October 2008

Real Estate Activity Still Slow in Pitkin County

Real Estate Activity Still Slow in Pitkin County

Real estate transactions continue to slide in Pitkin County.  Last month dollar volume was down 58% from the year before and transactions were down 52%.

According to Land Title Guarantee, who tracks the data, there were 61 transactions in September totaling $100,587,424.

The real estate industry has taken a significant hit this year, and is down 46% with a year to date dollar volume of just above $1.1 billion.  Transactions to date are at 646, which is 36% lower than 2007.

The average home price in September was $2.6 million, while the median residential price was $1.782 million according to LTG.

Of the transactions that occurred in September, 33% of them occurred in Aspen while 30% of them occurred in Snowmass Village.  Dollar volume in Snowmass Village was 38% , while Aspen captured 49% of the dollar volume.

Year to date fractional sales dollars are at $36.1 million, or down 45% compared to the same period last year. 

Posted by rebecca on October 30, 2008 in

Aspen Continues to Top the Charts

Aspen Continues to Top the Charts

Despite lower ratings from various ski magazine's this fall, Ski Magazine's latest SkiNet e-mail blast, the SnowMail newsletter with links to SkiNet.com, ranked Aspen #1 in a list of top ten ski towns.  Voters included SkiNet users and staffers, Ski and Skiing magazine editors and the Warren Miller film crew. 

According to SkiNet.com, "There would be only one place that people would go if price wasn't an issue: Aspen.  It has been and forever will be the quintessential ski town, and blew away the competition in our poll.  It has it all, Hopping nightlife: check. Top culinary delights: check. Arguably the best event in the ski world: check. Take two minutes to meander the streets of Aspen and you'll find Louis Vuitton and a ski bum sandwich shop. The juxtaposition of high and low class skiers makes for a truly unique ski town that everyone can enjoy.  Oh also: It has four resorts with some of the best skiing you can find on one ticket.  Yeah, it deserves to be number one."

We couldn't agree more...

Information for this blog was taken from The Aspen Times Staff Report, printed on Friday, October 24, 2008.


Posted by rebecca on October 27, 2008 in

Base Village props S’mass market, for now

Base Village props S’mass market, for now

Strong sales of Base Village condos have been masking a troubled Snowmass Village real estate market, which could sink even further without that buffer next year.

Excluding Base Village sales, Snowmass Village real estate sales have tumbled 60 percent to 65 percent in the last year, according to longtime local real estate agent Rick Griffin, who is also chair of the town’s Financial Advisory Board. Griffin presented his findings to Snowmass Village Town Council last week during its budget meeting, warning town leaders to tighten their belts in 2009 while both the national and local economy look uncertain.

Pulling sales data from the local Multiple Listing Service, Griffin found that there’s been a slight downward trend in condo sales over the past three years, but if you take out Base Village condo sales, only 36 condos have sold in the village from Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2008. (Griffin pointed out that this number might be a little low since the MLS does not reflect sales that don’t go through brokers.)

“The resale condo market is definitely slower than it’s been in the last two or three years,” agreed another longtime broker, Terry Griggs with Chaffin Light Real Estate.

During roughly that same time period, 66 sales were recorded in Base Village as the first buildings in the 1 million-square-foot development were completed, according to records from the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. (Though the units were pre-sold in 2005, buyers cannot actually close on their units until a certificate of occupancy is issued.)

Transactions on the 90 condos in Hayden and Capitol Peak lodges are still closing, but Base Village sales have accounted for more than $96 million so far in 2008.

But those sales do more than profit developers and Realtors; they also have accounted for more than $1 million in real estate transfer taxes to the town this year, according to a worksheet provided by the town’s finance department during last week’s budget session. RETT revenues are restricted funds, which means they can only be used to pay for certain road projects and equipment, parks and recreation and the town’s transit system.

Single-family home sales in Snowmass have slowed noticeably too, according to Griffin’s analysis. Only 30 homes have sold in the past year compared to 60 in the same time period in 2006 (and 54 in 2007). But the single-family home market may have already hit bottom, according to a recent column by William Small of Frias Luxury Real Estate in Aspen. In the column, Small argues that most of the sales have been in the past six months and prices have adjusted enough to attract more buyers.

