Don’t ski the bumps – speculate the bubble |

Don’t ski the bumps – speculate the bubble

Roger MaroltAspen, CO Colorado

A few people are surprised by recent statistics showing that Aspenites aren’t skiing as much this year. This utter naiveté is not from the ranks of the avant-garde.Skiing is no longer the local’s sport of choice. The gondola has been relegated, along with coffee joints, gyms, and the Thumbing Station on Main Street, to another venue for deal-making. Who can afford to waste time on a ride up the slopes otherwise? The new sport in this mountain town is about taking turns at making money!Skiing is out. Speculating is in! Risk is an old board game gathering dust in your basement cupboard.You don’t need any special gear or training to get in. You don’t have play this one on a ski mountain. You don’t even have to be able to see the ski trails. Weather isn’t an issue. Snow is of little value. In fact, the best speculating is probably happening in Silt, this week.The only two rules are: 1). Invest everything you’ve got, and 2). Do it right now! Do you want to be the dumbest on your block? If you wait, they’ll redevelop it right under your footers.There are basically two ways to win in the new valleywide game of fame and fortune. The first is to buy real estate. The second is to buy more!The first method is simple. Any person with the cash to purchase land or the 800-number for a solvent, no-doc, sub-prime lender (i.e. everyone), takes a real estate broker to lunch, signs a pile of paperwork, and waits for another player to make an offer to purchase whatever property they just bought, for 25 percent more than they just paid for it.The second method for making a fortune is simpler. If everyone keeps churning real estate, all prices keep going up!The stories of easy money are incredible! I heard one guy was offered $325,000 for the purchase contract he had – on a loft in El Jebel! Someone in the locker room was talking about someone else who bought a duplex in Carbondale for $600,000 last week and this week each of the four houses surrounding his are under contract from $1.2 to $1.5 million. My neighbor’s co-worker’s friend bought a house somewhere near Basalt last year for $450,000 and sold it last week for $2.9 million. It’s gotten so outrageous that a lady bought a fractional unit in Aspen and four months later it grew into the whole thing!It’s surreal serendipity! Through our own ingenuity, we have contrived a sport where it is impossible to lose. It’s never been done anywhere, until now! Making money here is easier than carving turns down Ruthie’s on packed powder under a warm spring sun, with no chance for injury!The worst a participant might endure is cramping in the pincher finger and thumb from continual signing on the dotted lines. But, gliding a good pen on a thin film of ink over 24-pound, legal size paper is so enjoyably satisfying that few have the willpower to resist. The best part is – even after a full day of scrawling initials – a little champagne-loading in the evening will resuscitate almost anyone for another action-packed day of showings and offerings.So addicting is the new sport, I have heard rumors that one right-handed speculator, who contracted a blister, kept her streak alive of executing a contract on every day of the current season by practicing all through the night in signing her name with her left so that a closing scheduled for the following afternoon didn’t have to be rescheduled. She even skipped work to do it. That’s dedication!Although the signature more resembled an “X” belonging to a cave-dwelling ancestor 58 generations removed, neither the attorney for the appraiser, the transactional real estate broker representing himself- nor the title company officer who charged $50 to copy the document – seemed concerned.The latest trick of the game is figuring out original ways to say, “The sky is the limit,” “Invest in your lifestyle,” and “It’s only twenty minutes from Aspen” with style. Not that it matters. I’ll never tire of the millions of ways these have already been rephrased, no matter how often repeated.It’s a game of numbers. I wait with bated breath for each new Multiple Listing Service book to come out. It is never a question of “if” the average price of property goes up, it’s only guessing by how much. It always adds up. I can never be wrong.Yep, the old days of tired legs and a stiff back are over for me. Fast, steep declines are a thing of the past. There are no bumps in the sales charts I’ve seen. Nope, for me it’s now the one-two punch of icing the deal and carving up fat commissions. Pow! Pow!I’ve got some equity built up in my own humble hovel and the mortgage is all but paid off. It’s time to upgrade to an investment over my head. Like a magician, I’ll turn that equity into 20 percent down. The new loan will be 15 times the size of my original, but paying a fixed 6 1/2 percent in interest and making an easy 18 per year in appreciation, I’d be a fool not to get into this game.Well yeah, if I pay down the mortgage a month at a time, I’ll be 75 when it’s done. But, in this sport I ought to make enough to pay it off in five, maybe 10 years…. OK, so it might be 15 years before I can get out from under the damn loan and retire; 20 in a worse case scenario, 25 at the most. I’ll only be 65 or 70 by then. Who cares? They say that 60 is the new 40. Undoubtedly that’s true. I’ll retire fit and pretty. Ha! And, rich!Of course, to cash in I’ll have to sell my multi-million dollar mansion and move to Grand Junction when I finally give up this game. But, I’m sure I’ll like it down there. They say it’s nice … and the market is booming! It’s a good thing skiing has gone out of fashion. Otherwise, I might miss it.Roger Marolt is speculating that a bubble over town is what is keeping the snow away lately. He hopes than when it bursts we’ll at least have a good powder day. Give him your two cents at and you’ll get back four.