How to report sales |

How to report sales

Dear Editor:

If the Wall Street Journal reported financial and real estate news as ineptly as the Aspen Times (“Real estate sales drop,” March 6) the public would be badly misinformed. The Times has never done investigative real estate reporting but relies on misguided statistics and interviews with real estate agents. Your argument, no doubt, would be “isn’t that what we should do?” No!

As I have explained numerous times to your reporters and elaborated on in letters, the statistics do not correctly reflect the residential market, which is the part of the market 99 percent of readers, buyers, sellers and agents are interested in. Here is why:

The residential market must be broken into numerous components. Never just Pitkin County, Aspen or Snowmass (by the way, have you seen how successful the new offering at Base Village is?). Each of these three classifications do not state where specific activity takes place year to year (houses or condominiums or land or fractionals or which segment of each,) nor does your reporting analyze how much more or less inventory is available year to year. As I stated in a previous letter, some $400 million in sales will be reported this year from contracts written in ’05, ’06 and ’07 on Residences at Little Nell and Snowmass Base Village. Consequently, at year’s end The Times might report sales being “up” when they might, for the year, actually be down.

Furthermore, those relying on Land Title’s reports, and the Board of Realtors as well, don’t often know that, when combined, these two reporting agencies include employee housing, industrial and commercial (recent $15.8 million sale of the Boise Cascade property) and many sales reported more than once by the Aspen Board. This double or sometimes triple dipping is because agents list a single property in several categories (“house,” “land,” “townhome”) and don’t always delete the extra categories when only one sale took place. Ninety-nine percent of the buyers and sellers asking “what is the market doing?” want this excess filtered out.

And as for “what is the market doing?” reporting January and February sales, as you have just done, reflects contracts written in November and December. Last year’s statistics! The measure of what is happening now is what is going under contract, at what price and how many? The answer to that is our market is very strong. The price reductions we are seeing are, in very large part, high-priced properties adjusting back to the market. That is healthy.

Two things can happen to soften the Aspen residential real estate market: Buyers will choose to watch national trends for a while until they are comfortable the economy’s direction is improving or, the Aspen community will believe articles like the one I am challenging, and we will jawbone ourselves until we make it happen.

The best time to buy real estate here is right now. But then, it always is.

Philip L. Miller