Finicky buyers; Pitkin County real estate sales volume down 33 percent |

Finicky buyers; Pitkin County real estate sales volume down 33 percent

The dollar volume of real estate sales in Pitkin County dropped again in May compared to 2008 and real estate agents said they don’t expect a dramatic turnaround this summer.

May isn’t a particularly busy month, even during the boom times, so real estate agents weren’t surprised or alarmed by slow activity, especially in the recession. Sales fell by 44 percent to $64.48 million from $114.38 million in May 2008, according to a report released Wednesday by Land Title Guarantee Co. The dollar volume of sales has fallen each month this year compared to 2008 – and that wasn’t a good year.

Through May, the total dollar volume of all real estate sales in Pitkin County was $407.69 million compared to $607.90 million at the same point last year, according to Land Title Guarantee Co.’s report. That equates to a drop of about 33 percent.

“I don’t see a perceptible change through the summer,” said Chuck Frias, owner of Frias Properties. “There’s nothing out there to suggest anything is turning.”

The Aspen real estate market follows the national equity markets up or down, Frias said. And until the uncertainty and fear about the national economy disappears, he expects slow activity in the Aspen real estate market.

The summer months are typically among the busiest in the Aspen real estate market. Showings haven’t dropped as much as sales, but prospective buyers aren’t willing to pull the trigger at the prices the sellers are seeking, he said.

Craig Morris of Morris and Fyrwald Real Estate said that Aspen’s peak prices from two years ago remain on the minds of too many sellers. They have been slow to react to the realities of today’s market.

“There’s still a ton of inventory out there priced at the 2007 level,” he said.

For a long time, it was “safe” for sellers to over price properties because there was such a high level of appreciation that the market would soon catch up, Morris said. That is no longer true today. The properties that are selling are at prices generally 20 to 40 percent off the peak period of 2007 and early 2008, he said.

More than 40 single-family homes and condominiums in Aspen have sold for $3 million or more this year so far. The asking price was reduced at least once on 80 percent of those residences, Morris said.

“This market is moving. Unfortunately, it’s been moving backwards for a while,” he said.

Many sellers aren’t willing to sell at the prices the market is dictating. As a result, the number of transactions has plummeted 25 percent this year. The inventory is double to triple what it has typically been in the last decade, depending on the market segment, Morris said.

There are a few bright spots in the market, such as the Maroon Creek Club. Morris said a house he had listed for $6.95 million was placed under contract within two weeks of going on the market. There were three legitimate interested parties. The sale is scheduled to close this month.

Two other houses in the Maroon Creek Club are under contract at $15.5 million and $13 million.

“Properties that are priced accurately stand a good chance of selling” despite the condition of the national economy, Morris said.

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