Real estate market enjoys big rebound |

Real estate market enjoys big rebound

After a slow start, Aspen real estate sales shot upward for three whirlwind months this fall, putting the market on pace to surpass last year’s totals.Overall sales in the Roaring Fork Valley through the first three quarters of the year totaled $698.4 million, trailing sales through September 2002 by about $45 million, according to data tabulated by the Aspen Board of Realtors. Those tallies include residential and commercial properties and vacant land.In Aspen alone, residential real estate sales for the first three quarters totaled $365.4 million, compared to $386.8 million for the first nine months of 2002. But, those numbers don’t tell the whole story, according to broker Rich Wagar, whose firm is having its second-biggest year ever.”The first two quarters of this year were really slow,” he said. “Then we got into August, September, October there was a massive catch up.””I would say there was a very marked turnaround for the positive since August,” agreed broker Marc Friedberg of Joshua & Co. “I think there was quite a bit of pent-up demand.”The sudden boom had one closing officer at Pitkin County Title handling some $54 million worth of transactions in one two-week period, said a spokesperson there.However, a lot of property that went under contract in September and October won’t be recorded until the deals close in the final quarter of the year, Wagar noted. The year-end tally will slightly surpass last year’s sales, he predicted.In fact, an updated Board of Realtors report on sales through Nov. 10 put Aspen residential real estate sales so far this year at $453.2 million.The amount of property still for sale remains huge, several brokers noted, but activity in the second half of this year has made inroads.”There’s still a lot of inventory,” Friedberg said. “We still have an enormous amount of real estate for sale, but we have made a dent … and I think that’s encouraging.”The number of listings doesn’t reflect the strength of the market, contends broker Phil Miller at Mason & Morse, because some properties are overpriced, though prices have been coming down.”I think our market is very healthy,” he said. “I look at the quality of the market rather than the quantity of the numbers.”Some agents are probably having the best year they’ve ever had.”Heidi Houston of Houston & Gorog isn’t complaining. The firm, which opened 11 months ago, has sold or put under contract $66 million worth of residential real estate.”If everything goes well, we’ll have another $20 million under contract within 30 days,” she said. “For us, it’s been an amazing year.”Aspen’s Isis Theater, a $7.9 million commercial property Houston is marketing with a couple of other brokers, will be under contract next year, she predicted.Through Nov. 10, Aspen saw sales of 63 single-family homes for a total of $255.2 million; 18 duplexes or half-duplex units for $35.7 million; 133 condos/townhomes worth $119 million; 18 fractional-ownership shares for $3.7 million; and 18 single-family lots worth $37 million, according to Board of Realtors figures.The Aspen zone includes the city, properties east of town toward Independence Pass, the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys, Starwood, Buttermilk and the Aspen Business Center.Wagar’s sale of a $7 million lot in Pitkin Green at the base of Red Mountain is an all-time local record for an undeveloped single-family home lot, he said.Only one sale of a home priced at more than $10 million has occurred this year, according to Wagar, who sold the Owl Creek property. Usually, there are a handful, he said.There are 15 such listings in Aspen and Snowmass, including the Mandalay Ranch in the Owl Creek Valley.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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