RETT to take a dip

RETT revenues from Base Village are projected to dip by about half in 2009, to $556,000, because relatively few residential units are expected to come online next year (21, according to the latest construction schedule by developer Related WestPac).

“We’ve had a false sense of security in Base Village because Base Village has given the RETT its money in 2008,” said Griffin. “Base Village is holding up [the market] this year.”

It’s just unlucky coincidence that the slowest planned year for Base Village sales is also now looking like it will be one of the slowest years for tourism in recent memory. Town Council last week directed staff to plan for flat real estate sales rather than the usual 3 percent gain (which is considered flat by many in the local industry). Already, 2008 RETT revenues proved to be 33 percent down from 2007, which was an exceptional year for real estate valleywide.

With only one-sixth of Base Village residential units planned to be done by the end of next year, Snowmass’ RETT coffers would normally see a huge boost in 2010 and 2011, when the bulk of the 500 remaining condos are supposed to be done. The town is predicting $4.3 million and $1.2 million in RETT revenues those years from new sales in Base Village alone, according to figures provided to them from the developer. But a senior Related WestPac official recently warned town officials that the slowing economy could slow construction of the project — and therefore sales that impact town coffers.

“Base Village actually does pay for a lot of things in this village,” said Griffin, adding that during the last few red-hot real estate years, the rest of the resale market filled in any gaps — but this year and next are looking quite different.

“You have [potential] buyers who have seen a rise in prices but have seen no correction lately,” he explained. “And where they come from they see those prices correct. So they’re unwilling to spend money because they believe the prices will go down; they’re waiting on the sidelines.”

Base Village pre-sales slowing

Griffin pointed out that current Base Village closings are due to buyers who committed three years ago.

There is some evidence that pre-sales for the next Base Village offerings — the Viceroy hotel, Little Nell Snowmass and Key Collection — have cooled off as well. Related WestPac Vice President of Development Scott Stenman told the council last month that 181 units have closed or are under contract since the company bought the project in March 2007. With 66 confirmed sales in Hayden and Capitol Peak lodges this year and roughly 90 pre-sales as of mid-February in the Viceroy and Little Nell, according to a Related WestPac press release, that leaves roughly 25 units that could have been put under contract in the past eight months — just three per month. (Related WestPac officials currently refuse to discuss sales.)

But even as people seem to be putting on the brakes, brokers are optimistic about the future, and many don’t see the current downturn as any worse than the crash of the mid-’80s or the post-9/11 slump.

“My feeling is that the level of interest is very high” for Base Village, and in particular the Viceroy, said Griggs. “At the same time, right at the moment, my feeling is most people are taking a wait-and-see attitude as to what’s going to happen with the economy.”

People tend to hold off on discretionary purchases — second and third homes, in this case — “until they feel comfortable about the way things are going,” as Griggs put it.

This will be the first winter Base Village is open for business, Griffin pointed out, so the town will have extra sales tax revenue from those restaurants and retail shops that are debuting. And the town’s new commercial center is sure to create a buzz, said Griggs.

Still, both brokers pointed out that the current financial crisis highlights more than ever how linked the global economy has become — but what that means from Snowmass’ large international clientele, it’s too soon to tell.

“People forget two things,” said Griffin. “This happens every once in a while. But when it turns, the marketplace here takes off like a rocket.”

Written by Catherine Lutz, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Posted by rebecca on October 14, 2008 in

Colorado Ski Season Officially Begins on Wednesday

Colorado Ski Season Officially Begins on Wednesday

Arapahoe Basin located in Summit County, Colorado will open for the ski season on Wednesday, October 15th.  Skiers can expect an eighteen inch base on the intermediate High Noon run off the the Exhibition lift.   Sections of the terrain park will also be open. 

A-Basin, as it is called by Coloradians, has been the first ski area to open in the United States for the past 2 seasons. 

