By Brent Gardner-Smith, Jan 2, 2008, Aspen Daily News

For Aspen’s gold-plated economy to continue to purr along in 2008, thousands of wealthy people will need to once again decide to build or buy large expensive Homes, entertain lavishly in those homes, purchase luxury goods such as jewelry and art, and continue to spend freely in the local resort marketplace.

While there are signs that some Americans may now be hesitating before making such decisions, there may be other off-setting factors, including the fact that even Aspen’s real estate prices may now look like a bargain to European consumers.

Designing, approving, building, selling, buying, maintaining and using large luxury homes in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County is the main economic engine of the Roaring Fork Valley.
And one of the leading indicators for that sector of the economy is real estate sales.

It appears as if 2007 will have produced the second largest sum of real estate sales in Pitkin County, just behind 2006. In 2006, a record $2.4 billion worth of real estate in Pitkin County changed hands.

Through November 2007, there was $2.3 billion in real estate sales recorded, according to Land Title Guarantee Co.

And it appears as if 2008 might bring a slight chill to the local market, which is still very robust, if not surreal.

Consider that just five years ago, the amount of annual real estate sales in Pitkin County was “only” $1.2 billion.

“We’ve seen a weakening in the numbers of sales and in dollar volumes compared to where we were in 2006,” said Randy Gold, the president and owner of Aspen Appraisal Group Ltd., who recently completed a year end analysis of the Aspen and Snowmass Village real estate markets. “2006 will probably remain the record year, but so what? It doesn’t mean that 2007 was bad and it doesn’t mean the 2008 will be bad.”

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