Recession hits Aspen realtors |

Recession hits Aspen realtors

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN The recession is taking a toll on the ranks of real estate agents in the Aspen area.The membership of the Aspen Board of Realtors is down about 10 percent, although that number could improve in the next few weeks, according to executive vice president Stacey Rinker.Membership in the association peaked at about 732 last year. There are more than 70 who havent paid dues for 2009, Rinker said. The staff is calling to remind them to renew. A late payment fee is being waived, and dues can be paid in two payments as extra incentive. Still, Rinker said, those who have been contacted dont seem inclined to renew this year.Membership in the organization tends to follow cycles in the market. When activity and dollar volume soared starting in 2003, membership also climbed. It shot up 31 percent between December 2002 and September 2005, when it reached 602, then kept climbing.Not all local, licensed real estate agents belong to the Aspen Board of Realtors, so the impact of the recession on the industry could be even more severe.Some real estate agents are relying on second jobs that provide a more steady income. One seasoned broker noted that one real estate agent is handing out locker keys at a local club and a handful have gone back to bartending full time.Its not an easy time to be a broker, said Robert Ritchie, who has sold real estate in Aspen for more than 30 years and is a partner in Coates, Reid & Waldron. I dont think youll see a lot of entrants in the field the next two years.Ritchie was interviewed by The Aspen Times in September 2005 about the swelling numbers of real estate agents, when times were good. At that time, he said 98 percent of the newcomers to the business wash out when the market gets tough. And now that times are tough, he is sticking to that forecast. He said he was surprised that the 2009 membership of the Aspen Board of Realtors is only down 10 percent.The Colorado Association of Realtors membership dropped 4 percent to 26,212 last year, according to President Amy Dorsey. No figure is available yet for 2009 because dues still are being paid.Were predicting stability from looking around the state, she said.The associations membership peaked in 2007, after Colorado experienced five strong years of sales.It looked easy. It did attract a lot of people, said Dorsey, who also is a broker with a large Vail real estate firm. Some of the newcomers stick with it when times get tough; others bail for a more predictable income, she said.Greg Rulon, another longtime veteran at Coates, Reid & Waldron in Snowmass Village, said he expects some real estate agents to leave the field in the Roaring Fork Valley, at least temporarily. Its not unusual for agents breaking into the field to work another job. Rulon, who started selling real estate in 1976, said he also bartended at the Paragon, a former dance club in Aspen.He believes the bigger trend will be consolidation of real estate firms, resulting in fewer offices. Just like were going to see fewer contractors, he said.Ritchie concurred. Heres why: When annual real estate sales ballooned to about $2.5 billion in the middle of this decade, offices spent extravagantly on everything from glossy brochures to frequent newspaper advertisements to promote their listings. That resulted in tremendous overhead.Now, with the dollar volume at about one-half that amount, the overhead needs to be pared down. In some cases, that means consolidation of offices.Theres probably going to have to be a new business model, Ritchie said.That means 2009 could be the year of consolidations. Theres a lot of talk right now, he said.Both Ritchie and Rulon expect any drop in the number of real estate agents to be temporary. The Aspen-area market has a history of recovering well from economic downturns.Each time weve come back doubly strong, Rulon

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