Third-quarter Aspen-area property sales top $1.5 billion

The $31.85 million sale of this 10,014-square-foot home on Red Mountain in August marked the second-most expensive property transaction in Pitkin County this year. The top-selling property, also residential, went for $32 million in September.
Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate/Courtesy Photo

As the area’s larger private businesses like Aspen Skiing Co. have cut positions and costs and multiple restaurants, lodges and mom-and-pops have needed government financial help to survive the pandemic, it’s a different picture in the local real estate industry.

Fueled mainly by residential transactions, September registered more than $660 million in property sales in Pitkin County, closing out a quarter that produced a dollar volume of more than $1.5 billion, based on property records and calculations from local real estate brokers.

Not only was the quarter record-breaking in terms of dollar sales volume, according to people in the business, it was equal to or more than the sales produced annually from 2010 to 2014 (ranging from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion each year), and not far off the pace set the past three years ($1.9 billion in 2017; $1.8 billion in 2018 and 2019).

Talk to a Realtor, and they will tell you the data are staggering.

“Until you actually see the numbers, all the talk about Aspen experiencing a pandemic real estate ‘gold rush’ in July, August and September 2020 seems wildly exaggerated and hyperbolic,” wrote broker Tim Estin in his monthly real estate market report released Sunday. “Until it isn’t. The metrics are dizzying.”

The pandemic largely is the underlying reason for an unprecedented demand for residential property in the Aspen area, with homes selling for more than $15 million and $20 million at an unprecedented clip.

September alone netted 21 residential sales in the $10 million to $19.99 million range, in addition to four sales worth more than $20 million, according to an Aspen Times review of property transactions processed by the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Two residential sales have topped $30 million this year alone in Pitkin County.

August saw the $31.85 million purchase of a seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 10,014-square-foot home with an average price per square foot of $3,180. Carrie Wells with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate was on both sides of the transaction and at the time remarked the sale of 34 Place Lane home “is now part of Aspen real estate history in this already unprecedented year for the industry.”

In September, a property at 41 Popcorn Lane —which includes 11,421 square feet for a single-family residence, as well as a guest house and caretaker’s cottage sitting on 2 acres of land — sold for $32 million, the highest price paid so far for property this year in Pitkin County.

There’s still, however, another quarter to go in 2020 with the U.S. presidential election on the line, social unrest in America, a shaky economy, raging wildfires and historically low interest rates.

Throw in the pandemic, and it has all created a recipe for those with the means to seek a home in locales seemingly more insulated from the strife that has gripped many of the country’s larger communities and cities. Aspen seems to be fitting the bill.

“What does this mean?” asked Steven Shane, managing director of Compass Real Estate in Aspen, a recent market newsletter. “People know they can work remotely. Families want a safe, uncrowded environment where they can enjoy outdoor activities. It is apparent that quality of life is paramount.”

In his monthly real estate column in Sunday’s Aspen Times, Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty broker Scott Bayens, citing the Multiple Listings Services, reported another “nearly 500 properties under contract and set to close by the end of the year. All previous end-of-year sales numbers are sure to smashed.” Those properties are located in the Roaring Fork Valley and from Glenwood Springs to Rifle, according to Bayens.

The city of Aspen has yet to release real estate transfer tax collections figures for September, but it is sure to hold up with August, which generated nearly three times the amount the city collected in August 2019. The RETT provides revenue for the city’s housing account and the Wheeler Opera House.

“Market activity continues to exceed expectations and has driven collections close to annual forecasts through just eight months,” senior tax auditor Anthony Lewin said in the city’s monthly tax consumption report issued Sept. 8