Scott Bayens: Snow days … and selling insanity
I think it’s fair to say many of us in these parts were a bit irritated and a little nervous as we bid the first month of the year goodbye and shifted into February. After a late start, feet not inches of the white stuff arrived just in time for the holidays, but was followed by nearly six weeks of beautiful, sunny and unusually dry weather. We got a dusting or two, but no major storms, no big dumps. Aspen Skiing Co. did a great job of moving it all around and making it last as long as they could, but it was thin and fast last week.
Tourists the world over come to indulge in our powder and locals moved here to play in it every chance they can get. Those flakes are also crucial to our economy, which of course is solely dependent on Mother Nature. We who live here in the West have sadly learned to expect drought, fear the coming fire season and understand how snowpack (or lack of) at 12,000 feet impacts so many things months later including agriculture, our fisheries and river recreation.
So this week, after this unwelcome respite, we were delighted by the miracle of snow. Back in the day, it was sacrilege to go to the office when the “six-inch rule” was in effect. It was just the norm for local businesses to tape a handwritten sign on the door on powder days that said “gone skiing”. Work could wait, first tracks and face shots had to be consumed immediately.
This week, many who thought it might be over or missed the first few rounds, got their chance to get their own face full. Snow pants replaced business casual at the office and some just played hooky. COVID has certainly taught us not to miss what we used to take for granted.
Those of us in the local realty game who did manage to open a laptop last week and check the hot sheet, likely noticed 10 significant sales in Aspen Snowmass since the first of February. Those 10 properties ranged in price from $10 million to $41 million. That’s right, 10 homes, three weeks, representing more than $166 million of inventory. Top of the leaderboard was Four Peaks Ranch in Old Snowmass.
When it came to market more than three years ago, this impressive compound was priced just shy of $60 million. Encompassing more than 850 acres, the property commands spectacular views of the Elk Mountain Range. Behind the gates sits a 18,000-square-foot home featuring seven beds, 11 baths, an infinity edge pool and three-car garage. Add a stocked fish pond with its own beach and cabana. Fit for a king, even Diddy and his entourage stayed there.
But at the end of the day, these are just roofs over heads, folks; you know, bedroom here, kitchen over there, and bathroom to your left. Truth is, we’re way beyond what makes sense. In some cases, buyers are paying twice as much as they would have two years ago. There’s an active conversation among brokers and on the street around the question of where all this money is coming from. And this in a town where wealth is no stranger to our daily experience.
There are more than 800 active brokers between Glenwood and Aspen right now. At least 10% of those entered the trade last year. In a market where everyone’s got a buyer and there are 10 offers for every seller, there’s no way some of that young blood won’t flame out. For those who’ve been in the biz for decades or more, many are finding this might be a good time to hang it up. Bottom line is, the landscape is ripe for change and clearly in flux.
Case in point, a mortgage broker I work with invited me to coffee last week. Turns out, she wanted to hear how business is shaping up so far this year as she finds herself with more time and fewer loans to close. The shift is related to rising interest rates, of course, and the fact so many re-financed when APRs were so favorable. She’s not concerned yet, but clearly she has more time on her hands.
If she’s smart, she’ll use the time to head out for a skin, a hike or a pedicure. The business of buying and selling is 24/7 and many find it difficult to break away from the battle, me included.
I honestly think a good many of us, and not just those in the world of real estate, would benefit from a bit of a breather right about now. Or at least a reset. And some I know are doing just that.
Life is short, time is precious and there are only so many powder days in a season.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him at AspenDreamhome.com.