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Aspen-area real estate sales top record $3 billion for 2020

The record-setting year posted more than $3.1 billion in total property sales volume in Pitkin County.
Credit: Kelsey Brunner
A woman runs across an empty street in downtown Aspen on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

ASPEN, Colo. — For Pitkin County’s real estate arena in 2020, there were more than 3 billion reasons why last year will go down as the most lucrative for an industry where the average single-family home in Aspen went for more than $11 million.

The record-setting year posted more than $3.1 billion in total property sales volume in Pitkin County — a first — due largely to a surge in demand for local home ownership because of the pandemic, according to people who work in the industry.

“There’s been a huge increase in demand for Aspen-Snowmass properties due to what’s been called the ’great urban exodus,’” Aspen broker Tim Estin observed in his Dec. 23 newsletter.

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At the same time, membership into an already exclusive club of free-market homeowners became even more exclusive, as trends pointed to a shrinking inventory and buyers paying top dollar for Aspen-area property.

“City dwellers want to spend more time in our area, quickly depleting inventory of quality properties for sale,” Estin reported.

As 2020 wound down, property brokers reported a year not only surpassing the $3 billion mark, but one that crushed previous years in terms of dollar volume.

“To put the year-to-date sales in perspective, in 2017, 2018 and 2019 approximately $1.9 billion sold in each entire year,” Amy Doherty of Douglas Elliman noted in her November newsletter. “The all-time record year for sales was 2006 when $2.6 billion sold. It is an understatement to say 2020 is a year for the record books (in so many ways).”

Whatever superlatives assigned to 2020 in terms of real estate, Aspen’s other big economic drivers — tourism and skiing — were on shaky ground, prompting layoffs and furloughs. Not so in real estate — where not only were brokers cranking, but also attorneys, title companies and other involved in transactions.

Anecdotal evidence even was reflected in lawsuit this year over a botched real estate deal, which was filed in Pitkin County. The suit noted one Aspen title “company was experiencing a tremendously high volume of work” that it couldn’t close a deal as scheduled.

It wasn’t like that the first five months of the year. In May alone, the city of Aspen’s real estate transfer tax collections were down 86% from May 2019 because of what it said were “the limited showings allowed during this period and the reduced tourism traffic.”

But as the pandemic bore down, interest in Aspen-area property went up.

Aspen alone ended the year with more than $2.5 billion in residential sales and Snowmass with $575 million, according to broker Brittanie Rockhill’s Dec. 31 report.

“Inventory is thin and demand continues to grow,” said the report from Rockhill, who is with Douglas Elliman.

The report also noted nine residential sales eclipsed the $25 million mark in 2020. And for all of 2020, 29 properties sold for more than $20 million, according to Aspen Times research of property records. (See factbox Business Monday cover story inside)

And in December, before the calendar year’s books were closed, six properties in Pitkin County hauled in at least $20 million, including the $70 million sale of the Westin Snowmass, Wildwood Snowmass and Snowmass Conference Center.

As well, two single-family homes in Pitkin County broke the $30 million barrier, in 2020.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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