Aspen Market

March Occupancy in Snowmass Up from Last Year

imagesHotels in Snowmass Village saw slightly more business in March over last year, thanks largely to a flurry of last-minute bookings made after some significant snowstorms. Snowmass occupancy in March came in at 58.6 percent, a 4.2 percent increase from last year, according to a report by the Mountain Travel Research Program. It didn’t look that way before the month, though.

“We were coming in almost dead flat with last March,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.  March had a long way to go, but a dramatic change in the ski conditions got the phones ringing. March bookings made that same month were up 20 percent over last year, helping the numbers to rise above.

Snowmass hotels saw a strong finish in April with close to 50 percent occupancy the first half of the month, double the rate that Snowmass saw in the same period last year.  Most of the visitors were in town for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic the first week of April and the Mountain Travel Symposium the second.  “And last year we had Easter in April,” Tomcich said. “That really illustrates the power of those two groups.”

The properties almost sold out during the winter sports clinic and Mountain Travel Symposium, he said. All of the symposium business events were in the Westin Snowmass Conference Center.  “That quite honestly took us over the top,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping that momentum continues through the summer season.”

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Forest Service Ready to Sell Real Estate

imagesThe White River National Forest is ready to move forward with the sales process for a portion of its Aspen West End property, in order to finance a redevelopment of the aging visitor center at the S-curves.

Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams published a notice last week approving the conveyance of an acre at the northwest corner of the 3-acre property. The for-sale portion would be split into five lots of about 6,000 square feet, each suitable for single-family homes.  “I’m finally in the real estate business,” Fitzwilliams joked.

The notice, published April 11, kicks off a 45-day period during which the Forest Service’s decision to sell the property can be appealed to officials in Washington D.C. If no appeal is filed, Fitzwilliams said he hopes the marketing and sale of the property, conducted through the Government Services Administration, will go forward this summer. A Forest Service press release issued Thursday said the Aspen property is the  No. 1 priority for the White River National Forest’s conveyance program.

The Forest Service hasn’t settled on the method it will use to sell the property, Fitzwilliams said, although an online or live auction is being considered. He said  White River staff is looking to other instances where the Forest Service has sold property in high-end real estate markets, such as Sedona, Ariz., and the Lake Tahoe region in California and Nevada, for ideas.

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Aspen Rental Vacancy Rates Drop to Four-year Low

imagesTeton County’s apartment rental market constricted to a point last year that hasn’t been seen since 2008.  Last year, the vacancy rate fluctuated between 1 percent and 1.6 percent, according to a new report published by the state Community Development Authority. In 2011, that rate was hovering around 10 percent.

Managers at two large apartment complexes in Jackson said they’ve seen their vacancy rates drop gradually over the last year.  “It seems like everything is coming back,” said Aspen Meadows Apartments property manager Sean Ryan.

Aspen Meadows increased its rent for a one-bedroom apartment, albeit slightly, in response to growing demand. A one-bedroom, deluxe apartment is going for $880 per month. Last year, the complex charged $825. The occupancy rate at Blair Apartments increased to 83 percent. During the same time last year, it was at 70 percent.

The county’s vacancy rate was the lowest in the state at the end of 2012. The state average was 4.2 percent, although central Wyoming communities had an average rate of 1.9 percent. Landlords in the southeastern corner of the state reported a vacancy rate of 2.7 percent. The vacancy rate survey comes in a bundle of economic data that seems to show that the valley’s economy is slowly on the mend.

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Colorado Ski Visits Down 11%

colorado-ski-map-620x406According to The Colorado Springs Business Journal ski visits across the state of Colorado are down 11.5% so far this season, compared to the same period last year. The Journal sites the lack of snow and late openings for many Colorado resorts as major factors in the drop of skier traffic.

“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors, and an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradans from tallying lots of ski days” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, a nonprofit industry group that represents several of the state’s largest ski resorts. “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December.”

Despite the slow start, ski areas saw a strong holiday period with conditions more in line with an average year. The New Year started with storms, which bodes well for the rest of the season, she said.

“There is some real buoyancy in the indicators for the months ahead. February and March hotel bookings are pacing ahead of last year by 3.5 percent and 8.6 percent respectively,” Mills said. “Carnival and Easter are well-timed for ski visitation this year and Colorado’s traditional snowier months lie ahead.”.

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Vacant Land Sales Pick Up in Aspen Area

imagesVacant land for single-family homes in the Aspen area was the first segment of the real estate market to get smacked by the recession, and it’s been one of the slow areas to recovery, but it’s finally turning around, according to sales data.

Twenty-six vacant lots in Aspen and surrounding neighborhoods sold in 2012, far exceeding any of the prior four years, according to an analysis by Andrew Ernemann, of B.J. Adams and Co. Only 11 vacant lots sold in the same geographic area in 2011.  The level reached last year essentially matched the pre-recession level of 25 lots sold in 2007, Ernemann’s report showed.

He said his personal experience and chats with other real estate agents indicate that most of the sales are to end users — people who want to build and live in the homes. There are also signs of some interest from investors, he said. Investors are typically spec builders who invest the money in land and construction on the assumption the houses will sell. Spec building disappeared, for the most part, when the recession struck the Roaring Fork Valley in late 2008.

