Aspen real estate a buyer’s market, according to agents |

Aspen real estate a buyer’s market, according to agents

By Janet Urquhart

Although the typical price tag for a house in Aspen still runs into the millions of dollars, it’s a buyer’s market these days, according to several brokers keeping tabs on residential property sales.

Overall, sales appear to be on pace with last year’s totals, but buyers are getting more for their money, according to Bob Ritchie, a broker with Coates, Reid and Waldron in Aspen.

For any home priced under $3.5 million, buyers are getting significantly more bang for their buck this year, he said.

“You’re probably getting 15 percent more for your money,” Ritchie estimated. “Basically, right now you’re getting for $2.5 to $2.8 million what would have cost you $3.3 to $3.5 [million] a year ago. It’s great news for a buyer. There’s a vast amount of selection, and the prices are lower than they were a year ago.

“For under $3 million, you can get a half-dozen homes in the West End.”

Pitkin County established a record year in real estate sales in 2000, recording $1.29 billion in transactions. Last year’s gross sales in the county hit the $992 million mark.

As of Dec. 1 this year, records show gross sales of about $976.4 million, compared to $903.8 million with a month to go in 2001.

In the Aspen area, however, sales appear to be up for the first three quarters of this year, compared to 2001.

Sixty-four single-family home sales through Sept. 30 amounted to $238.3 million worth of sales, according to statistics kept by the Aspen Board of Realtors. In the first nine months of 2001, 49 single-family homes sold for $155.5 million. In 2000, 70 homes sales were recorded through the first three quarters for $270.8 million.

The number of condo/townhome and single-family lot sales are also up this year, compared to last, through the first three quarters, Board of Realtors data indicates.

Broker Rich Wagar of Rich Wagar Associates suspects the average sale price of a home in Aspen hasn’t changed much, but, like Ritchie, he sees buyers getting more home for the price.

“People are getting ’98 prices in the year 2002, and I would suggest they’ll get them in the beginning of 2003,” he said. “What’s happening is people are getting more for the same dollar amount.”

Aspen may close the year with an increase in transactions, but a lower average price paid per square foot, agreed broker Heidi Houston of Houston and O’Leary.

“I just sold a house in the West End that is about 5,000 square feet, and it sold for $400 per square foot furnished,” she said. “You tell me when was the last time that happened. Buyers are getting deals.”

While the overall price per square foot is dropping, there are still some record-setting anomalies, Wagar pointed out.

The $14.2 million sale of a 9,172-square-foot home in The Preserve, an exclusive enclave east of Aspen, went for $1,554 per square foot, for example.

That kind of high-end sale, however, has been rare this year, according to Ritchie. In fact, there are few top-end homes on the market, he said.

“There have been fewer and fewer significant sales. It’s a clear-cut trend,” he said.

Through Oct. 15 of this year, 70 single-family homes in greater Aspen sold in a price range of $215,000 (at Aspen Village) to $14.2 million (at The Preserve), according to data compiled by Phil Miller, broker at Mason and Morse Real Estate. The median sales price was $2.68 million.

Miller’s data indicate 24 single-family lots sold for a total of $47.9 million, while 95 condos/townhomes changed hands for a total of $106.89 million.

Recent sales in fractional-ownership projects, such as The Timbers and Snowmass Club in Snowmass Village, have taken a bite out of the lower-end condo market, according to Ritchie.

“They’ve taken a huge number of buyers out of the condo market in Aspen and Snowmass,” he said. “All the timeshares are very severely impacting the bottom end of our market.”

However, interest in lots – and the opportunity to build one’s own dream home – is strong, according to Houston, who’s company has sold five of the 10 lots at Chaparral Ranch in Woody Creek this year. They averaged more than $4 million apiece, she said.

Houston is among three brokers with the most high-profile commercial building in Aspen currently on the market – the Isis Theatre.

The five-screen movie theater is now listed at $7.9 million. It went on the market last spring for $13.3 million, and the asking price was dropped to $10.9 million in June.

Last month’s drop to $7.9 million has produced a new flurry of interest in the property, according to Houston.

“Since we lowered the price, we have people all over us,” she said.

The theater has attracted offers since it went on the market last May, but none that its owners – Houston among them – found acceptable, she said.

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