Scott Bayens: Aspen real estate market is accelerating through abundance |

Scott Bayens: Aspen real estate market is accelerating through abundance

Scott Bayens
Deeded Interest
Scott Bayens

I got away for a hike with a friend last week; a day unplugged and long overdue. We lucked out with clear, bluebird skies, cool temps, with a plan to bag an alpine lake above Gates Hut. After clearing the calendar, checking email and voicemail one last time, it didn’t take long before my frayed nervous system began to recalibrate, I found my rhythm and I began to let go and relax.

Our adventure began with a scenic drive up the Pan, along familiar rivers and creeks, through stands of aspen, open green meadow and eventually to the trailhead. The hike itself took us through fields of wildflowers and more mushrooms than I’ve ever seen. Once we got to the lake, we ate lunch, got out the rod and hooked a few rainbows. The experience was as immersive as it was absorptive; and for a moment or two, time stood still.

Simply put, me and my hiking buddy found ourselves in abundance. We needed nor wished for nothing in the brief time and place we were there as we were provided everything we needed.

As we hiked down with the reward of a cold beer at the car, I remained in my naturally induced tranquilized state. But inevitably the spell subsided as the “real world” came back into view. It got me thinking about how fast time is moving post-COVID, how quickly and how many things are different now, and if any of us, have the power to change any of it.

It sure doesn’t seem realistic when you consider the luxury real estate market around here. In the past year, the uber-wealthy have snapped up 30 properties priced over $20 million. Among those, two sold for more than $30M, one sold for $40M and a home on Willoughby Way topped $72M. Three more over $20M showed a pending as of last Friday.

These mind-blowing numbers represent unprecedented activity even for these parts. For the past 10 years, we’ve seen between five to seven homes a year change hands in this price range. That means we’ve sold at least seven years of inventory in the past 12 months. Interestingly, the MLS currently shows 30 homes and ranches over $20M available for sale.

According to, roughly 650 billionaires in the United States saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion during the pandemic. Today, that number has grown to $4 trillion. So when you take into account, and multi-millionaires and billionaires have to work really hard to spend that money in a lifetime, what we’re talking about here is just walking around money … extra funds for a $30M house on Red Mountain money … $50M for a legacy ranch just for fun money.

Safe to say the 1% of the 1% have been very active and are having a huge impact on our local economy. Easy to overlook the “median” buyers in the Aspen market where the average price of a home has risen 36% year-to-date. The average price of an Aspen home is now well over $13M when just last year you could have scored the same house for about nine and a half. When I got into the business in 2005, that number was $2M and a home on Red Mountain averaged $1,000 square foot.

In “sleepy” little Snowmass, it now takes more than $5M to secure a single family home. Sales are up 160% since last summer. In Basalt, you better have $1.8M; Carbondale demands $1.5M; and in Glenwood you better have $800K stashed away. And while sales prices and total sales numbers are up, volume or the actual number of homes sold is down significantly. Inventory across all sectors remains at record lows as well.

So I guess you could say the luxury and high-end market over $1M remain “in abundance.” And for so many here in the valley, this phenomenon is keeping us busy and paying the bills. But just as the conversation around real estate seems ever-present these days, so too is the pace of change in a place that isn’t used to so much coming so fast. Many of us from big cities have experienced it and that may have even been the impetus for our departure.

Of course, change is inevitable but this is a seismic shift, and the need to adjust to and accept all that’s different is what got me thinking that day on the trail. By now we all know this “new normal” is here to stay. Last week, I heard a national commentator suggest we start thinking about COVID-19 as “endemic” rather than a pandemic.

So wake up. We’re in the age of change; change in abundance. The 1% of the 1% are clearly in abundance. So too is human suffering and those in peril. Those in the middle must seek their own abundance. And what we choose to be abundant in is within our own power. And maybe that’s a simple as a walk in the woods.

Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him at

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