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Dollar volume of sales drops 42 percent in January and February,

By Scott Condon, Aspen Times, March 6, 2008

ASPEN — The dollar volume of real estate sales plummeted 42 percent in Pitkin County during the first two months of this year compared to last year, according to an analysis by The Aspen Times.

Real estate sales of all types within the county generated $445.82 million during the first two months of 2007. Sales fell to just $258.7 million for the same period this year, according to deeds recorded with the Pitkin County clerk’s office. The number of real estate transactions dropped 23 percent, from 210 in January and February last year to 160 this year.

“This is very similar to past cycles, so it’s not a surprise to me,” said Chuck Frias, managing partner with Frias Properties of Aspen. “It’s no surprise to any of us who have been in the business in Aspen for some time.”

A downturn in the local real estate market, as measured by monthly dollar volume, began last June. Frias said he would expect it to last throughout this year. He said cycles and price adjustments are a regular part of the market.

However, there are major differences between what is happening in Pitkin County and in most other places in the country. The national mortgage crisis has spurred foreclosures on primary homes, Frias noted. It hasn’t struck resort markets with a high percentage of luxury, second homes.

And while real estate values have sunk in many parts of the country, that isn’t the case in Aspen, Frias said. The market is slowing in and around Aspen because buyers are holding out in hopes of getting better deals while sellers are resisting big discounts.

“In Aspen, many people sell for convenience,” Frias said. “Many of these people will wait out the cycle.”

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