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Real estate continues to skid in Aspen, Jackson Hole

Brief by Allen Best

Economy – September 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

The real estate skid continues in mountain towns. Sales reports from June document continued sluggishness in the Aspen and Jackson Hole markets, at least when compared to the previous three years. Sales volume in total dollars was about half of what it was going into the Fourth of July weekend last year.

Prices are dropping in some market segments, but not all. The highest end has survived rather well.

In Aspen and Pitkin County, the dollar volume this year has dropped fifty percent through June as compared with last year, reports the Land Title Guarantee Co. This sends the Aspen market back only to 2004 levels.

Some sellers are still asking higher prices, real estate agents tell The Aspen Times, but the appreciation has slowed. “We don’t have 20 percent appreciation right now,” said Robert Ritchie, a broker with the firm of Coates, Reid and Waldron. “We still have (appreciation), but it’s in the single digits.”

In Jackson Hole, total sales volume was down 46 percent through June. Overall, the median home price of sales grew less than 2 percent, to $1.2 million.

But the report from real estate analyst David Veihman, cited in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, painted a picture of a strongly bifurcated market. The higher-end market, which accounts for 60 percent of Jackson Hole’s activity, continues to do reasonably well. One set of “golf cabins” are getting $4 million.

In what Veihman calls the “locals segment,” of $1 million and less, sales are down 60 percent. Some lower-end properties were overpriced by as much as 30 percent, he said.

As has been reported in Aspen, some in Jackson Hole expect the ranks of real-estate agents to thin. “You can’t support 800 Realtors on 131 residential sales,” observed broker Greg Prugh.

Still, Prugh sees this as a good thing. “I just think sellers are coming back to earth a bit, and that keeps the market healthy,” he told the newspaper.

How soon will the good old days return? Some faint hope for recovering sales this summer seems to exist, but Bob Starodoj, an agent who has worked in Aspen for more than forty years, believes the record real estate volume of $2.4 billion established in 2006 is safe for now -and into the future. “It’s probably never going to be repeated,” he told the Times somewhat ominously.