Pitkin County real estate sales dove 40 percent in ’08 | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County real estate sales dove 40 percent in ’08

ASPEN ” The number of real estate transactions in Pitkin County plummeted 40 percent last year while the dollar volume fell 46 percent from 2007’s level, according to a year-ending report by Land Title Guarantee Co.

The report, released Monday, showed sales totaled $1.37 billion last year compared to $2.52 billion in 2007. The 2008 amount was the lowest since 2003.

The 828 transactions represent a significant decline from 1,379 the prior year. Land Title Guarantee Co. bases its report on sales of all types, from McMansions to trailers.

Sales were down every month in 2008 compared to 2007. August was the “best” month with a drop in dollar volume of 21.5 percent.

Given that poor performance throughout the year, the final statistics came as no surprise. Several real estate firms in the midvalley have downsized, and a few have even closed. Membership in the Aspen Board of Realtors was down about 10 percent from one year ago as of mid-January. Veteran real estate agents said they expect to see consolidations among upper valley firms.

Despite the tough times, many real estate agents remain hopeful for a turnaround. Mark Wyman, managing director for the Fleisher Co.’s Aspen office, said he has “cautious optimism” for the commercial real estate market, which he specializes in. That market segment doesn’t tend to get overbuilt, and the inventory of available property is low. For example, there have been three sales of commercial properties over $10 million in the past three years, Wyman said. There are only two commercial properties valued over $10 million on the market today, he said.

In contrast, there were 45 residential sales at or above $10 million during the past three years, and there are 84 such properties currently listed for sale.

Wyman said buyers are still eyeing Aspen-area property because they realize excellent investment opportunities exist and because the area remains so desirable. He believes Aspen will be somewhat cushioned from the full effects of the national economic downturn.

“I see us entering the fray late and exiting early,” he said.

Robert Ritchie, a partner with Coates, Reid and Waldron, said in a recent interview that the gloomy year-end reports overlook the fact that single-family home prices in Aspen continue to climb. That shows Aspen continues to be attractive to buyers, even though volume is down.

It’s tough to be a real estate broker in town right now, he acknowledged, but the market will bounce back strong because the driving forces remain intact despite the recession.

“Aspen’s exceptional recreational, cultural and intellectual amenities are all offered in a beautiful environment and small cozy community that cannot grow due to zoning,” Ritchie wrote in a year-end newsletter to clients. “We enjoy increasing demand from a world demanding the attributes of Aspen.”

The Garfield County real estate market experienced similar percentage declines as Pitkin County during 2008. The number of transactions dropped 44 percent to 1,560 last year. The dollar volume fell 41 percent to $723 million, according to Land Title Guarantee Co.


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