Property sales in Pitkin County nearly reached the $2 billion mark in 2017 while easily outpacing 2016’s performance and rivaling the much-heralded figures from 2015.
Sales volume totaled $1.91 billion last year, based on data provided by Land Title Guarantee as well as Aspen Times research. That number marks a 28.8 percent improvement over total real estate sales volume of $1.36 billion in 2016, and a 5.2 percent drop from the $2.01 billion recorded in 2015.
Sales volume in Pitkin County has eclipsed the $2 billion mark four times — in 2016, 2007, 2006 and 2005. The benchmark of $2.64 billion was established in 2006.
Last year, meanwhile, was buoyed by the months of June, August and September, all of which rang up more than $200 million in total property deals, as well as October’s $193.8 million in transactions, according to data from the Aspen Board of Realtors. November ($148 million) and December ($135 million) rounded out the year’s totals.
“(December) 2017 ended on a weak note compared to what was to an outstanding year,” wrote broker Tim Estin of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty in his most recent report Sunday. “A disappointment, in fact. But maybe this was the reprieve we needed after an exceptionally strong three months in August, Sept. and Oct. ’17.”
The bounce-back of 2017 perhaps can be attributed to what were the national and global uncertainties of 2016, a year dominated by headlines regarding the U.S. presidential election, Brexit and China’s sluggish economy.
Estin expressed that sentiment in his report, reasoning that “2016 was such an ‘off’ year attributed largely to the election, only comparisons to 2015 are useful.”
Another one of the Aspen area’s number-crunching brokers, Andrew Ernemann, agreed.
“If you compare last year to 2016, then it looks amazing,” he said Monday. “But when you compare it to 2015, it looks a little more keeled down.”
Ernemann, whose real estate focus is on the residential market, noted that the first half of 2016 was relatively off for Pitkin County in terms of property sales. January through June of that year saw less than $550 million in total sales volume. But the market gained steam in December 2016, with a year’s best of $209.7 million in sales, and the momentum carried into 2017.
After the election of Donald Trump as president, the average interest rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage rose from 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent, resulting in higher home prices. In the local estate market, however, many free-market homes are bought with cash; 2017 saw 294 residences listed in Aspen, a 19.2 percent drop-off from the 364 listings in 2016, according to a recent report by Ernemann.
Estin also reported that “2017 had the lowest inventory of properties for sale during that 10-year period” from 2008 to 2017.
Snowmass Village’s inventory also was tighter in 2017, with 190 listings compared with 245 in 2016, a 22.4 percent decrease.
The low inventory meant fewer high discounts on the advertised sale prices. Ernemann’s data show that 92.2 percent of single-family homes in Aspen sold for their most recent asking prices, while 86.2 percent sold for their original asking prices.
A similar scene played out in Snowmass, where 91.5 percent of single-family homes brought in their most recent advertised price, and 85.6 percent were sold at their original asking price.
The average single-family home in Aspen sold for $7.4 million in 2017, according to the Aspen Board of Realtors, which also has data showing the average home fetched $5.8 million in 2016.
Luxury properties, defined by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in its market analyses for 2017 as real estate sold for at least $7.5 million, accounted for nearly $1.3 billion in Aspen sales alone.
On their face, those numbers might mean nothing to the average working stiff in Aspen, until considering their impact on employees and affordable housing.
The city generated $9.9 million in revenue in 2017 from the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) — a 1.5 percent tax rate that is paid to the city after the first $100,000 of a property transaction. Two-thirds of that money goes toward the city’s affordable-housing fund.
The Wheeler Opera House also benefited from the RETT, which accounts for the other third of the tax, bringing in $5.2 million last year.
Total RETT collections were up “roughly” 57 percent over 2016, the city said in its monthly tax report issued last week.
In its most recently quarterly report available, from Oct. 25, Douglas Elliman Real Estate reported sales in the high-end property market fueled its year-to-date sales of $330 million for the Aspen-Snowmass area.
“Both the Aspen and Snowmass Village markets are showing great signs of strength with rising prices, more sales and less inventory across all property types,” the company reported.
Some of the more notable residential real estate transactions in 2017 included the $30 million sale of a Red Mountain home in April, the $29 million purchase of a home on West Buttermilk Road in September, the $27 million purchase of a home on Shady Lane in August, and the $24.4 acquisition of a home on Sunnyside Lane in February.