With Vacant land sales down 91 percent from 2005 and construction costs off 20-30 percent, we may soon reach a point where building on vacant land might be cheaper than buying a new home, according to Tim Estin in his recently released Estin Report: Aspen Snowmass Vacant Land Sales 2004 – 2010. “In my mind we’re coming to a point, at least we’re closer to it than we are further away, that at these new pricing levels vacant lots are becoming very compelling,” Estin wrote.

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ASPEN REAL ESTATE – There are many ways to analyze the local real estate market, but for some true indicators of where it’s moving, it pays to watch the raw dirt. Vacant land sales performance over the past five years — and particularly now — may be a significant sign of how the broader market is doing, according to some local real estate brokers. Land sales in the upper valley peaked prior to brick-and-mortar sales (which means they started declining earlier too), and are typically one of the last types of real estate to recover. Lot sales often involve more motivated buyers or investors — those willing to take the time and effort to navigate the tight credit market and Pitkin County’s complex land-use approval process — so they “feel it’s a worthwhile investment to go into the market again,” said John Wendt III, managing broker of Mason Morse real estate. “When we see vacant lots starting to sell, there’s confidence in the market creeping back in,” he added. Vacant land sales are currently down 91 percent in dollar volume from its peak in 2005 in the upper valley, according to a report by Tim Estin, another Mason Morse broker. The vacant land market peaked with $204 million in sales that year; so far this year just $11.8 million has changed hands. There were 63 land sales in 2005 and four so far in 2010. Estin’s vacant land report encompasses Aspen, Snowmass Village, Old Snowmass and Woody Creek.
By Catherine Lutz, June 23, 2010, Aspen Daily News

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