There’s been a significant uptick in Aspen real estate activity in the past three weeks with a number of important closings that buyers will be using as pricing benchmarks, Aspen brokers, however, have been relatively hush and quiet about these deals for fear of both jinxing them and driving away prospective buyers when the “under contract, taking back-ups” phrase is uttered.

Many of these “under contracts” have not been entered into the Aspen MLS (Multiple Listing Service) at the seller’s written request. Reason? If the property shows up in the MLS as under contract, activity on the property will stop because as soon as brokers hear a property is under contract, why bother showing it even if “taking back-ups” is the reality? Why waste the buyer’s time if its already spoken for; why risk falling in love if the girl’s already taken?

Based on anecdotal evidence, it’s estimated there are probably 5-10 Aspen and Snowmass properties presently legally under contract but not reflected as such in the Aspen MLS at the seller’s request.This represents a sizable increase in Aspen real estate activity that is not being accurately represented in the marketplace – under contracts represent the market in real time – and while it may serve the seller’s best interest, this inaccuracy distorts the actual buyer energy that is out there. It is happening…Deals are getting written, buyers are stepping up, sellers are making concessions and the real scream’in deals are disappearing. There are only so many and the savvy buyer know this.

Why are buyers stepping up? I think there’s starting to be some recognition that Aspen and Snowmass Village may have hit bottom. And even if we continue to scrape bottom for the next few months, the discounts can’t get much better than what we are starting to see consistently. Namely, Aspen properties are selling at an approximate 25-40% discount to their original list price from more than a year ago, and that generally, a 30% discount from the original list price a year or more older is what it takes to close a deal. And buyers are suggesting “If the market continues to fall, I can live with an incremental drop of say 5-10% more, but I feel pretty secure that we are close, if not at, the bottom. It can’t get much worse than it is at present.”

On new Aspen homes – spec homes, developer inventory, etc- more and more deals are closing at $900 – $1,000 sq ft. Of course, there are many exceptions, but they are for unique properties and circumstances that justify higher prices and/or for exceptional quality properties that are simply perceived to be – and are in fact – worth more.

On that note, the official Aspen MLS properties that have sold and gone under contract in the past week appear below. But, as I’ve said, there is a lot more activity going on than these numbers suggest.

(2) Closed: 109296, 113030 ( $18.5MM ). This link is valid until 10/13/2009.

(6) Under Contract: 108877, 109490, 110338, 110138, 109634, 108798. This link is valid until 10/13/2009.