An Indian Summer for September real estate sales in Pitkin County

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
This home on West Buttermilk closed last week for just over $17 million, and is one reason why September has the highest total sales volume for Pitkin County real estate since at least 2009.
Alex Irvin/Special to The Aspen Times |

Three single-family properties sold in Pitkin County last week for a combined $41.8 million, propelling September to the most lucrative real estate month in at least six years.

An Aspen Times analysis of property records through the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office showed that as of 1 p.m. Friday, the top 45 property deals of September — ranging from $795,000 to $17.1 million — accounted for $227 million in sales. That figure alone easily eclipsed September 2014’s total sales volume of $200 million as well as the $216.6 million in September 2013 sales and $217.6 million in September 2012, according to data from Land Title Guarantee Co.

September is the only month since at least 2009 that has yielded $200 million-plus in property sales. And this September has seen six sales of at least eight figures. But, said Steven Shane of Shane Aspen Real Estate, the majority of the deals start brewing in July and August.

“The properties have gone under contract in July and August, so it’s not so much you showed the property in September and closed in September,” he said. “That’s why September is so strong.”

The Aspen market has been pulling the weight. From Sept. 1 through Sept. 24, 2014, Aspen rang up $146 million in sales. For the same period this year, it generated $185 million, Shane said.

Doug Leibinger of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s Realty sold a spec home in West Buttermilk, which he developed, for just more than $17 million.

That sale — Charles E. West Jr. Trustee was the buyer — was recorded Monday in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office (see sidebar on page A7).

The home had been occupied by a renter, Leibinger said, and also hosted an Aspen Food & Wine Classic dinner in June.

On Tuesday, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office filed papers on an $11.89 million transaction. In that deal, New York-based Gotham Ajax LLC bought a 4,776-square-foot, six-bedroom, 71/2-bathroom home at 310 W. Francis St. in Aspen’s West End. The seller, 310 West Francis LLC, also is out of New York.

And on Wednesday, 196 Pfister Holdings LLC, represented by Shane, paid $12.8 million for a residence at the Maroon Creek Club owned by William H. Plummer.

“In the last three weeks in September, just in Maroon Creek alone, I’ve brought the buyer to three different properties totaling $25 million,” Shane said, noting that one of the residences was not on the market.

Leibinger also represented Delaware-based BGP Moore LLC in its $11 million purchase of another Buttermilk property, located at 300 Eagle Pines Drive at Buttermilk, from the Lambert Trust of Los Angeles. That deal closed Sept. 15. Leibinger said the boom in eight-figure home sales this year is due to buyers “wanting a safe investment.”

But Aspen is not recession-proof, as evidenced by the real estate nosedive during the Great Recession. For now, theories about when and if the bubble will burst are merely speculation, but they are on the minds of those in the industry.

“There are two schools of thought,” Shane said. “One is that people who have had some discretionary income may have less right now and they may be less apt to make a purchase on a second or third home. Contrary to that, there are plenty of smart, high-net-worth people who think that a good hedge is Aspen real estate. Not only is there limited inventory, so they can count on a long-term appreciating asset, but in addition, they get to enjoy that investment.”

From Jan. 1 through Friday, Pitkin County registered 28 eight-figure deals. But they haven’t just been single-family-home sales.

Commercial property transactions have included the $69.15 million sale of the Hotel Jerome, the $27.5 million sale of the Boogie’s Building and the $22 million sale of the land at the base of Aspen Mountain that includes the defunct Skiers Chalet Lodge and Skiers Chalet Steakhouse.