Recession be damned, Aspen’s Frias Properties makes major deal
ASPEN – The ailing economy and an uncertain ski season for tourism didn’t prevent one of Aspen’s largest property management firms from increasing its inventory of high-end accommodations by about 50 percent.Frias Properties acquired management contracts on 54 luxury condominiums in and around downtown Aspen on Nov. 5 from ResortQuest, a vacation home management company with residences in resorts around the world.Frias Properties principal Chuck Frias acknowledged that a major acquisition is a nerve-racking move in this economy, but he and managing partner Tim Clark looked beyond the current tough time for Aspen and the travel business.”We’re very bullish on Aspen,” Frias said. “We’re all about the long term.”Tourist accommodation revenues are down about 27 percent in Aspen year-to-date. Frias said his business mirrors that closely. Its condo rentals fared a bit better this year; rentals of luxury homes and fractional units have fared a bit worse.The picture for the coming winter will become clear in about another month, as more of the reservations for ski season roll in. “I would guess today we’re flat, give or take,” Frias said, referring to reservations compared to last season.Clark said now is actually an opportune time to be a buyer because of the soft economy. Acquisitions can be favorable for companies that can swing them. ResortQuest officials first approached Clark about the acquisition of the management contracts last March. Negotiations heated up about six weeks ago. Terms of the deal between the two companies weren’t released.Even before the acquisition, Frias Properties was one of Aspen’s largest property management firms. It already managed about 100 high-end vacation rentals and another 100 units for owners that don’t rent. Most of its rentals are in or near the downtown core. The former ResortQuest properties dovetail nicely. Frias Properties already managed units in many places where ResortQuest had units.”We look at it as reunification of those properties,” Clark said.Frias Properties now manages extensive holdings in high-end condo complexes such as the Alpenblick, Dolomite Villas, Durant Condominiums, Fasching Haus and Fifth Avenue, as well as scattered units in numerous other tourist accommodations. It manages and rents a handful of high-end single-family homes as well.Frias and Clark have been partners for nearly 10 years, “nibbling away” at adding management contracts, according to Clark. The acquisition of ResortQuest’s contract is “a culmination of a three-year goal” to add to their downtown vacation rental inventory. They downplay the size of their company. Their focus is being the best management firm, not the biggest. “We know everybody wants quality service,” Frias said.Representatives of Frias Properties are contacting the owners of the units that used to be managed by ResortQuest to acquaint them with the firm and pledge quality service. Frias Properties handles services such as reservations, housekeeping and maintenance in-house. ResortQuest contracted for housekeeping and maintenance.Frias Properties swells to close to 80 employees at peak winter. “We’ve weathered (the recession) without laying anyone off,” Frias said. The firm’s work force will probably grow by 10 percent with the additional management contracts. An office will be opened in the Fasching Haus. The firm’s headquarters will remain at 730 E. Durant Ave.The deal with Frias Properties completes ResortQuest’s reversal of plans in Aspen. It purchased Coates, Reid and Waldron real estate sales and property management in the late 1990s but sold the real estate division to Joshua & Co. in February.email@example.com
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