October saw the lowest monthly volume of real-estate sales in Aspen since December 2004 and sales this year through October are down 47 percent compared to 2007.
“It is slow,” said Ryan Anslyn, a broker with Land + Shelter Real Estate and a director at the Aspen Board of Realtors. “People are just really skittish about doing anything, even people not necessarily affected by the stock market.”
In October, all property transactions in Pitkin County added up to $86.5 million.
Sales in September were $100 million and sales in August were $160 million, which was the high water mark for the year.
The sales figures are collected and distributed by Land Title Guarantee Company of Aspen.
October may well mark the end of this decade’s remarkable real-estate bull market in Aspen. Monthly sales took off in August 2003 and hit $102 million, the first time that year that monthly sales climbed over the $100 million mark. Since then, there have been only four months, if October is included, when monthly sales volume dropped below $100 million.
In fact, since August 2003 there have been 17 months when sales added up to over $200 million and there have been three months when sales were over $300 million.
Real estate transactions so far this year in Aspen through October add up to $1.2 billion.
Last year ended with $2.2 billion in sales, while 2006 saw $2.1 billion, 2005 saw $1.9 billion and 2004 saw $1.4 billion.
Back in 2003, annual real-estate sales amounted to $897 million.
The number of transactions this year, at 714, is down 37 percent against 2007, when there were 1,140 units sold.
The real-estate sales figures do not include about $450 million worth of fractional units put under contract in Aspen and Snowmass over the past several years, as those sales will not be finalized until the projects are completed.
Craig Scott, a broker with Mason and Morse, and also a director at the Aspen Board of Realtors, estimates that the Viceroy project in Snowmass Village has $113 million worth of fractional units under contract.
In Aspen, the Dancing Bear has $66 million under contract, the Limelight has $92 million and the Residences at Little Nell may have as much as $180 million under contract, according to Scott’s estimates.
Those transactions are not expected to close until later this year or next spring, depending on when the projects are finished and ready for owners to use.
And given the credit crunch, there are questions about whether some buyers will be able to close on those deals, which were likely entered into before the current financial turmoil started in August.
According to Land Title Guarantee Co., there have been $42 million worth of final “interval sales” through October. Last year, there were $76 million in interval sales. And in 2006, there were $161 million in interval sales.
Real-estate brokers tend to be optimistic and Craig Scott is able to see the upside in the market slowdown.
“The current market presents one of the best buying opportunities that we’ve seen since 9/11,” he said. “If you have cash, and you’ve missed out in the past, call your favorite Realtor.”
The figures from Land Title Guarantee Co. actually show a 15 percent increase in the median price of a single family home in Aspen this year compared to last year, rising from $3.6 million to $4.1 million.
However, both Scott and Anslyn said the figures were being skewed by a relatively low level of activity but a few big sales, including a home in Snowmass Village that sold for $36.4 million.
Scott said that some prices in Aspen are indeed falling.
He pointed to a 5,326-square-foot home on Silverlode Drive on the lower flank of Smuggler Mountain that went under contract Thursday. It was originally listed for $7.9 million in February and reduced in price to $7.5 million in August. By October, the house was down to $6.5 million and then the price dropped on Nov. 11 to $5.8 million, which it then sold for this week.
“This person wanted to sell, and it was priced correctly, and therefore there was a buyer,” Scott said.
On the other hand, Anslyn at Land + Shelter has seen a lot of listings that did not sell taken off the market recently, presumably until market conditions improve.
“It is definitely quieter now,” said Anslyn, who is slated to become the president of the 720-member Aspen Board of Realtors in 2010. “But I think it is going to be busy again next spring or summer, after we have a great season with heaps of snow and a new (presidential) administration has settled in. Our market long-term is fantastic.”