Aspen real estate market stable, not recovering as quickly as expected

Aug 1, 2013

A sign points passersby to an open house in Aspen. The Estin Report shows homes are selling, but not sales are nowhere near pre-recession levels.
A sign points passersby to an open house in Aspen. The Estin Report shows homes are selling, but not sales are nowhere near pre-recession levels.
Credit Rebecca Kruth

A recent report shows Aspen’s real estate market isn’t recovering as quickly as expected. The Estin Report shows things have improved some, but the market is nowhere near where it once was. Aspen Public Radio’s Rebecca Kruth spoke with the report’s author Tim Estin and filed this report.

For people tracking the nation’s climbing housing prices, Tim Estin’s findings in the high-priced Aspen market may come as a surprise.

“People’s bearings are formed by what they hear nationally, what’s going on nationally,” Estin said. “Prices [are] rising, real estate markets are on fire in different markets, and my report makes a case, based on the facts, that is not happening in the Aspen market.”

The news isn’t all bad. Homes are selling, prices are stable and Estin says Aspen is better off than it was three or four years ago. What’s unnerving, he said, is how the numbers compare to previous years.

Since 2009, home inventory, or the number of properties actively listed on the market, has dropped significantly.

“In general, the less inventory, the more healthy the market is, or the more feverish and the more activity in the marketplace, and the better ability for sellers to raise prices,” Estin said. “The tighter the inventory, the greater the chances that prices will be rising.”

"It is what it is, and we're hopeful that the second half of 2013 is going to be stronger than the first half."

Got that? Less inventory is good. More inventory means there’s more supply, less demand and lower prices. So, if inventory has in dropped in the last few years, then what’s the problem?

The concern is how it ranks compared to pre-recession levels.

When you compare the first half of 2013 to 2004, when the market started its climb, Aspen’s inventory is a whopping 68% higher and sales are 32% lower. Supply is up and demand is down compared to ten years ago.

And, Estin said, when it comes to the rest of the resort market, Aspen’s lagging behind.

“The Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the west coast, Santa Monica, San Francisco - those markets I would say are luxury markets in general and seem to be just going through the roof. Bidding wars, lack of inventory, and that’s not the case in Aspen,” he said.

Estin says it’s safe to say the housing market glory days of the mid-2000s are probably over, at least for the near future.

“The trouble we have in Aspen is we’re so used to being the last into recessions and the first out, and that doesn’t seem to be the case right now,” he said. “It is what it is, and we’re hopeful that the second half of 2013 is going to be stronger than the first half.”

For now, it looks like Aspen may need to continue to get comfortable with a new housing market reality.