Market Comments from Wendalin Whitman
“Lies, damned lies, and statistics….”
The phrase was popularized in the United States
by Mark Twain (among others), who attributed
it to the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli:
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
The Aspen Board of Realtors recently reported this year’s first quarter sales as lower than the same quarter last year, giving the impression of a slowdown throughout Aspen. But is that really the complete picture? My “on the ground” analysis is that the lack of sales OUTSIDE of the Aspen Core, compared to last year, generates an overall statistical appearance of a 30-40% cooling in Aspen. Though Aspen is small, it is important to be aware that each of its distinct areas has its own market weather system. The Aspen Core and West End are experiencing a significant lack of inventory in certain price ranges. There is little to nothing currently for sale in either area under $6 million. Those sales that are occurring in the Core and West End are closing at record price points. Sales in the last few months have broken through the $2,800 per square foot barrier. There have been more sales at or above $3,000 per square foot in these areas in the past few months than there were at the height of the overall market in 2017.
The following MLS links will take you directly to some surprising sales since December 1, 2018.
MLS #157699: This historic Victorian close to Lift 1A sold for $3,396 per square foot. While it is an exceptional location at the base of the ski hill and near the Lift 1A expansion project, this home was still in need of a full renovation.
MLS #147411 and MLS #147414: This small lot on the busy corner of Bleeker and Monarch behind the Hotel Jerome was a duplex design with both sides selling for $2,400 and $2,600 per square foot, respectively. While that is below the $2,800-$3,000 price per square foot discussed above, it is still an exceptional price for a duplex located on a high-traffic corner with a large percentage of its living space below grade.
The Aspen Core condo market is also seeing high sales prices due to a real lack of inventory and little to be found under $1,400 per square feet. Further, most if not all the inventory at that price point requires renovation. Newly renovated condominiums in a good location are achieving very strong sale prices. Our firm sold a newly renovated Chateau Chaumont condominium (next to the new W Hotel) for a record square foot price for that building, $2,289 per square foot. However, this was reasonable in comparison to the sales of other renovated condos in other Aspen Core buildings. For example, two recent sales at the North of Nell building at the base of the mountain went for $2,906 and $2,782 per square foot. Those are also record sales at the North of Nell, yet each needed a complete renovation.
MLS #156248 is the Chateau Chaumont sale.
The Red Mountain market, on the other hand, is very quiet. Like the Aspen Core and West End, there is a lack of inventory; however, I believe what is available is priced very strong. Unlike the Aspen Core and West End, the lack of inventory is not forcing Buyers to come up to seller pricing levels at this point. We will have to wait to see if the Sellers will come down or the Buyers will come up. I predict the former for homes that need renovations on Red Mountain. I believe Buyers will step up to pricing for newly renovated or brand new inventory.
The areas in Aspen that are struggling, continue to be those outside the S-curve. Buying opportunities abound if a Buyer is willing to shop in Starwood, Castle Creek, or any areas that require leaving town over the bridge down valley. We are seeing the return of some auctions in these areas, a rarity since the recovery from the banking crisis. The MLS links below sold for less than $1,000 per square foot.
Note this Auction sale MLS #152590, which ended up selling for $11 million at $779 per square foot.
It is hard to generalize Aspen’s market conditions except during a significant national crisis or recession. Even then, Aspen’s micro areas perform differently. Even shortly after the banking crisis, while much of Aspen’s real estate market was certainly depressed, there were buildings and homes in certain locations that sold at record prices. In order to understand Aspen’s real estate market, it is imperative to look at each of its areas individually and carefully. I believe today’s Aspen residential Buyer is focused on convenience to downtown. The larger homes and estates outside the Aspen Core or West End will continue to languish. The exception to this, I believe, will be the new homes currently under construction or recently finished on Red Mountain and, especially, Willoughby Way. Those areas will continue to sell for record prices as they remain convenient to the Core.
Aspen continues to be a tough and competitive place to buy if you want three or four bedrooms and proximity to the Core. Check out this historic ski chalet past the East End of town that went under contract in just eight days. See also the Aspen Club townhome that went under contract in four days. This is despite both properties needing renovations. These sales support the notion that, while some areas are a bit cool, some sectors are just hotter than ever. If you would like to discuss my market thoughts in further detail, please call me at my office or on my cell.