Aspen seeks real estate broker
ASPEN The city of Aspen is looking for a new real estate agent, and this time it will conduct its search in public.The one-year contract with Greg Hunter, a broker with Morris & Fyrwald Real Estate, expired April 25.But as opposed to last year when Hunter was hired with no invitation for a public bid, City Hall last month put out a request for proposals (RFP) asking local real estate brokers to apply.Hunter handled four large real estate transactions for City Hall last year, amounting to $31 million in land acquisitions for affordable housing development. According to his contract with City Hall, Hunter charged a 2.5 percent fee to represent the city as a buyers agent.That equates to $775,000 in commissions. But Hunter received less than that because he only took 1 percent on the BMC West parcel purchase, which was $18.25 million, and gave up his commission on another deal in order to close it. Typically, real estate transactions garner 6 percent for agents 3 percent on the sellers side and 3 percent on the buyers side, Hunter said.I was negotiable with the city, and I offered to work for a lower percentage because I wanted to help the city meet its goals, Hunter said.But even with a lower percentage rate, he evidently made considerably more than what city law dictates when it comes to the public bidding process.According to city law, any contract that is worth more than $10,000 in services must go out for a public competitive bid, or an RFP process, according to Rebecca Hodgson, who works in the city managers office.Barwick justified the hire by saying the City Council directed him last spring to find a real estate agent quickly. That discussion took place behind closed doors in executive session.We were in the middle of deals that needed assistance immediately, Barwick said, adding that he was given four names of brokers who were suggested by council and housing board members. Barwick declined to identify the other candidates. But he interviewed them within a week and shortly after that, Barwick made the decision to hire Hunter.Had he gone through the RFP process it would have taken up to two months.Two of the parcels would have gone away had we not moved on them, Barwick said.Besides the 4.64-acre BMC West property, last year City Hall also purchased 802 West Main St., a 9,000-square-foot parcel for $3.7 million; 488 Castle Creek Road, which is 35,895 square feet and cost $5.4 million; and 517 Park Circle, a 14,458-square-foot parcel purchased for $4.15 million.Barwick doesnt expect that city government will buy that much land again this year but he said he feels its necessary to a have a real estate agent on hand in case an opportunity arises.Were not anticipating purchasing that much property but we need them to field walk-ins, he said, adding city government receives a lot of proposals to buy pieces of land. One never really knows.Before last years acquisitions, City Hall hadnt bought a significant amount of property in at least five years.The council kept getting sticker shock and we just sat and watched the prices go up, Barwick said.When the decision was made to skip the public bidding process for a real estate agent, City Attorney John Worcester approved the move, Barwick said.City and elected officials are allowed to use their discretion when it comes to circumventing the RFP or bidding process. In cases of emergencies, like a water pipe bursting and a contractor is needed immediately, or the city is buying a fleet of vehicles that are the same as whats in the inventory, the process can be skipped in order to save money. It also can be skipped at the councils direction.Anything over $10,000, there should be a competitive bidding process but there are exceptions to the rule, Hodgson said.Some members of the public and those who work in the real estate industry have criticized the behind-the-scenes hiring of Hunter. Similarly, Barwick said he has received direct criticism from individuals.City Councilman Steve Skadron said he supports hiring another real estate agent.I do support the city using professionals who have skills it lacks to evaluate complex purchase opportunities, he wrote in an e-mail. I think an RFP has value for something like this.Mayor Mick Ireland, who had not yet been elected into office at the time of Hunters hiring, said he supports the move and thinks publicly advertising for a new agent is appropriate.This will broaden the applicant pool and it might be done even cheaper, he said.As of Wednesday, only one broker had submitted a proposal and that was Hunter.I enjoy working for the city, he said. Im an analytical person and selling residential real estate, it can be emotional for the buyer but with the city, its about making the numbers work.The deadline for real estate brokers to submit proposals to City Hall is Monday, May 12 at 2 p.m. The notice of awards is scheduled for May 16 and the council is expected to approve a contract on May 26.During that time, a review committee comprised of Assistant City Managers Randy Ready and Bentley Henderson, as well as City Halls Human Resource Director Rebecca Doane, will consider the proposals and make a recommendation to Barwick.City Halls agent will perform similar services as Hunter did in the past year, Barwick said. That will include negotiating the purchase of real estate for affordable housing, advising staff and council on market conditions, specific properties and proposals presented to city government.The request for proposals stipulates that the contract will last for at least one year with two one-year renewal email@example.com
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