Posted by rebecca on October 13, 2008 in

Aspen Board of Realtors Fall 2008 Newsletter

Aspen Board of Realtors Fall 2008 Newsletter
AspenNew lift, two new lodges, ski museum at heart of Lift One proposal The citizen task force working on a plan for 8.5 acres at the base of Aspen Mountain is poised to recommend a plan that includes a new lift, two major hotels and a ski museum. The Lift One Neighborhood task force, appointed through the city’s COWOP process, is expected to recommend approval of the site plan within the next two weeks. The group’s recommendation to Aspen City Council is expected on Thursday, Oct. 2. Both the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning & Zoning Commission have given preliminary support for the site plan, although both boards have said their final vote will depend on more complete plans from the developers. At the center of the plan is a surface lift (disc/platter or t-bar) that would usher skiers up hill from Willoughby Park, near Deane Street, to a terminus just above a newly built Lift 1A.  Access on the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain would begin nearly three blocks closer to the heart of town. The Colorado Tramway Board would need to grant a variance for it to go ahead, but Aspen Skiing Co. officials say there is a strong argument in favor. The Lift One Lodge, on the upvalley side of Aspen Street, would operate as a fractional-ownership club. Rooms that aren’t being used by members would be available for rental to the public. The Lodge at Aspen Mountain, located between Aspen Street and Shadow Mountain, would include a standard hotel with so-called hotbeds, plus free-market units. The site plan also calls for a ski museum to be operated by the Aspen Historical Society, the old Skiers Chalet Lodge building and Willoughby Park. Voters approved use of the park for a ski museum in the 1990s. The task force is comprised of 27 members of the community, including representatives from the four principal land owners – both developers, the Aspen Skiing Co. and the City of Aspen. The group includes representatives from the surrounding neighborhood and a handful from the community at large who have no direct financial interest in the outcome. 

Aspen City Council amends Multi-Family Replacement rule

 Aspen City Council adopted changes that relax the 20-year-old law that requires developers and property owners to replace multi-family units with affordable housing when they demolish, combine or significantly redevelop condominiums and apartments that have housed local workers either in the past or present. The council adopted Ordinance 22 Series 2008 on Monday, Sept. 22. The ordinance affects condo owners in three ways:1.      It allows people to rebuild their condominiums and complexes after a so-called act of God, such as a fire or landslide, without having to fulfill the older law’s requirements;2.      It also exempts properties that are redeveloped at the behest of the government;3.      And it restores the longstanding exemption for condos that have never housed local workers. A condo that has never been occupied by a local worker can now be significantly upgraded to meet current market expectations for short-term rentals without triggering the replacement requirement. It also means side-by-side condos that have never been occupied by locals can be combined, for instance, and turned into a larger luxury unit, again without triggering the replacement housing rules. And it means that condos rebuilt because of natural disaster or government fiat are excused from the rule The matter drew a large number of people to Council Chambers for the discussion. Many believed the council was imposing new restrictions and wanted to express their outrage. Others were aware that the rule was not new, but were there to protest the existing restriction. And some were there to support the existing law. Galen Bright, the local realtor, pointed out that he has been unable to combine his condo with a neighboring unit because of the rules, even though he has lived in his unit for years. The fact that he is a worker and lives in and owns a multi-family unit means he can’t combine his unit with a neighboring unit under any circumstances, even if the neighboring unit has never been rented to a local. Planner Alan Richmond and former Mayor Bill Stirling gave their support for both the existing restrictions and the exemptions that were being reinstated with Ordinance 22. Richmond was the city planner and Stirling was the mayor at the time it was adopted. Both said it has been very effective in preserving the multi-family housing stock that was and still is home to many families in town. The City Council did agree to look at further amendments to the law after a few who testified pointed out that they had had trouble combining or upgrading units that they owned and lived in. No date was set for further amendments to be discussed. 

