Aspen’s worker housing has surpassed its total sales from a year ago by nearly 60 percent.
Through Wednesday, 40 deed-restricted units had sold for a total of $18.6 million this year. In 2012 and 2011, sales totaled $11.1 million (57 units) and $13.1 million (60 units), respectively.
Tom McCabe, executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Office, said higher-end units have languished on the market in recent years, particularly in the resident-occupied category, the most expensive worker residences. However, in the past month, two separate resident-occupied units, both priced at more than $1 million, have sold.
“For us to have two sales in one month is very encouraging,” McCabe said, regarding it as a sign that the worker-housing market is heating up.
Meanwhile, Aspen’s rental market is historically in high demand for both free-market and affordable housing.
On the free-market side, in addition to boasting the highest average rent in Colorado, Aspen has one of the lowest vacancy rates for multi-family housing, according to Colorado Division of Housing statistics.
Aspen posted an average monthly rent of $1,143 for the first quarter of 2013 — the most recent time period available — with Fort Collins/Loveland and Eagle County as the other two areas with average rents above $1,000.
Summit County’s average rent for the first quarter was $990. The numbers also show that Aspen’s 0.9 percent vacancy rate for multi-family housing in 2013’s first quarter was one of the lowest in the state. Summit County posted a 2.1 percent vacancy rate, and Eagle County was at 4.5 percent, while Steamboat Springs was at 5.8 percent and Glenwood Springs was at 23.4 percent. The average vacancy rate in Aspen since 2008 is 2.5 percent, while Summit has averaged 3.6 percent in that same span, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.
Jennifer Bennett, one of two property managers for Hunter Creek Condominiums, which is a mix of free-market and affordable-housing units, said it’s extremely rare to have vacant units during the winter. Currently, there is only one unit for rent. She said she has seen less and less seasonal turnover, with the market trending toward six-month and one-year lease renewals.
Kim Keilin, property manager at Centennial Apartments, which offers employee housing, said it’s hard to tell what the outlook will be for this winter because many tenants are up for renewal in the coming months, but she doesn’t anticipate much turnover.
In the past, she said, the midvalley housing market has dictated demand in Aspen, particularly during the recession. Many potential renters were lured by low rents downvalley, but as the economy has improved and prices have evened out — while taking into account the cost to commute — renters have found rental rates to be comparable.
McCabe said he expects the 100 seasonal-housing units at Marolt Ranch to be fully leased out by the end of October, which is earlier than usual. Aspen Country Inn, the Smuggler Apartments and the Truscott Apartments, which are all deed-restricted units, remain full year-round, according to the housing office.
McCabe said the housing office continues to field foreclosure notices. He said it’s rare for a foreclosed unit to make it all the way to the courthouse steps, but this year, one unit did. While there are three other foreclosures pending, he said, most foreclosures are cured before the housing office steps in to buy.