Real Estate Volume Down 41% as Market Looks for Equilibrium

Real Estate Volume Down 41% as Market Looks for Equilibrium

By Curtis Wackerle

The month of June illustrates the staggering drop-off in Pitkin County’s real estate market.

In June 2006, the total dollar volume of real estate sales in Pitkin County was $374.5 million, the highest monthly local sales volume in the last five years and likely of all time. This June, however, sales were at $63 million, according to the latest figures from the Land Title Guarantee Company. 

Compared to 2008, the month of June was off 41.4 percent, bringing year-to-date sales to $471.4 million, or 34 percent below last year’s total at the end of June. At this pace, Pitkin County total sales volume for 2009 will dip below $1 billion for the first time in years, after peaking at $2.63 billion in 2006.

Since January and February of this year, which saw inflated numbers thanks to many closings at once on fractional properties such as the Dancing Bear and Residences at Little Nell, month over month real estate sales bottomed out at 52 percent below the previous year in March and have seen modest increases every month since.

The numbers gel with the analysis of local real estate broker Gary Feldman, who is managing partner at Joshua and Co. Feldman said the Aspen market is coming back to a new equilibrium after the “frenetic” and “unsustainable” pace of 2003 through 2008. 

“[The numbers] aren’t surprising,” Feldman said. “A market can’t sustain that kind of appreciation.” That five-year hyper bull market was unique even to the traditionally strong Aspen market, he said.

Nevertheless, Feldman said things are steadily improving, referencing this month’s $42 million single-family home sale, which is not reflected in the latest Land Title report. 

“It’s definitely a good time to be a buyer,” said Feldman, adding that “sellers are starting to become more realistic in their expectations.

“It seems we’re just kicking around the bottom of the market right now,” Feldman said.

Pitkin County’s 36 percent decline year over year is also the lowest in the five county reporting area — comprising Eagle, Garfield, Summit, Routt and Pitkin counties — surveyed by Land Title.

“What everyone needs to know is that Aspen real estate is not falling off a cliff,” Feldman said.

There were 47 transactions in June, which is consistent with the previous three months. Year-to-date transactions are down 26.9 percent, according to the Land Title report. Near the peak of the boom in January of 2006, there were 226 transactions.

The average price for a single-family home sold in 2009 in all of Pitkin County is $4.4 million, down from $5.1 million one year ago. The Aspen average is $5.3 million, down from $6.1 last year. Basalt’s average has dipped to $835,000 from $1.9 million one year ago.