Project stalls over affordable housing

The Aspen Walk project stalled in front of City Council on Sept. 29 after the developer, responding to complaints over the size of the project, cut the number of affordable housing units in the proposed east end development. The Petters Real Estate Co. of Minnetoka, Minn. is seeking to develop three buildings at 404 Park Ave. and 414 Park Circle. All or most of the units currently house locals. The property at Park Circle is under the jurisdiction of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority, according to the Aspen Daily News. Petters cut four units from its original proposal, all of which would have been affordable housing units, reducing the overall size of the proposal from 44,000 square feet to 38,000. Council objected to the reduction in total units and also did not react well to a proposal from the developer to pay $982,000 into the housing program in lieu of the lost units. The developer and the city also disagreed over some of the calculations used to determine the number of employees currently housed in the properties. Another hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15. 

One-way streets to remain

The Aspen City Council has agreed to extend its experiment on the one-way thoroughfare on Galena Street to Cooper Avenue through the ski season. Council also said it would like to see parking on one side of the street restricted to small cars. Galena Street from Hopkins Avenue around the Paradise Bakery corner onto Cooper Avenue to Hunter Street was converted in June into a one-way zone in order to make way for more parking spots. The majority, or 81 percent of the businesses along the affected streets, gave a favorable response to keeping it as a one-way corridor. The main sentiment from businesses was that the city should install more signs in the area. 

Aspen goes greener

Aspen City Council directed its environmental staff to develop a plan to drastically curtail energy use among city buildings, and to ask the Pitkin County commissioners to do the same. The plan would be a version of the 2030 Challenge adopted by other cities, would tighten building codes each year so that by 2030, all buildings constructed in Aspen would be carbon-neutral. Aspen’s commercial building codes already require buildings to be 30 percent more efficient than the average home. If adopted, all buildings constructed in 2009 would have to be 50 percent more efficient than the average Aspen house. By 2010, buildings would have to meet greener standards each year until carbon neutrality is achieved in 2030. Buildings that prove less efficient than promised will be required to improve efficiency, add renewable energy production or purchase offsets through the Canary Tag program. 

Burlingame expansion requires vote

Plans to expand the number of affordable housing units at Burlingame by nearly 25 percent, to approximately 300, will require an OK from the current homeowners there. Two-thirds must agree to change the homeowner association’s covenants. Those owners include the City of Aspen, the people it has sold townhouses or land to. 


Snowmass moratorium likely for most of year, perhaps longer

The moratorium on new development applications in West Village and Snowmass Center, two key commercial areas in the Town of Snowmass Village, will likely continue until the town’s comprehensive plan and accompanying land use code amendments have been adopted. The moratorium is currently in effect until Dec. 31, 2008. It may be extended if extra time is necessary to bring the code in line with the new comp plan, a Town official told ABOR. Town officials told ABOR yesterday that the moratorium will likely be in effect until the comprehensive plan update is completed. The Comp Plan is currently under review and revision with the town’s planning commission. It is expected to go before Town Council in November. Town officials emphasized that the moratorium is narrowly focused at commercial development in West Village and Snowmass Center. Applications throughout the rest of the village and nearly all possible residential developments or redevelopment s in West Village are not affected by the moratorium. Such applications would be processed under existing land use rules. Various chapters of the Comp Plan are being reviewed for redundancies and possible consolidation, Town officials said. The Planning Commission is expected to continue work every Wednesday afternoon for the coming month. The Commission meets on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in Town Council chambers.  Scheduling for the Comp Plan review and other issues can be confirmed by calling 923-3777. 

Base Village slows with national economy

The national economic slowdown appears to be having an impact on the construction schedule of Base Village, which six months ago looked as though it would be finished two years ahead of schedule. The new timeline remains unclear. Related WestPac officials are finalizing an updated construction phasing plan. The first phase of Base Village – 90 condos as well as the first few restaurant and retail shops – is expected to debut for the winter ski season. Approximately 60 of the condos in Hayden and Capitol Peak lodges have closed, and sale prices ranged from $550,000 to $2.5 million. The Base Village parking garage, with 200 day-skier spaces, is scheduled for completion in 2009. The Viceroy hotel, when completed in early 2010, will have about 225 residential units. The completion date of the 600-unit, 1 million square foot development has been a moving target since its approval in 2004. Earlier this year, developer Related WestPac predicted it could be mostly finished by 2011, instead of the 2013 target date. 

