Pitkin County real estate sales tumble | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County real estate sales tumble

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

PITKIN COUNTY The credit crunch thats caused a slump in the national real estate market might be having an indirect effect in Pitkin County.Then again, local sales might be experiencing an inevitable cooling after a super-heated first half of the year, according to local real estate agents.Whatever the reason, the dollar volume of sales in Pitkin County fell nearly 37 percent in October, a new report by Land Title Guarantee Co. showed. Sales were at $183.36 million last month compared to $289.64 million in October 2006.Deals that closed in October could have been affected by the credit crisis that evolved in August, said Michael Russo, managing partner at Aspen Sothebys International Realty. The credit crunch surfaced when banks and lenders tightened credit because of soaring numbers of defaults on loans, especially to people with weak credit histories.Well-heeled buyers in the Aspen-area market are immune to tightening credit, Russo said. They often have the financial resources to pay cash for a second, third or fourth home worth millions. But Russo said some would-be buyers in Aspen might have wanted to wait to see if prices of real estate would be affected by national conditions. They wonder if they can buy more for less, he said.Some buyers also are likely waiting to see if turbulence in the broader financial markets will impact their portfolios, according to Russo.Even with the October slump, 2007 already is guaranteed to be one of the best years ever for the Pitkin County real estate market, if not a record breaker.Sales from January through October totaled $2.22 billion. That is up nearly 3 percent from last years record pace of $2.16 billion in sales through October, Land Title Guarantee Co.s report said.Last year ended strong, topping out at $2.64 billion in sales. That reflects everything from McMansions to affordable housing units. Land Title Guarantee Co. bases its reports on all sales recorded with the county clerks office.December was the third best month of 2006, and November was also impressive. There are now doubts that 2007 will match that late-year performance.Russo said 2007 wont be a record breaker, but that shouldnt taint the performance. Youre still looking at the second best year, he said.Greg Hunter, a real estate broker with Morris & Fyrwald Real Estate, noted that activity in the first half of 2007 was significantly ahead of 2006.It was at such a record pace, it would be hard to maintain, Hunter said.He doubted that the credit crisis played a role in sagging sales in the Pitkin County market in October. If it plays a role at all, he said, it wont show up until later. October closings result from showings in June and July.The number of real estate transactions in Pitkin County fell by 13 percent in October and is off 30 percent for the year compared to 2006. However, those statistics are deceiving without digging further, Russo said. The vast majority of the decline is because of fewer sales of fractional ownership residences. Whole-ownership transactions are off by about 100 sales or 10 percent for the year-to-date.One striking feature in the Aspen market is the high amount of inventory at and above $8 million, Russo said. Considerably fewer residences are available between $2 million and $8 million.The record-low dollar also is making its mark. The buying power is enhanced for Europeans and other foreign buyers.The demand to be in Aspen seems to be from international [buyers], Hunter noted.Scott Condons e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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