Luxury-home sales still slow |

Luxury-home sales still slow

Craig Morris courtesy photo
Steve Mundinger | Photo courtesy of Craig Morris

Two Aspen-area mansions sold in auctions Tuesday for significantly less than what they were listed for, driving home the point that property still has to be priced properly to move, even in an improving market, according to the head of a real estate firm in the thick of both transactions.

A 16,000-square-foot house at 1518 W. Buttermilk Road sold for $15 million, according to Craig Morris, the listing broker and a partner in Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty.

The house, built in 2007, had been on the market for five years at a listing price as high as $43.8 million, Morris said. Numerous offers were made in the mid- and upper-$20 million range, he said, but the seller declined them.

Tuesday’s auction for the house opened with a minimum bid set at $15 million, according to Morris. The buyer wasn’t disclosed at the auction; the buyer’s broker was Michael Perau, of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s.

In another multimillion-dollar deal, a home at 1121 Red Mountain Road was offered in an auction Tuesday with no minimum bid. The bidding started at $5 million and “within 60 seconds went to $7.5 million before it cooled down,” Morris said. The final price was $9.75 million plus a 10 percent buyer’s premium, he said.

The house, which was listed by Joshua and Co., had been listed for $20 million. The buyer’s broker was Mark Haldeman, of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s.

A third auction Tuesday didn’t result in a sale. A house at 170 Clay Lane in East Owl Creek was listed for $58 million. There was a minimum bid set of $17.5 million, but there were no bidders, according to Morris, who has the listing on the house.

Morris said some sellers are trying to use auctions to bring closure to their efforts to sell their houses.

“I think the auction is a way for the seller to realize an absolute sale date,” he said.

Eliminating a minimum bid is a tactic some sellers use to bring as many bidders to the table as possible.

“You get a lot of people showing up thinking they can steal it,” Morris said.

While he characterized the upper valley’s real estate market as “reasonably good,” the segment of the marketed priced above $10 million has been “particularly slow.”

The first half of 2013 ended with total sales of $520.94 million in Pitkin County. That was down 12 percent compared with the first half of 2012.

The fourth quarter of 2012 was sizzling as sellers tried to close deals before changes to taxes and capital-gains rules. That’s siphoned off some sales that would have occurred this year, Morris said. He’s optimistic for the remainder of 2013 because the amount of showings of property for sale has increased and demand seems to be building.

Tim Estin, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, noted that the Aspen market has stabilized, in part, because the inventory has dropped in recent years.

“The Aspen real estate market has certainly improved since the dark days — 2nd Quarter of 2010 — of the recession, but not on an upward trajectory as expected,” he wrote in his Estin Report, a quarterly summary of the upper valley’s real estate activity.

“Sellers are expecting higher prices because of the national real estate trends,” Estin said, “but buyers don’t see the comparable sales to support the price increases the sellers expect.”

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