Aspen real estate: Riches vs. reality
August 16, 2006
Having lunch with a friend the other day, I was told his wife had urged him to obtain his real estate license.”Just think: If you sold a $450,000 home, that’s $24,000 right there,” she told him.He wasn’t going for it. In order to sell said home, he said, he’d have to compete with “thousands” of other agents. My friend was exaggerating. But not by much.The Aspen Board of Realtors has 650 members from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Their smiling faces fill the pages of local newspapers, day in and day out, and new firms are springing up like mushrooms in the nearby woods.Realtors make up about 3 percent of the population of the Roaring Fork Valley, according to census numbers. And that doesn’t include real estate agents who aren’t members in the local Board of Realtors (The National Association of Realtors claims to be the largest professional association in the world, and has about 1 million members, but one does not have to be a member to sell property.)Members of the Aspen realty association recorded more than $2 billion in sales in 2005, and it’s little wonder the number of people interested in getting a piece of that windfall continues to increase.Sherrie Hall, membership specialist at the Aspen Board of Realtors, said the organization receives inquiries almost every day from people interested in joining. The board has 68 member offices in Aspen alone, and 180 valleywide.”There are people who come in here daily to get their membership,” she said.With a limited inventory – “It seems like there’s not a whole lot for sale,” Hall said, echoing the thoughts of several brokers – and a plethora of agents, competition is fierce in the Roaring Fork Valley.”It’s very competitive,” said Ed Foran, president of the Aspen Board of Realtors and a broker at Mason & Morse Real Estate. “Any real estate market that is hot attracts people.”But the myth of easy money belies the reality of how hard agents have to work to stay ahead of competitors and in business, he said.”They think it’s very easy to go out and close a big deal. The standard comment you get from people, which is totally inaccurate, is that all you guys need to do is one deal a year and you’re just fine,” Foran said. “The reality is it’s a very, very competitive business, with a lot of really hard-working, professional brokers out there.”If it’s hard for an Aspen broker, the Vail Valley is especially cutthroat. The Vail Board of Realtors has 750 members, but the board draws members from all of Eagle County, which has nearly 48,000 residents. (Pitkin County has 16,268, according to the state demographer’s 2004 estimate.)The Teton Board of Realtors similarly serves Jackson, Wyo., and surrounding communities in Idaho. It has 683 members.And while hot markets draw increasing numbers of brokers, “generally speaking, after a period of time you’ll see a level of attrition in the number of members,” Foran said. “Reality sinks in as to how much hard work it takes to be successful and actually make a living in this business.”New agents are competing with established brokers who have their own client base and “sphere of influence,” he said. “For new brokers, it’s very, very challenging. And they’re under pressure to close deals.”So perhaps real estate isn’t for my friend. Maybe he should stick to another profession, such as comedian. He told the joke of a man getting pulled over in Aspen.The police officer asks for the motorist’s registration, proof of insurance and real estate license.”Excuse me, officer. Don’t you mean driver’s license?””No sir,” the cop says. “Not everyone has a driver’s license.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.