First quarter real estate bounces back in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

First quarter real estate bounces back in Aspen

Sales of Aspen single-family homes in the first quarter boded well for the local real estate industry, with the question now being whether the pace will sustain for the rest of the year.

The total sales volume in Aspen was $136.5 million, compared with $101.2 million in the first three months of 2016, according to Shane Real Estate, a branch of the Compass firm.

The city of Aspen also noted last week in its monthly tax report that real estate transfer tax collections were up 79 percent for its affordable-housing fund and 76 percent for its Wheeler Opera House fund.

Add it up, and the property market appears to be rebounding after last year's $1.4 billion of total transactions recorded for all of Pitkin County, which came after 2015 rang up more than $2 billion in sales.

2016 was rife with uncertainty on both national and global scales. But with the question over the U.S. presidency settled, buyer confidence has returned for the time being, brokers said.

"A lot of people said the same thing, that they decided to make a move now that it's post-election," said Joshua Saslove of Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Aspen. "There's a little bit of confidence in the stock market that indicates positive thinking with investors. There were a lot of people walking the fence until they had some comfort of what the status was politically and economically in the country."

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In Aspen, there were 18 sales of single-family homes from January through March, compared with nine during the first quarter last year, according to data from the Aspen Board of Realtors. The average home sale has been $5.4 million this year; last year it was $5.6 million during the first quarter.

Aspen's condo/townhome market saw more sales and higher prices in quarter one. Thirty condos sold from January through March at an average of $2.2 million; 28 sold last year for an average price of $1.8 million during the same time frame, according to the Aspen Board of Realtors.

"It's not like we're selling homes to people who need housing," Saslove said. "By and large we're selling homes that are second or third homes, and it's discretionary purchases. I think that tells us what's going on in the economy and about the value of Aspen."

"Why are we up so much in Aspen?" broker James Benvenuto asked in one of his recent newsletters. "What's going on? My answer is this: I think that in general, buyers are feeling confident in the Aspen real estate market, they are happy with the certainty they feel with their countries leader(s), the stock market is on fire so liquidity is there, and even our friends in Texas are telling me that oil is coming back, even if it has a different look and feel."

Benvenuto's report notes the $94.4 million in single-family homes sales in Aspen was the second best first-quarter in the past four years — topped only by the $124.3 million in the first three months of 2015.

Snowmass Village didn't fare as well in single-family sales, notching $24.9 million in this year's first quarter, which is 42.1 percent down from the near $43 million in first quarter 2016 sales, according to Benvenuto. Sales of condos and townhomes, however, accounted for $22.9 million in sales during the past quarter, which was 24.6 percent better than last year.

Will the trend hold? It's a question a local appraiser answered in a March 30-dated newsletter from Berkshire Hathaway|Aspen Snowmass Properties. The upshot: We still live in a world of uncertainty, even though there's no doubt who America's president is.

"It's a pretty nutty world out there with this president," Gold said. "All these tax and deregulation expectations are totally factored into the stock market. If reality doesn't meet expectations, there's a big chance for the stock market to correct. Or, what happens if he pulls the trigger on North Korea?"

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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