TAR fund

“Keeping locals local” cookies were provided at TAR’s Thursday event for first-time homebuyers. (Courtesy photo)

The search for housing in Telluride can be challenging, especially for first-time homebuyers.

The Telluride Association of Realtors (TAR) has been helping those looking to buy a place in town through the First Time Homebuyers Assistance Fund for the past 20 years.

The fund, which was created in 2002, “was established to facilitate and increase housing opportunities within the local region,” according to the TAR website tellurideassociationofrealtors.com.

TAR held an event on Thursday at Town Park to celebrate 20 years of “keeping locals, local.”

TAR members, along with fund recipients and their families, came together in making it a well-attended and successful event by all accounts.  

The event was catered by the Oak and Telluride Brewing Company. Cookies in the shape of houses with the saying, “keeping locals local” written in black icing were also part of the fun. Live music was performed by local musician David Nunn, and plenty of candy and games were provided for the kids in attendance.

Dennis Andrejko, who purchased a home in February 2020 with his fiancé, was at the event Thursday.

“Despite the weather, it was nice to get outside and celebrate with other new homeowners. My fiancé and I were very grateful for the down payment assistance from TAR and the fund,” Andrejko said.

Carli Solomon, a first-time homebuyer who moved into her condo last month and a recent fund recipient, echoed that sentiment.  

“I enjoyed celebrating first-time homeownership with other friends and coworkers who recently purchased homes,” Solomon said after the event.

Over the course of 20 years, 540 grants have been awarded to first-time homebuyers, totaling $737,467. That breaks down to approximately $3,000 a month over the past two decades. For many applicants, the money covers things like plumbing and general maintenance, and rebuilding their savings.

There are currently 155 TAR Brokers contributing to the fund, according to Robyn Pale, TAR’s executive vice-president.

TAR member Tracy Boyce, a broker with Sotheby’s International Realty, is one of the Realtors who contribute to the fund. She said she loves helping her clients achieve their dream of buying a home in Telluride. 

“I love giving back to my community, and I can't think of a better way to support our locals than contributing a portion of money from every one of my real estate closings to assist new home buyers,” Boyce said. “This monetary assistance helps them realize their dream of homeownership. When my clients learn of the contributions they will receive from the fund, they are excited and grateful to be a part of the program.”

TAR board members choose fund recipients throughout the year. Iva Kostova Hild, another broker with Sotheby’s, has been on the TAR board since 2018. Hild explained they go through applications, and the board evaluates each applicant on an individual basis.

“They (a potential first-time homebuyer) would work with a broker; their broker would then advise them of this grant and recommend them to apply for it. Once they apply, their applications get put in front of the committee, that committee brings it to us (the board). And then we vote to approve and vote on the amount,” Hikd said.

While most applicants are textbook first-time homebuyers, there are some exceptions.

“We always try to help as many people as possible,” Hild said. “That's our goal. So, if somebody is a vital member of the community, we take that into account. Even if it's their first time in Telluride, but they've owned property before, many times we have given grants because we want to encourage that homeownership.”

Purchasing an affordable home has been a well-documented struggle within the town for decades. Hild, who has been working as a Realtor in Telluride for the past eight years, recalled talking with brokers who have worked in the area for over 30 years and asked the question, “was Telluride ever affordable?” and “the answer was no,” Hild said.

According to a July 2021 report from the Land Title Guarantee Company, the average price of a single-family residence in San Miguel County was $2,504,728. Compare this to 2013, when a single-family residence in the county was $1,307,967. 

“The homes most of the first-time homebuyers purchase range from $180,000 and average around $350,000, with a few exceptions,” Hild explained, adding many of those homes are deed-restricted units.

 Like many Telluride locals, Hild agreed and acknowledged there is still plenty of work to be done regarding the housing challenges in town, but she knows that as a community, “we've always been willing to work together.”

She added that Thursday's celebration represented that sense of unity.

Britney Olds, another fund recipient, was thankful for the assistance,

“The contribution we received really helped us get settled into our home here,” she said.