Su Lum: Selling the ol’ homestead
I don’t know how many years I ran an ad in the classified section of The Aspen Times trying to sell the land we homesteaded in Alaska back in the early ’60s, but it must have been close to two decades
The ad hasn’t run at all in the past two or three years, but people still ask me, “Did you ever sell that Alaska land?” Everyone, it seems, read that ad except potential buyers.
The most serious call I ever got came from the Snowmass Sun (long before we owned it), telling me how much cheaper it would be to run the ad in their paper instead of The Times. I explained that because I was an employee of The Times the ad was free, and he had to admit he couldn’t beat that.
When the oil pipeline was being built and Alaska was booming, I got several calls and letters every week from real estate agents begging to list the homestead land.
Alaskans decided that Juneau, accessible only by boat or plane, didn’t meet the requirements for the capital of the hottest state in the nation and had voted to build a brand-new capital city outside of Willow, with causeways and freeways connecting it to Anchorage and north to the second biggest city, Fairbanks. Big airport, the works. The homestead was 75 miles from the proposed new capital, hence the attention from the real estate agents.
At the time, the land was tied up in estate complications following the death of my ex-husband and when, several years later, the dust settled on that mess, the pipeline boom had bust, the citizens had thought better about building a new capital city and voted to keep it in Juneau and, as my lawyer described it, you couldn’t sell land in Alaska if you put a gun to the head of a prospect.
I listed it with various Alaskan real estate agents, and started running my ad in The Aspen Times. $200,000 for 110 acres, such a bargain! You couldn’t buy a studio apartment in Aspen for that price. Easy sell, right? Wrong.
Alaskans voted to decriminalize marijuana, so I changed my ad to imply that it would make a great pot farm, being in the Matanuska Valley where they grow those cabbages the size of Volkswagens. No action.
A couple of years later the voters reversed themselves on the marijuana issue (good golly, Miss Molly, make up your minds!), so I killed that ad and ran one touting the homestead as a place to escape global warming. Nothing.
I thought I had a sure sell when everyone started to seriously panic about the millennium and people were searching for a hidey-hole to escape to when all of our computer systems ground to a halt, and if you weren’t prepared to live off the land you were as good as dead. Moose, bear (bear is quite tasty), a clear running spring, but zip: nada.
My son-in-law Bruce wanted to look into developing it, so I stopped advertising it and forgot about it until tax time rolled around twice a year. Absentee development turned out to be a bad idea and no one had time to go up there and deal with it, so Bruce listed it with a real estate agent and it recently SOLD.
Eat your hearts out, all you people who asked me, “Did you sell your Alaska land?” and I replied, “Half price, this day only,” because it went for less than half the price I advertised in The Aspen Times and you could have been up there right now, pulling silver salmon out of the Little Susitna River and eating bear.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who learned not to count real estate booms before they’re hatched. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]
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Milias: The dilemma in Aspen’s workforce housing is that it houses few of the workforce, and that must be acknowledged before it can be improved.