Deeded Interest: Powerful intangibles shape Aspen real estate
On a recent drive to Grand Junction, as I drove past Storm King, into the Piceance and eventually through Dubuque Canyon and the tunnels, I had a sudden realization subsequent to deja vu. I had been through these parts before. I remembered seeing it all for the first time after college on my way to what would be my first job in the TV business. When I left that assignment for other stops around the country, I never forgot that exhilarating journey to Aspen from “G.J.” and other breathtaking routes I discovered that meandered over to Moab via Highway 128 or down to Telluride up Dallas Divide and past those majestic San Juans.
I considered myself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to live, work and play in Colorado for those 20 months in the mid-’90s. It wasn’t clear when I left if I would ever return here, but I knew those timeless and historic by-ways would likely haunt me years to come. But having returned here 16 years ago, I have taken stock of the paths I have retraced and forged new passages over and thru these miraculous parts. At times, and ashamedly, I have taken my return and renewed access for granted. But on that day — westward bound on the Western Slope with the divide in my rearview and the setting sun ahead, I gave thanks.
In similar fashion, my heart never fails to leap every time I turn up Brush Creek Road to Snowmass and see snow-capped Mount Daly waiting for me. Memories of all the special times I shared with my parents and grandparents, who were equally spellbound by this paradise, fondly flood around me. Point is, either consciously or unconsciously, I chose to ramble these roads. I choose to stake my claim here. For those who live here (and it’s hard to explain to those that visit), we all risked something by coming here and by doing so, all struck it rich despite the challenges.
The truth is, we all dream of being here. Whether that’s for the long haul or for a week in the winter or summer, we are all beckoned. These Rocky Mountains are a rare and precious treasure. When viewed through the lens of that rarity and the intractable laws of supply and demand, it is the aforementioned intangibles that fuel the fire of the local real estate market; one unique to nearly all the world. When you think about Aspen for example, it’s really an island in the sky. The now crowded valley floor and surrounding hillsides (if you choose to call Red Mountain a hill) are surrounded by National Forest forever protected from development. It seems lately, the same is true for Aspen’s core. Whether in Soho or LoDo, living in the center of everything comes with a premium.
And therein defines the essence of the real estate phenomenon here in our fair valley. Unlike stocks, ETFs and mutual funds hovering in the electronic ether, real estate opportunities here, normally defined a tangible assets, magically morph back and become defined by these powerful intangibles. As other longtime locals have so eloquently described, here, we shed our corporate skin, go native and get lost in this imaginary playground. Here, we aspire to “live the dream” in a surreal setting that in no way resembles the real world.
Point is, there’s a purpose to homes back in the big city, be it in Texas, California or New York. People may live in the most desirable neighborhoods within the highest-rated school districts, but at the end of the day it is simply a home, a base of operations, a structure meant to protect a family. There’s a certain practicality to it all. Here, it all boils down to emotion. The feeling you get in your gut that raises the hair on your neck that whispers: “This is what I’ve been working and waiting for, this is the embodiment of a lifelong dream, the memories I make for myself and my family will become the most cherished of our lifetimes here and in this time.”
So when you’re walking around town this weekend, likely a bit bloated from all the food and wine, and stop in your tracks at the price of a condo in the core or a home in the West End, remember why. It’s very little about practicality or even level-headed, analytical thinking. It’s mostly driven by serotonin and dopamine; that bike ride through the shimmering aspens, the hike to a high mountain lake or the pure exhilaration of powder at your knees. So dream big my friends, dream big! Drink it in (along with the vino)! And during you’re visit this summer or fall, remember and feel what it is you’re really searching for.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Real Estate with more than a decade of experience with buyers and sellers. He’s never regretted his decision to stake his claim here and loves helping others do the same. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.