Scott Bayens: A mountain for a pick-up
I’ve recently been helping a couple who have their eyes on a home on tawny Red Mountain, arguably one of the crown jewels of Aspen real estate. To be clear, she loves the place, is ready to write the offer and is obviously emotionally attached. He, on the other hand, is a numbers guy who needs be convinced the home represents a positive, long-term investment. This dichotomy is not unusual or out of the ordinary. And to be fair, it’s not always the man of the house with his eye on past, present and future performance in real estate.
Toward that end, I reached out to several fellow brokers with a knack for data to present to my clients. I first contacted a broker well known for his statistical acumen. He provided me with a historical analysis showing increased value per square foot going back one, five and 10 years — all positive territory. Excellent. To understand the 20-year appreciation, much as one would do when considering a stock or mutual fund, I turned to the MLS. After looking up past sales in the neighborhood and crunching the numbers, I also got an impressive result to present.
Meanwhile, my other colleague returned my call. He politely told me he did not have a report specific to Red Mountain, but he instead offered me a fascinating and delightful anecdote. He told me about a story told to him by Fritz Benedict, Aspen’s legendary mountaineer and famed architect. It was such a great yarn that I had to look it up and indeed the account checked out!
According to a website created through Aspen’s Historical Preservation office, Benedict was stationed at Camp Hale near Leadville during the war and came to Aspen on weekends after first laying eyes on what was then a sleepy little town. In 1945, according to the site, Benedict purchased a 600-acre ranch on Red Mountain for $12,000, which he reportedly scraped together from his Army pay, a loan from his mother and selling his car — yes, a pickup truck.
For those of us who have lived and worked here, many of us have heard the nostalgic tale from the ’40s and ’50s of lots selling for $10,000 or less. But that account is nothing compared to the future potential of Benedict’s purchase. I doubt even he had the foresight to see what Aspen and the surrounding area would become and what incredible appreciation his investment would enjoy. Today, Red Mountain is some of the most valuable dirt in the country.
Those heady days of opportunity are certainly now a remnant of the past. And those investments also came with significant risk. But the moral of the story is, for those with real foresight and an eye for value, there’s still “gold in them thar hills.” At least for the long term, Aspen real estate usually pays significant dividends to those that choose to lay it on the line.
Scott Bayens is a broker/Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Real Estate in Aspen/Snowmass with more than a decade of experience with buyers and sellers. He works exclusively with Michael Perau. Both work as a team to offer twice the presence and availability. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
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