Real estate sales soar, but transactions down |

Real estate sales soar, but transactions down

Steve Alldredge
Snowmass Village correspondent

“Fly like an eagle” continues to be the battle cry for the local real estate market this spring. Total real estate sales in Pitkin County for the first four months of 2006 totaled more than $675 million, up from $598 million for the same period last year.

But while the dollar amount of real estate soars high above last year’s prices (and has more than doubled in the last three years), the number of real estate transactions is down for the first four months of this year. In April, dollar volume increased 25 percent over a year ago, bringing in $209 million for the month compared to $167 million during April 2005.

Yet the number of transactions was down, 143 in 2006 compared to 157 in 2005. According to Land Title Guarantee Company, there were 24 transactions in Snowmass in April, totaling $43,150,800. According to Land Title, Baby Boomers have been diversifying their assets in recent months and “most second-home owners see their purchase as being a better investment than stocks.”

“The Baby Boomers are driving the demand for vacation homes and for second homes,” said Mark Pisani, marketing director for Land Title Guarantee Company. “The number of transactions is down because of the lack of inventory in the local markets, especially in the upper valley.”

Said Stephen Stay, a broker with Snowmass Real Estate, “There’s no question that inventory is down. Right now we’re at a 25-year low for lots and condominiums. Most of the lots in Snowmass have already been developed and sold. That inventory of lots is only going to get lower.”

According to Stay, one factor driving real estate prices higher was the Base Village election in February 2005.

“The approval of Base Village has had a major increase in prices,” said Stay. “About a year or two ago, Aspen was strong but Snowmass real estate sales were languishing. Base Village has been a trigger for other developments in Snowmass (the recent sale of the Snowmass Center and the sale of much of the Snowmass Mall). As soon as that happened, prospective buyers became enthused because of the news and this generated its own excitement increasing demand even more.”

Michael Adams, co-owner of BJ Adams and Company, is another real estate professional that seconds the notion about Base Village increasing excitement and demand.

“Demand increased after Base Village was approved even though the market in general at that time was up,” said Adams. “What the vote did was take away the uncertainty and add product and credibility to the market.” The end result, said Adams, was that after the approval of Base Village, condominium sales in Snowmass increased.

Adams tracks sales from the end of March to the end of March. According to his numbers, from March 31, 2005 to March 31, 2006, sales of Snowmass homes were up 13 percent and sales of condos were up 28 percent.

But when it comes to statistics, Adams is one who points out the difficulty in comparing numbers. He notes the small sampling size of either the Aspen or Snowmass real estate markets can skew short-term numbers. Another factor is what is selling. If you have a number of high end homes sell one year and a number of low- to mid-range homes sell the next, then a straight comparison of those numbers can be misleading.

“Different product changes statistics,” explained Adams.

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