Even before considering the scarred landscape, and the memories associated with two people dying and 345 homes disappearing in the Waldo Canyon Fire, people could be forgiven for shying away from buying homes or lots in Mountain Shadows. After all, the fire's devastation was so widespread up there that a few months ago, County Assessor Mark Lowderman lowered property values by 10 percent on homes that didn't burn, due to the stigma of their being in the destruction zone.
But sales information collected by the El Paso County Assessor's Office now suggests the fire might not have undermined values as first thought. Which means Lowderman might consider removing that designation in coming months, upping values (and tax bills) on the homes that survived ground zero of the most destructive fire in state history.
"I was kind of surprised," Lowderman says of the recently collected sales data. "Right after the fire, I had a few people call, saying, 'The guy next door wants to buy my [burned] lot for $10,000.' I told them, 'It's worth more than that.'"
Indeed, prices of the 14 lots that sold between Aug. 28 and Oct. 11 averaged $52,400, only slightly less than the $57,000 average value of those lots reported on the tax rolls. Prices paid ranged from $12,500 for a lot in Parkside, where 141 of the homes, which are built closer together and on smaller lots, were destroyed, to $77,500 for a lot on Wilson Road just east of Parkside.
"Everyone got what I would call market value," Lowderman says.
Most of the 14 lots went to homebuilders Elite Properties and Vantage Homes, each of which bought five.
Vantage didn't return a phone call seeking comment, but Joe Loidolt, president of Classic Homes, which owns Elite Properties, says there's no mystery why builders are interested.
"Eventually there's going to be homes built on them, and that's what builders usually do," he says. "Mountain Shadows is still a great area. If you drive around, [in] some places there's just a home or two [that burned], and the area all around is very nice. We think Mountain Shadows is a desirable place to live."
Apparently, so do eight other buyers who have purchased homes in Mountain Shadows since the fire. In fact, two sold in mid- to late July, shortly after the fire was declared contained.
Two of the homes that sold are located on Ramsgate Terrace, and one each on Stoneridge Drive, Alderstone Way, Jenner Court, Avalon Court, Russett Oak Court and Vanreen Drive.
Those streets saw either no houses lost or only one, with the exception of Jenner, where four of the nine homes burned to the ground. Prices ranged from $240,000 to $665,000, and values have held. The eight homes' sales price averaged $342,125, higher than the average value of $324,650 prior to the Waldo fire.
"It really doesn't surprise me," says Steve Wrestler with Prestige Properties of America, which markets Mountain Shadows homes. "Obviously, they had terrible things happen to them. But as time goes by, that neighborhood will still be a very, very nice neighborhood."