The “big news,” said Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Aspen broker Tim Estin, “is the dramatic fall off in activity for the month of February compared to the prior month and the prior year.” Estin’s monthly analysis found just 14 real estate sales in the upper valley in February 2012, totaling $30.65 million. That’s compared to 23 sales of $105 million in February 2011, and 23 sales of $80.61 million in January 2012. It was the weakest February in the last four years since the economic downturn began in terms of dollar volume…Despite positive national economic news and building consumer confidence, Estin guessed that there were three main culprits for the February drop-off: lack of snow locally, the specter of a Greek default continuing global uncertainty, and Wall Street bonuses for 2011 being down by 20 to 30 percent.
By Catherine Lutz, March 11, 12, ABJ
Aspen, CO Real Estate .—January 2012 real estate sales were up a solid 15 percent over the same month in 2012, but what appeared to be a strong head start to activity fizzled in February.
Pitkin County saw nearly $97 million worth of real estate sale in January 2012, according to a report by Land Title Guarantee Company. It was the highest volume since January 2009, when $64 million worth of Residences at Little Nell closings fueled a $116 million month.
But the 55 transactions recorded this January was a 29 percent decrease from the 78 sales in January 2011, according to Land Title. It was the second-lowest number of sales in the last six years, after January 2010, which had 49 sales.
What those diverging statistics signal to broker Galen Bright is that “there were more larger sales than small sales, not necessarily prices going up” in January.
Bright, a broker with Setterfield and Bright, said that he currently has more clients looking in the higher prices ranges than in the past, when much of his clientele were looking for condos in the under $2 million range.
“What I see selling is still the special and unique; people can buy a high-end property for a discount but it’s still a very high-end property,” he said. On the other end of the scale in Aspen, “there is still a lot of inventory at the lower end but the better values are beginning to sell.”
That kind of demand signals a recovery in the Aspen condo market. And in Basalt, Bright said he’s seeing a lot of sales in the lower price ranges. While many of those are bank sales, he said, it’s a sign that buyers are recognizing values to be had in Basalt and that the market is moving through its distressed inventory.
An analysis of upper Roaring Fork Valley residential sales this January compared to last January using the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) tells a different story than the Land Title report, which encompasses all transactions including employee housing, fractional units, land, and commercial sales in Pitkin County.
Bright found 26 residential sales in January 2012 in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, and the portion of Basalt in Pitkin County, compared to 19 in January 2011. While the high sale this January was $6.75 million, January 2011 had a $17.75 million sale in the Wildcat subdivision outside of Snowmass Village.
Bright’s search found that 11 of the January 2012 sales were under $2 million, while 15 were over that amount. By comparison, 12 sales in January 2011 were under $2 million and seven were over $2 million.
“There is now a greater ratio of sales over $2 million than under,” Bright said.
Comparing MLS data for the last four Januaries, broker Tim Estin with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse found increases in both dollar volume and number of transactions every year. This January saw more than four times the number of sales in the upper Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, and Old Snowmass) than in January 2009. And dollar volume has gone up appreciably: 14 percent in January 2010, 145 percent in January 2011, and 24 percent in January 2012.
The average single-family home price was down by 22 percent in Pitkin County, according to Land Title—$3.19 million in January 2012 versus $4.11 million in full-year 2011. That likely has to do with the January 2011 Wildcat sale pulling the average up. Median single-family home price, a reading that many believe more accurately reflects the situation, was up 12 percent in January 2011—to $3.11 million.
Perhaps reflecting the number of short sales and bank sales, Basalt’s average single-family home price was down 53 percent in January compared to 2011.
Comparatively, the New York Times recently reported that national home prices fell 4 percent in the last quarter of 2011, putting prices at 2002 levels. That’s largely due to the 14.8 million homes that are in, near, or at risk of foreclosure.
Garfield County has typically been more in line with those kind of national trends. But while the trend of a large number of bank sales continues in Garfield County, there weren’t quite as many as there were toward the end of 2011. Out of a total of 71 sales worth $22 million in January, 24 ($4.65 million) were bank sales, accounting for one-third of the transactions and 21 percent of the dollars.
Average and median single-family home prices are up, however, in Garfield County. The average price in January was nearly $380,000, a 22 percent increase over 2011, and the median of $278,500 is up 24 percent.
Land Title reported that January 2012 was the strongest January in both number of transactions and dollar volume since 2008.
But the “big news,” said Estin, “is the dramatic fall off in activity for the month of February compared to the prior month and the prior year.”
Estin’s analysis found just 14 real estate sales in the upper valley in February 2012, totaling $30.65 million. That’s compared to 23 sales of $105 million in February 2011, and 23 sales of $80.61 million in January 2012. It was the weakest February in the last four years since the economic downturn began in terms of dollar volume.
Looking at January and February combined, a newsletter from BJ Adams and Company reported that the number of sales in Aspen, Snowmass, and Basalt are up 10 percent over this time last year, while transaction volume is down 28 percent. The newsletter reports that this is “a reflection of there being both more interest this year at the lower end of the price spectrum, and of more sellers willing to position themselves there.”
A separate e-mail blast, from BJ Adams and Company broker Andrew Ernemann, noted that 2011 had started with a “disproportionate” number of $10 million-plus sales in Aspen. Only one such sale has been recorded in the first two months of 2012, Ernemann wrote, so that sales dollar volume is off by 40 percent in Aspen. By contrast, Snowmass is 80 percent ahead of last year’s numbers and Basalt is relatively flat.
Despite positive national economic news and building consumer confidence, Estin guessed that there were three main culprits for the February drop-off: lack of snow locally, the specter of a Greek default continuing global uncertainty, and Wall Street bonuses for 2011 being down by 20 to 30 percent.
To sum it all up, said Bright, “There’s still more sellers than buyers.”
(A more comprehensive look at February numbers will be presented when the February Land Title reports are released in early April.)
January 2012 transactions at a glance
(Source: Land Title Guarantee Company)
January dollar volume: $96,653,315
January number of transactions: 55
Increase over January 2011 (dollar volume): 15%
Decrease from January 2011 (transaction volume) -29.5%
Bank sales: 4, $1.72 million
Average single-family home price: $3,192,511 million (down 22% from 2011)
Median single-family home price: $3,112,500 million (up 12%)
January fractional sales: 12 (71% decrease from January 2011)
January fractional dollar volume: $2,642,400 million (74% decrease from January 2011)
January dollar volume: $22,066,900 million
January number of transactions: 71
Increase over January 2011 (dollar volume): 26%
Increase over January 2011 (transaction volume) 27%
January bank sales: 24 sales, $4.65 million (34% of sales and 21% of dollar volume)
Average single-family home price: $379,772 (up 22% over 2011)
Median single-family home price: $278,500 (up 24% over 2011)