Real estate booming in Aspen | VailDaily.com

Real estate booming in Aspen

Scott Condon

The Aspen real estate market has been on fire for the past 12 months and is probably on pace for a record-setting performance in 2004, say some longtime real estate agents.The first half of the year is usually a quiet time for the local real estate industry but, as they have in Eagle County, sales have sizzled so far. Transactions in the Roaring Fork Valley through the Aspen Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service have topped $652 million already in 2004. The record of $1.2 billion in sales was established in 2000.With the traditionally busiest months of the year still to come, real estate agents expect the record to fall. “We’re definitely on a record pace. There’s no way around it,” said Bob Ritchie, a partner in Coates, Reid and Waldron.Ritchie said he had a gut feeling that sales have been on a torrid pace since last July so he had his assistant crunch some numbers to compare. For the 12-month period ending June 2004, sales through the Aspen MLS hit $1.31 billion. That’s up 69 percent from the 12-month period that ended June 2003, according to Ritchie’s data.He labeled the 12 months between July 2002 and June 2003 “the deadest period” ever for Aspen real estate in recent times.”This is one of the most significant market turnarounds we have ever experienced,” he said.So what has changed? “I think people are feeling better about the economy and worse about living in the city,” said Rich Wagar, the owner of the Aspen real estate company bearing his name.The latest surge in activity will send prices soaring, predicted Ritchie. Over the last year, the average sale price of 105 single-family homes sold in Aspen was $3.65 million – an increase of just 4 percent from the prior 12-month period, he said.But now that property is moving again, sellers are starting to jack up their asking price. A “significant” price appreciation that is a normal part of the cycle is yet to come, he said.Luxury homes were selling for $850 to $900 per square foot until recently, according to Ritchie. Now prices are “moving toward” $1,200 to $1,300 per square foot, he said.”It’s really sticker shock for the luxury home buyer right now,” said Ritchie.Frias agreed that appreciation will probably be strong, especially among the best and newest products. But only those buyers who are “uneducated” about the Aspen market will suffer sticker shock, he said.