Aspen real estate prices lower than most wealthy resorts

by Bill Small, Aspen Daily News Columnist
As the Aspen real estate market continues its recovery, we’re starting to see solid sales prices again for prime real estate properties. The final quarter of 2012 was the most active in terms of total volume since the final quarter of 2006, reaching about $481 million in sales. Although the first quarter of 2013 has started off slow, overall market trends in terms of volume and pricing are improving. 

In the past year, Aspen has seen several prime residential sales that have pushed prices solidly above $2,000 per square foot. Back in August of 2012, a 7,874-square-foot home sold on Red Mountain for $17.3 million, or about $2,200 per square foot. Last month, a 3,049-square-foot penthouse sold in the new 625 Main Street project for $7.5 million, just shy of $2,500 per square foot. Although the Aspen market has seen higher prices per square foot, like at the end of the last real estate boom in 2007 and 2008, these recent sales may be the first signs of higher prices to come, particularly since the inventory of newer homes continues to decline.

Aspen is among a number of real estate markets around the world that attract the investment dollars of the super wealthy. The Aspen market, as well as other key markets around North America and Europe, is influenced by the capital flow of international buyers.

These buyers are seeking safe markets, both financially and physically, and markets with exceptional lifestyles. The top markets fall into two categories — larger gateway cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, Vancouver and Zurich, and resort markets such as Monaco, Meribel, Sardinia, St. Barts, Couchevel, Chamonix, Val d’Isere, Verbier, St. Moritz, Gstaad, St. Tropez and Aspen. Recent surveys show that these are some of the top markets for wealthy international buyers.

It’s interesting to compare the price of Aspen real estate to some of the other major markets around the world. Aspen has seen little upward price appreciation in recent years. In 2012, Aspen saw the first signs of property appreciation with just under a 1 percent gain in values. Many other major international markets, however, saw significant real estate appreciation ranging from 5 to 20 percent in just the past 12 months. Some of the top markets for real estate appreciation last year were cities like Miami, where values increased 19.1 percent; London, where values were are up 12.1 percent; Moscow, where values increased 9.8 percent; and Vancouver, where price appreciation reached 10.4 percent.

Another interesting comparison benchmark is the price per square foot paid in other markets. Although Aspen has recently experienced price-per-square-foot values reaching $2,000 to $2,500, this is significantly less than other key international markets around the globe.

Currently, the most expensive international real estate markets are Hong Kong and Monaco, where prime properties sell from $4,800 to $5,400 per square foot. The next tier is in European cities and resorts, such as London, Courchevel, St. Moritz, Gstaad and St. Tropez, where prime real estate sells for $3,500 to $4,000 per square foot. Following these areas are markets such as Cannes, Sardinia, Val d’Isere, Lake Cumo, Meribel, Chamonix and Verbier where properties sell between $2,000 and $2,500 — just slightly higher than average Aspen prices. Although real estate prices in Aspen may seem high for most Americans, in comparison to other popular markets for international wealthy buyers, Aspen still looks like a relative bargain. 


William Small, JD, CCIM is managing director of Frias Investment Advisors, a division of Frias Properties of Aspen that specializes in advising investors and owners of investment real estate. If you’re interested in receiving his monthly reports, you can reach him at (970) 429-2419 or email him at bill@friasproperties.com.