Number of Aspen real estate agents rising again |

Number of Aspen real estate agents rising again

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times


Year Members Offices

2015 660 216

2014 643 213

2013 622 213

2012 675 223

2011 714 228

2010 720 230

2009 796 226

2008 801 223

Source: Aspen Board of Realtors

The surge in sales in the Aspen-area real estate industry is slowly enticing people back into the business after the recession weeded many brokers out.

Membership in the Aspen Board of Realtors had stabilized and is starting to climb again after hitting bottom in 2013. Numbers shared by the organization show that membership was at 801 in 2008 before the recession decimated the industry. The numbers fell each year, dipping below 700 in 2012 and bottoming out at 622 in 2013.

“There was no way for most of the people in the industry to make a living,” said Michael Adams, a partner in B.J. Adams & Co. The recession was rougher on the upper Roaring Fork Valley real estate industry than many people outside the business realize, he said.

Now that pockets of the Roaring Fork Valley market have heated up, the membership in the Aspen Board of Realtors is climbing again, to 643 last year and 660 this year.

“I would have thought a lot more would have been coming in,” said Aspen Board of Realtors President Tory Thomas. She said she has noticed a lot of younger people entering the business in a full-time capacity, suggesting they are pursuing real estate as a career.

During the go-go days of the mid-2000s, the joke was that everyone in Aspen seemed to have their real estate license, including bartenders, carpenters and ski instructors. Thomas said there are no data to show if that trend has continued post-recession. Her impression is it’s not as prevalent.

A lot of people felt during the frenzy of the mid-2000s that real estate was an easy way to make a living, so they flocked to the industry and then got out when times got tough, Adams said.

“I don’t think you’re seeing the same proliferation that we did before the recession,” he said.

Employment and wage data compiled by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reflect the real estate industry’s rebound from the worst of the recession. There were 226 establishments specializing in real estate sales and property rental in Pitkin County during the first quarter of 2015, according to the latest statistics available. The firms employed an average of 1,474 employees that quarter — those workers who had a salary or worked for a wage. It excludes real estate brokers who work strictly on commission.

The current number of workers in the industry is considerably higher than at the height of the recession but not as high as prerecession employment by the industry. In first-quarter 2010, there were 206 real estate and property-management firms in Pitkin County employing 1,325 people. That was down from 246 firms and 1,549 employees in first-quarter 2008.

The condition of the economy and the upper-valley real estate market also dictates the contraction and expansion in the number of firms.

“We had a tremendous amount of consolidation in the recession,” Thomas said.

But now that the market is improving, it’s spurred a couple of new trends, said Bennett Bramson, a former president of the Aspen Board of Realtors and its former interim director. Improving prospects have inspired some real estate agents to leave their firms and start their own small brokerages, and they’ve given others the confidence to shuffle among companies, often joining a smaller firms.

The number of real estate firms that are members of the Aspen Board of Realtors has been more static then the number of individual members. It’s hovered between 230 and 216.

Another trend fueled by the uptick, Bramson said, is that more national real estate companies are entering or re-entering the Aspen market by teaming with local firms.

One of the latest entries by a national brokerage firm was Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s purchase of Joshua & Co. in December. Last week, B.J. Adams & Co. announced that it is affiliating with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services later this fall.

The two biggest firms in Aspen previously teamed with international firms to create Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty and Coldwell Banker Mason Morse.

Michael Adams said the Aspen real estate business was by and large composed of small, independent firms until recently.

“The ability of franchises to secure a foothold was largely due to the recession,” he said.

The entry of Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker into the market changed the direction of the local industry.

“That sort of forces others to take a look at it,” Adams said.

His firm was approached by several national real estate firms during the recession, but none of them was “the right fit,” Adams said. That changed when the firm met with representatives of Berkshire Hathaway. Adams said his firm will retain autonomy but gain from the national firm’s marketing power.


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