Letter to the Editor
, By Tim Estin, April 23, 09 Aspen Times


The facts tell the truth

Dear Editor:

Your April 15, 2009, article on “Pitkin County values continue to rise” is simply inaccurate and terribly misleading. This is the kind of irresponsible, poorly researched journalism that perpetuates the current stand-off between buyers and sellers in our local real estate market.

Sellers will read this feeling emboldened with unrealistically high prices; buyers will read this and avoid our marketplace until pricing sentiment gets real. Their chorus of, “I think the market still has a lot of room to fall” will continue to reverberate non-stop through our valley as sellers cling to yesterday’s peak prices and sing “But we are insulated!” and wonder why their properties languish one to two years on the market. And they may also be wondering why they can’t move on with their lives. Sellers deserve the truth.

Yes, there are many reasons to believe that long term, Aspen-area (Pitkin County) real estate values will firm and appreciate significantly over time. But short term, as of April 2009, our local market is moribund with the number of transactions off 50 to 55 percent year over year, 1Q2009 versus 1Q08 (See www.EstinAspen.com, The Estin Report: 1Q09 State of the Aspen Snowmass Real Estate Market).

How this can mean “Pitkin County values continue to increase” simply defies common sense and present reality.

I posted a Feb. 22-March 1 blog entry at my website “On Misleading Pricing Info” that may be useful for your reporters and the public to consider when looking at the monthly Land Title Guarantee Co. Pitkin County transfer numbers. (March 2009 is due out any day now.) That blog post explains the likely reason why median Aspen prices have remained stubbornly high, making it appear that our market has been more resilient to the economic downturn than it really is: 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 Aspen transaction volume is off abysmally.

Look at the data: The facts tell the truth.

Tim Estin

Aspen