Basalt moratorium remains in effect

The moratorium on new development applications in Basalt is likely to remain in effect for some time. It is currently authorized into March 2009. The Town government is tackling two big issues, currently – affordable housing mitigation and growth management regulations. There is still considerable work to do crafting various options for the town to consider for adoption. No public meetings are scheduled at this time. Basalt, Eagle County to cooperate on land use applicationsA new agreement with Eagle County is expected to give Basalt more influence on development just outside of town boundaries. The agreement is meant to discourage “jurisdiction shopping”, where developers submit an application to the government that has the weakest regulations. Eagle County and Basalt agreed to apply the toughest affordable-housing requirements on fringe-area developments. Once Basalt adopts new regulations on affordable housing next spring, developers will likely face stringent mitigation requirements whether they are under jurisdiction of Eagle County or the Town of Basalt. In addition, according to the Aspen Times, Eagle County will discourage urban-level commercial projects that are located outside the town’s urban growth boundary — or the area Basalt deems suitable for urban growth. Basalt planning director Susan Philp called the agreement a “good first step” in coordinating growth with Eagle County. The town already has a similar deal in place with Pitkin County. Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting said the agreement with Eagle County “is almost a historical moment” because Eagle County has been reluctant in the past to relinquish its jurisdiction authority over land use applications. 

Pitkin County

Runway extension moves forward

After years of local study, Pitkin County commissioners have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct an environmental review on a proposal to lengthen the runway at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport by up to 1,000 feet. The runway is currently 7,006 feet long. The longer runway could allow thousands of additional airline seats a year in and out of Aspen, according to consultants hired by the county airport. It could also allow nonstop flights to locations currently out of reach. Airport director Jim Elway said a longer runway would not, as some citizens fear, allow planes any larger than the current commercial fleet of 45- to 100-passenger regional jets. If the runway is lengthened anywhere from 500 to 1,000 feet, it would allow commercial planes to gain more speed and momentum before taking off on hot days. The extra speed is necessary for planes to operate an near or full capacity during the summer months when altitude and heat plus the short runway hinder their ability to carry a full load.. The FAA will review the runway extension proposal in an environmental assessment prepared under the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act. The assessment is expected to cost $880,000 to complete and the FAA will cover all but $40,000 of that, according to Elwood. 

If the county’s proposal is approved by the FAA, and the commissioners approve the runway improvements under the county’s land-use code, it could result in a $22 million project. The FAA would cover 95 percent of the project, according to Elwood.

Information courtesy of Aspen Board of Realtors.
Posted by rebecca on October 01, 2008 in

Seller's Market Dealt a Blow by Recent Economy Slump

Seller's Market Dealt a Blow by Recent Economy Slump

Many thought the Roaring Fork Valley's real estate market bubble was unpoppable despite the looming economic conditions throughout the country.  However, this year's slow economy has created a slump in real estate transactions from Aspen to Parachute.  What was once well know as being a seller's market is now slowing leaning towards the favor of the buyers.  In recent years,  typical homes were not on the market long before they were snatched up by aggressive buyers.  August proved to produce the highest dollar volume in real estate transactions this year, however, it still fell 21% below August 2007.  Total transactions for the year are down 33% and sales were down 44%.

There is speculation that the more astute buyers are waiting until asking prices are lowered, but others in the mortgage and real estate industry see the market holding current value throughout the winter and into next summer. 

The staggering numbers have caused several industry companies to scale back their operations.  Both Mason Morse and Aspen Sotheby's Internationl Realty have close their Basalt offices, and architects throughout the valley have started to consolidate. 

Some feel that the luxury high end may not be as effected by the economic down turn as buyers in that bracket are a unique customer and often come from areas and countries that may not be exposed to the current financial woes.


Information and stats gathered from Aspen Daily News. 10/1/08 by David Frey

Posted by rebecca on October 01, 2008 in