All signs point toward a bullish housing market in Fountain. The city’s Economic Development Manager Kimberly Bailey said that Fountain is seeing its strongest speculative housing development in nearly 15 years — resulting from a historic regional demand for affordable residential real estate.
“Right now we have about 3,200 housing plan submissions in the funnel,” she said. “That’s a lot.”
According to data from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, there were 30 new single-family home construction permits pulled for Fountain in March compared to just seven in March 2016. That was the highest number since 43 permits for new home construction were pulled in April 2013.
Comparatively, records from the El Paso County Assessor’s Office show that 155 of the 387 permits pulled for projects in Fountain throughout the past 12 months have been for new residential construction.
Most new home construction in Fountain is occurring in the city’s southeast quadrant, which has a plethora of previously undeveloped land. Among the housing developments built in that area in recent years are Cumberland Green (along Jimmy Camp Road) and Ventana (along Old Pueblo Road), where a variety of homebuilders are working quickly to supply a growing demand.
Although the newer single-family homes in Fountain can sell for more than $300,000, Bailey said she thinks that buyers are more enticed by the city’s ambiance than its affordability.
“I don’t know that people are really being priced out [of the Colorado Springs market], because I think that we’re fairly comparable,” Bailey said. “What we have that maybe isn’t as common in other areas is larger lots, more room and a quieter lifestyle.”
Although Fort Carson has always been a strong population base for the Fountain market to draw from, Bailey said she thinks recent commercial development in the area has also played a part in making Fountain a more enticing option for potential homebuyers.
“Our Mesa Ridge corridor is busting at the seams with a lot of site plans coming in,” she said. “We’ve also seen a significant up-tick in commercial activity and development along Bandley Drive.”
Bailey said further commercial growth along Mesa Ridge is expected to continue supporting residential growth in the eastern portion of the city, while the development that is currently being seen along Bandley Drive promises to provide the city’s Old Town District with much-needed services.
“That will also give us a prime interstate frontage of business placement and commercial activity for our community,” she said.
Bailey said the growth in the region has been fairly organic, growing gradually in the years since the recession before booming in the past 12 months.
“Our housing market has always kept a pretty steady pace, even through the recessionary years,” she said. “We weren’t quite as impacted as many other communities were in that time frame. Before, we were around 13 to 15 percent, and then we dropped down to around 10 percent — so we kept double-digit growth numbers.”
New Generation Homes, Aspen View Homes, Oakwood Homes and Challenger Homes are all building in Fountain. These builders currently focused on speculative development in Fountain’s east and southeast are relying on a market that real estate experts expect will continue to climb.
Harry Salzman, a real estate broker who owns Salzman Real Estate Service, said that he has been working in the Fountain market for decades and has never before seen the kind of growth builders are counting on— both residentially and commercially.
“There are more builders in greater Fountain than there are out east or in any other part of the county in that price range,” Salzman said of the new homes, which start out at an average of $250,000. “There are more choices and more demand.”
Salzman attributes much of the development to an increasingly tight housing market in Colorado Springs. He said the increase in prices in the larger city, combined with decreased availability and skyrocketing apartment rents, will continue to make Fountain an attractive market for those looking to buy affordable homes.
“The cost to rent today is much more expensive than home ownership,” Salzman said. “That lower price range — $250,000 to $275,000 and below — represents an awful lot of Fountain. The market demand for that price range is at a record high.”
El Paso County records also show that Fountain saw a total of 848 residential sales in 2016, up 35 percent from 627 in 2015. The median sales price in Fountain Valley (which includes Security-Widefield) was $230,000 in March compared to $218,500 the same time last year, according to data from the Pikes Peak REALTORS Services Corp.
Salzman said that as long as people have fairly good credit and expect to live in the same place for at least three years, it’s a prime time to buy. He also said that the area’s recent water-contamination scandal, where potentially harmful chemicals were found in potable water, has done little to deter buyers looking for a cheaper alternative to Colorado Springs. Wells providing water to systems serving 80,000 residents of Widefield, Security and Fountain were found to be contaminated in 2016, and those wells have been closed.
“They would not even be building homes there — they would not even be doing specs — if the water issue wasn’t solved,” Salzman said. “That was really solved last year.”
According to Salzman, key demographics for Fountain include not only military families and those looking for a better bargain; some are families looking to upgrade from older homes located in nearby Security-Widefield.
“Older homes in Security and in certain parts of Widefield are going to be even more affordable than new homes in Fountain,” he said.
“Those newer homes are absolutely going to be in Fountain. … So a lot of people living in Security-Widefield who are looking to upgrade are looking at Fountain. That alone could create market demand.”
Bailey said there is still much need for development in the market, especially for multi-family construction.
“There are varying levels of multi-family housing that are missing from our market that we definitely need to have,” Bailey said.
Salzman, who deals exclusively in single-family homes, said that he’s unsure of trends related to multi-family development in Fountain. But he did say the low price point in the southern part of El Paso County is likely a deterrent for developers who know they can’t ask for rent that would justify the kinds of projects that often come with much bigger price tags (although construction costs might be cheaper to the south).
For now, Bailey and Salzman both said the area’s growth will be buoyed by commercial and residential investment — much of which comes from nearby military installations such as Fort Carson, which may soon see somewhat of a revival.
“More money is going to the military than we’ve seen in years,” Salzman said. “And quality of life correlates to location. There’s no doubt about it.”
According to the most recently available census data, 8.2 percent of Fountain’s population is composed of active-duty military personnel and their families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s online American FactFinder database, there were an estimated 4,692 veterans living in Fountain as of 2015.
“That’s where their peers live and that’s where they’re comfortable,” Salzman said.
“A lot of them still want to go shopping on Carson … because that’s how they think, that’s what they are used to and the price is right for them. That translates to a market demand in housing.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to indicate that Fountain will utilize the Southern Delivery System.