywhere are waiting longer than usual to line up carpenters, electricians and plumbers, and these specialists are themselves getting backed up waiting for parts.

From start to finish, construction of a 2,500-square-foot house in Denver would normally take four to five months. Now, that same project typically takes eight to 10 months, said John Covert, principal at Zonda Advisory, a homebuilding market research firm based in Denver. The local surge in demand after a disaster only compounds the problem.

While some have asked if a developer will go into a subdivision and rebuild the whole thing, Schleip said that’s not likely.

“For builders, the money is in the land. They’re not going to buy back all those lots,” she said. “And how would you get 300 homeowners together on something?”

“There is just not a market solution right now,” Carter said. “But it’s just so awesome to see the community come together on a grassroots level.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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