The info in this weekly blog, with the exception of my opinions, is generally available to the public from a number of sources but disseminated here at a single location. It’s my intention to report the significant week’s activity but not everything. Quality and accuracy over quantity and hype. For specific buying and selling decisions, and/or market information relevant to your needs, please email or call me directly.

On Misleading Pricing Data

Over the March 1st weekend, the WSJ had a small article in its Heard on the Street’ section titled “Signs of Rot in Big Apple Property”. It explains the likely reason why median Manhattanprices (read Aspen) have remained stubbornly high making it appear that the NYC real estate market has been more resilient to the economic downturn than it really is.

That is a facade… median pricing info is gathered on a rolling 12 month to month basis resulting in a price lag that doesn’t reflect current pricing even though in the past year Manhattan transaction volume – like that of Aspen – is off an abysmal 45-50%.

Last week, I posted Land Title’s Jan 2009 Pitkin County Real Estate Summary and Raw Data in which Aspen’s single family average and median prices show big increases from a year ago:
– Average single family home price for 2009 is $5,652,528 up 10% from 2008 (full year).
– Median single family home price is $6,237,500, up 52% from 2008 (full year).

But these numbers account for the past 12 months activity and cleverly mask present 1st Quarter 2009 market realities. The Universe, and that includes Aspen as well, has fundamentally changed in the past 4 months, but Land Title’s numbers indicate otherwise. Do we – brokers, appraisers, sellers, buyers – really want to wait a full year to accept what the market is telling us right now?

For example, the well known $37.5M Snowmass home purchase last May ’08 by a Russian oligarch continues to be factored into these average and median price figures. And it won’t be until May 2009 that that particular sale is no longer included within Pitkin County average sale and median sale figures. Does one think that purchase doesn’t skew prices upwards significantly?

Few real estate professionals in the Aspen market explain this, choosing only to recite Land Title $ numbers without qualification, resulting in perpetuating a myth of increasing, or sustained, values.

The result: sellers are resistant to lowering prices when propped up by inaccurate current pricing information; buyers – and they ARE out there – are resistant to stepping up to make offers and would rather wait until prices “get real”; deals don’t happen; product doesn’t move. The stand-off continues and one might argue that it’s the ‘professionals’fault because dated pricing info is what everyone’s clinging to and parroting.

Although there’s been an incremental increase in activity this Feb. over Jan.and Dec., see the past week’s Market Activity below, overall our market is stalled similar to other high end real estate areas (refer to Section: Aspen Real Estate Archives/2009 Other Articles of Interest).

While no property owner wants to hear values are down, it is only when our marketplace starts to acknowledge what’s really happening with prices – that they are falling with downward momentum increasing as evidenced by the daily barrage of price decreases in the local Aspen REALTORS b2b and recent closings at significant discounts to list price – that transaction activity will start to increase, an indication of the market stabilizing and returning to health.

Market Activity week of Feb 22- March 1, 2009
There are additional properties that went under contract the week of Feb 15th, fell out and then went under again last week Feb 22 – Mar 1st. See Feb. 15th week for those details. By mid-week,

(3) Closed

  • MLS # 108312 – Capitol Peak Lodge/Snowmass Base Village Condo. Ask price $2.75M; Sold price $$2.1M ($1,402 sq ft, -31% off ask). 3 Bdrm/3 Bath,1,498 sq ft, Built 2008.
  • MLS # 108711 – Crestwood #1220 Condo, 400 Wood Rd, Snowmass.Ask price $1.595M; Sold price $1.325M ($1,314 sq ft, – 17% off ask) Ski in/ski out, 2 bdrm/2 Bath, 1,008 sq ft, beautifully remodeled 2008
  • MLS # 108874 – 229 W. Hallam, West End Aspen Victorian single family home. Ask $4.975M; Sold price $3.8M ($1,184 sq ft, – 24% off ask). Charming remodeled Victorian in easy walking distance to downtown, school and parks.

(3) Pending/Under Contract

  • MLS #106387 – 610 S. Riverside Ave., East End of Aspen. Ask price $13.75M ($2,545 sq ft). 4 Bdrm/6 Ba, 5401 sq ft. Unique and beautiful Mission Style Home with combined on the river river, Aspen Mountain view property and walking distance to downtown.
  • MLS # 108491 – 144 Magnifico Rd, Pitkin Green/Base of Red Mountain, Aspen. Ask price $13.95M ($1,828 sq. ft.). 5 Bdrm/6 Bath, 7,603 sq ft.Red Mtn home with big, close-in to town views. I believe these two +$13M purchases – or trades? – are related to one another.
  • MLS # 107457 – 606 S. Starwood Dr, Aspen. Ask price $2.995M.($1,017 sq. ft.).3 Bdrm/2 Bath, 2,945 sq ft. Remodeled and promoted as “Best Aspen Deal under $3M” with views and big redevelopment rights for the lot as extra security.