For anyone hoping to summer in Aspen but has yet to secure a rental, the barrier to entry — assuming one is able to score one of the few remaining vacancies — is about $20,000 per 1,000 square feet per month.
A search for summer listings in Aspen, most of which have already been rented and are no longer available, reveals as much: A 1,238-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment near Lift 1A listed for $26,000 a month. A 975-square-foot, two-bedroom unit downtown along the Roaring Fork River asking for $20,000 per month. A 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom condo on Original Street listed for $18,000 monthly.
“It’s not a typo or a one-off thing,” Ian McLendon, a broker with Sotheby’s, quipped. “That’s what landlords are getting now for these places.”
Aspen’s summer rental market is, without question, among the most expensive real estate in the U.S. While real estate prices in cities like New York and San Francisco once rivaled that of Aspen, that won’t be the case this summer. Among the few areas with seemingly comparable property values are destinations like the Hamptons, which experienced a similar urban exodus as Aspen over the past year.
As all signs across industries suggest that Aspen is in for its busiest summer in recent memory, if not ever, real estate is no exception.
“July [availability] is all gone,” Angi Wang, a broker with Setterfield & Bright, said Friday. “There’s really nothing left in July; July is going to be crazy. Our summer is going to be insane, actually.”
A Vrbo search Friday for rentals in Aspen during July showed “only 9% of properties” left. A search of homes in the Hamptons revealed the same figure.
Driving an overwhelming demand to be in Aspen this summer — which is only further compounded by a limited supply of inventory — is a number of pandemic-related factors.
Aspen broker Brittanie Rockhill, who works with Douglas Elliman, started booking clients’ rental properties last summer for this summer. Echoing Wang, she said, “July has been sold out for months, and the prices are reflecting the lack of inventory and the high demand.”
The demand for rentals this summer is mirroring that of the residential sales market, she said. In 2020, real estate sales records were broken — and then broken again — amid an unprecedented year that saw north of $3 billion in property sales. This translates to the rental market, Rockhill explained, “because people are actually in the properties that they own here, so we have fewer rental properties available, and demand is through the roof.”
In other words, most transplants, whether buyers or renters, haven’t left.
“The lack of inventory, I think, is because a lot of the people who came for temporary purposes for COVID have decided to stay longer term,” Wang said. What started as a six-month lease for a rental was extended to a year, and so on and so forth, she said.
Who exactly are the summer renters?
By and large, the same clientele from the same destinations as before the pandemic: Predominantly New York, L.A., Texas and Florida, followed by areas such as the Pacific Northwest and Chicago.
“I don’t see the feeder markets having changed significantly,” said Etta McLendon, also a broker with Sotheby’s. “It’s just more people coming for longer.”
Naturally, the ability to work remotely in the era of COVID opened the floodgates for myriad professions to get the same job done from an idyllic mountain resort instead of a cubicle. A number of brokers noted a specific influx locally of people who work in tech, as well as “digital nomads.”
What Aspen’s newest crop of residents — be it homeowners or renters — also are doing is recruiting their friends, family and even co-workers from “home” to come to Aspen.
“Investment bankers, hedge fund guys, with [their] families, they just feel super-secure here,” Ian McLendon said. “They’re surrounded by other high-net worth individuals, like-minded people doing similar things, and a lot of them are in business with one another. I feel like they just come in pods of people. That’s certainly been the case with some of our tenants, you know, ‘we came because so-and-so came from our office,’ and it was just kind of a natural move.”
And once they do arrive, he added, “They’re just blown away by everything Aspen has to offer from a lifestyle standpoint.”
The same can be said of the friends and families of Aspen's newcomers, brokers said.
“The people who did spend time here during COVID for the first [summer] have decided that it’s a great place to be,” Wang said, “and they’ve told all of their friends about it, or they want their families to come with them or to visit with them.”
Seeing the time, effort and great lengths people go to be in Aspen, Rockhill concluded, “makes me even more grateful that I get to call this place home.”