Scott Bayens: Money not the only investment in real estate
I remember hearing this phrase for the first time back in 2006 from one of my clients in California, as real estate activity here in Aspen and Snowmass was seemingly ascending atop a Saturn V rocket into the clear blue Colorado sky. There was no end in sight. Up, up and away, or so we thought.
If we were being honest, I think we all knew it couldn’t last. But of course, no one wanted the party to end and very few were looking for the door. Full price and multiple offers were the norm, each sale higher than the last, and everyone from wealthy stock brokers to bartenders and ski instructors were in on the game buying not one, but several investment properties at a time. Full disclosure: Count me among those who took part in the hysterical delirium of the day.
After the bubble finally burst, we stayed in the hole around here for over five years. After all, vacation homes aren’t exactly in high demand during a recession. But after a healthy run up the past few years, here we are again. We’ve clawed our way back. In Aspen, values have not only recovered but are mostly higher than before the crash.
So what’s to complain about? According to data from the MLS, year-to-date totals for sold listings, as well as pending contracts in Aspen, are roughly 20% higher than this time last year. In Snowmass, the difference is in the single digits either up or down, but mostly on pace with a record year in 2018, all being driven by all the new product at Base Village.
Last year we sold nearly $2 billion of real estate here in our fair valley, and it looks like we’re on pace to beat that impressive number once again. When was the last time we pushed over the $2 billion line you ask? You guessed it: 2006 and 2007.
And what’s really gotten my attention this summer — as both a veteran of the business and among those who weathered that awful, never-ending, savings-draining suck fest — is just how many properties, homes and lots we are seeing snapped up and in record time. Lately the hot sheet is commonly showing pending contracts in seven days, two-week closings and full-price sales.
But in a place like this, where real estate is both spectator sport as well as big-stakes poker, whispers have made way to a louder conversation in terms of how long we can keep up this pace. Will we see a correction or a dip? Are we looking at another bubble? What effect will the 2020 election have on buyers and sellers? At the end of the day, I think we all suffer from a bit of PTSD after the debacle we witnessed a decade and more ago. Whether optimistic or pessimistic, pragmatism seems prudent.
For now, the masses seem undeterred. In risk there is reward. These mountains are full of folks who push the limit, from the Knife’s Edge of Capitol Peak to developers who drop $20 million for dirt on Red Mountain. On the other hand, there are those that look to Warren Buffett’s strategy of success to be reminded that a more conservative, long-term approach also can win the day.
Regardless as to what the market does, I was reminded the whole debate might be moot after a recent conversation with a new client from Texas. He’s 50, a successful money manager, two kids out of college and one about to go. His goal is to stop working at 60 but in the meantime, make sure he stops to smell the roses here in Aspen.
As he contemplates a purchase, he’s aware it’s a seller’s market, and he’s concerned about the short-term growth potential. But he plans to put a chess piece on the board anyway because whether he makes out like gang busters on the return, the reward is time well spent with family and friends or just by himself hiking through wildflowers and melting into the mountains. So for him, the time is now, putting aside any hesitation or speculation.
Can tall trees grow to the sky? I think we all know the answer to that one as plainly as the opaque nature of a crystal ball. I guess my point is, does it really matter?
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty with 15 years of experience with buyers, sellers and investors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-948-2265.
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