Another banner year for real estate | AspenTimes.com

Another banner year for real estate

Homes throughout the Roaring Fork Valley are selling at a record pace.
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ASPEN ” The residential real estate market from Aspen to Parachute far outpaced last year’s record performance during the first half of 2007.

The dollar volume of residential sales was $1.16 billion from January through June this year, according to the Multiple Listing Service for the Aspen-Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors.

The volume during the same period last year was $980 million.

The increase was $180 million or 18 percent when looking at sales over the entire region. That reflects sales of everything from McMansions to trailer homes, from Aspen to Parachute.

There were 1,286 transactions during the first six months of this year compared to 1,225 during the first half of last year.

Even veteran real estate agents are marveling over how long the market has been so strong. Strong sales started in 2002 and annual records for dollar volume have been set each year since 2003.

“This cycle has been one of the strongest we’ve seen,” said Chuck Frias, owner of Frias Properties of Aspen. “It’s never gone on this long.”

A cycle of high appreciation and strong sales typically lasts a couple of years, noted Phil Miller, a broker with Mason and Morse Real Estate. This cycle is heading into its fifth year.

Miller said he doesn’t believe the gross sales numbers mean all that much because of all of the nuances of the complex real estate market. But by any measure, the upper valley market “has never been stronger,” he said.

While the number of transactions fell in both Aspen and Snowmass Village this year, the volume of sales increased in both markets, the MLS data showed.

In Aspen, there were 164 sales for $475.08 million during the first half of this year compared to 189 transactions last year for $462.65 million.

In Snowmass Village, there were 103 sales for $236.75 million this year compared to 109 sales for $166.74 million last year.

Sales volume was up $82.44 million or 13 percent in the two upper valley markets combined.

But the statistics don’t necessarily paint a complete picture of what’s happening in the market, Frias said. He sees some signs of the market slowing.

When land and residential sales are combined, the volume has been flat over the first half of 2007, Frias said. Sale volume was up in January and February, but down each of the last four months, based on statistics his office tracks.

Of course, flat isn’t all that bad in this case. The first half of 2006 was a record pace.

Frias said there isn’t a lack of buyers in the Aspen and Snowmass Village markets. The problem is inventory.

For example, from a pure statistical standpoint, it appears there are as many homes as ever priced at $6 million and more. In reality, Frias said, the high-end homes are popping up in more neighborhoods but not necessarily the areas in highest demand.

In general, there is a lack of inventory in neighborhoods like the Aspen core, the West End and on Red Mountain.

Miller agreed that there is a “very limited selection,” depending on how much buyers are willing to spend.

Both brokers said Aspen remains a sellers’ market. Frias said sellers are still pricing property as they have for the last three or four years, with strong appreciation. At some point, he said, that has to be adjusted.

Miller said the ability of some sellers to “aggressively price” and still receive what they are asking has been surprising.

Both brokers said they expect sales prices to reach a plateau, but not fall in the upper valley.

The midvalley, particularly Basalt, established a blistering pace during the first half of 2007.

Residential sales volume jumped 55 percent in Basalt from $56.23 million during the first half of 2006 to $87.5 million this year. The number of transactions increased from 84 to 121 in the Basalt zone in the MLS, which stretches from Wingo Junction to El Jebel.

The average sales price in the Basalt zone jumped from $669,404 last year to $723,140 this year.

Carbondale, while strong, didn’t quite match Basalt’s pace. Sales volume increased 22 percent from $62.49 million last year to $76.63 million this year, according to the MLS data. The number of transactions fells from 129 last year to 112.

Further downvalley, the Glenwood Springs and Rifle markets showed strong growth, but the dollar volumes lagged well behind the Carbondale and Basalt markets.

The number of transactions in Glenwood Springs was flat, from 143 last year to 151 this year. The sales volume increased 22 percent from $53.29 million to $65.06 million.

In Rifle, the hotspot of the West Slope, sales volume soared 35 percent from $30.97 million to $41.81 million. Transactions were flat at 139.

The entire region is bucking the national trends in the housing market. Sales of existing homes fell for the fourth consecutive month in June. There is a glut of homes on the market nationally while the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys face shortages in inventory.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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