Our valley’s natural beauty and resources have drawn people for hundreds of years—from the Ute Indians to silver miners in the 1800s to today’s outdoors recreation lovers, ski bums, urban refugees, and wealthy second- (or third-) home owners. Now, whether it’s the annual Aspen Music Festival, world-renowned speakers at the Aspen Institute, outdoor concerts, vibrant nightlife, high-end boutiques, extensive trails, or unparalleled skiing, the area really does offer something for everyone. No surprise, then, that local real estate has become a billion-dollar industry.
The upper valley’s residential real estate market is on an eight-year upward trend, with 2017 seeing nearly $2 billion in sales volume and 995 transactions from Aspen to (Old) Snowmass. Basalt’s performance was strong, too, with $105.6 million in dollar volume for residential sales and 141 transactions last year.
Aspen and its immediate environs saw an average home sale price last year of $8.1 million, with 26 single-family homes selling for more than $10 million apiece. A record-setting 5 single-family homes in the same area sold for more than $20 million. And 29 vacant plots of land sold in 2017.
To handle that kind of volume, the local real estate structure has had to adjust. Small boutique offices and midsize, locally operated outfits have been acquired over the past decade by large national companies as part of an industry-wide upsizing.
Greg Rulon, a broker with Douglas Elliman, says it’s beneficial to be propped up by an international company with clientele all over the world. Moreover, real estate firms are not unique to consolidation. “In nearly every industry, if you are not big, you are gone,” he adds. “It’s what the airlines went through 15 or 20 years ago.”
All of Aspen’s neighborhoods saw dramatic increases in sales last year, proving that just about anywhere in or near the town is desirable. “There’s really no bad spot,” says Lex Tarumianz, a broker at Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty.
It’s definitely a seller’s market as inventory declines, driving up prices. Nowhere is that more true than in downtown Aspen and the West End neighborhood, where people are spending an average of $2,600 per square foot.
Basalt offers plenty of opportunity to find luxury properties around the Willits neighborhood and in outlying areas. But the real bread and butter for midvalley real estate is properties selling for less than $900,000, brokers say.
Moreover, the local market is on the cyber cutting edge—cryptocurrency made its debut this spring, when a homeowner in the exclusive gated subdivision of Starwood announced that a buyer could use Bitcoin to pay for his $5.35 million property.
So far, predictions are that this year’s real estate market will be just as strong as 2017, if not slightly better. Despite an unusually lackluster March, dollar volume in Aspen and Snowmass Village was up 19 percent in the first quarter over the same time frame last year, partly driven by sales of homes over $10 million. Total unit sales, meanwhile, ticked up 1 percent.
As Tarumianz notes, “The quality of life is just exponentially better here.” Let us take you on a tour of the upper Roaring Fork Valley’s pockets of paradise to show you why.
Randy Gold, an appraiser and residential member at Aspen Appraisal Group, provided information and source material for this article.