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Colorado Revenue Continues to Grow, Economists Say

imagesColorado’s economy continues to outperform expectations, spurred on by tax revenue from stock sales, although unemployment remains high, state economists told lawmakers Monday.  The state’s tax receipts are expected to be $548.2 million, or 7.1 percent higher, this budget year than the prior year, according to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s economists. The latest quarterly forecast from state economists touched on familiar trends of past reports: Colorado’s economy is outperforming the national economy, but there remains caution because of the revenue growth is driven by taxes on one-time stock sales.  “We have clue after clue that what we’re dealing with is volatile revenue stream,” said Henry Sobanet, Hickenlooper’s budget director.  With the adjusted revenue numbers from December, the state’s general fund is expected to be $8.3 billion for the fiscal year that began in July. The general fund now exceeds the pre-Great Recession peak of $7.7 billion in 2007. The quarterly forecast released Monday afternoon will play a key role in the upcoming debate over the budget, especially as lawmakers debate an overhaul of the state’s system to fund schools. Lawmakers typically give final approval to the budget next month.  State legislative economists also delivered a separate forecast to lawmakers Monday with a similar outlook of cautious optimism for the state.  “I believe it is the spring of this recovery. However, know that storms can still happen in the spring,” said Natalie Mullis, the Legislature’s chief economist.

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Aspen Real Estate Market Slows After A Torrid December

imagesThe fantastic finale to 2012 in the Pitkin County real estate market has given way to a sluggish start in 2013. The total dollar volume of all real estate sales in January was down $15.15 million, or 15 percent, from January 2012, according to deeds filed with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.  The sales slump continued in February, with dollar volume down another $9.1 million, or 20 percent, according to deeds filed.  For the two months combined, the market is down $24.25 million, or 17 percent.

Realtors said Friday that the surge in late 2012 and the slump in early 2013 are connected. A flurry of activity in the fourth quarter of 2012 was driven by changes in the capital-gains tax laws. Sales that would have been completed in January and February of this year were fast tracked in December.  “Buyers and sellers were doing back flips to get closings done in the last days,” said Carrie Wells, a leading real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mason and Morse Real Estate in Aspen. Work in December for real estate agents, title insurance companies and real estate attorneys was like “running a marathon,” she said.

Wells said she represented the buyers in one transaction in which an offer was made for a home on Christmas Eve with a closing on Dec. 27. The buyers knew they would benefit from a discount, so they agreed to a deal that skipped many of the due-diligence steps, and they allowed the sellers to remain in the property for six months, she said. Buyers aren’t willing to jump through hoops like that now, and sellers don’t have the incentive to reach an agreement because of higher taxes, Wells said. Therefore, activity has sagged.

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2012-13 Skier Visits Creep Up by 4 Percent in Colorado

Arapahoe Basin Ski AreaColorado’s ski areas hosted 11.4 million skier visits last season, a nearly 4 percent increase over the previous season’s 11 million.

The 11.4 million mark, while an increase over the dismal and dry 2011-12 season, is the third-slowest season in the past decade, and the annual increase falls well below the national spike of 11 percent.

Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade group that represents 21 of the state’s 25 ski areas, reported 6.4 million skier visits in 2012-13, an increase of 3.8 percent, or 235,000 skier visits, over 2011-12. Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas — Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek — saw about 5 million skier visits.

Colorado’s 2012-13 season started slowly, with weak snow and local skiers staying home. Storms in late December and late spring fueled a rebound in visitation. But it wasn’t enough to pull the state closer to the 12 million-skier-visit benchmark it reached in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Declining skier visits does not necessarily correlate to decreasing revenues, as evidenced by ski areas that saw increased revenues in 2011-12, which saw record declines in visitation.

Aspen Skier Visits Up 3 Percent Last Winter

indexSkier visits across Aspen Skiing Co.’s four area mountains were up 3 percent in the 2012-13 season over the previous year’s numbers, while skiing across the state as a whole rose 3.9 percent. The skier-visit data was announced Friday at the annual season-ending meeting for Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group representing 21 resorts.

The group, which does not represent Vail Resorts properties, reported there were 6.4 million visits to its member resorts last winter. With the Vail numbers included, Colorado played host to an estimated 11.5 million skier visits, which is defined as one person skiing or snowboarding for any part of a day at a mountain resort.

SkiCo spokesperson Jeff Hanle didn’t have the exact number of skier visits at SkiCo mountains, but he said it was in the neighborhood of 1.3 million. He termed the numbers as “positive news.” “A lot of people look at the ski industry and say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not a growth industry and you’re going to be struggling,’” Hanle said. “This shows that snow trumps everything.”

Lackluster early-season snowfall — which caused some resorts to open late — gave way to better conditions over the holidays, followed by a classic Colorado spring with heavy snow through April. Due to strong conditions, SkiCo kept Aspen Highlands open for a bonus weekend in late April, and reopened the top of Aspen Mountain for skiing on Memorial Day weekend. With strong domestic business over spring break, Hanle said it “felt like the good old days” in March in Aspen.

Aspen Area Real Estate Transactions Up, Dollars Down

imagesThe real estate market in Pitkin County has so far seen more transactions but fewer dollars than last year.  April saw the strongest showing this year both in terms of total dollar volume — nearly $111.27 million — and transactions — 72. Those are increases of 12 percent and 12.5 percent over last year, respectively.

But year to date, dollars total $302,616,418 — a decrease of 12.5 percent from same period last year, according to the latest Land Title Guarantee Company market analysis that Tammy Sommerfeld sent out to brokers.  Year to date, transactions total 240, an increase of 13 percent from same period last year, the report shows.

For the month, Aspen posted 30 transactions ($71.5 million), Snowmass Village posted 23 transactions ($23 million), there were 12 fractional transactions ($3.4 million), Basalt posted four sales ($1.3 million), Old Snowmass posted two transactions ($9 million), and Woody Creek posted one transaction ($3.15 million).  There were 13 bank sales recorded in the county for May totaling $10.5 million, which accounted for 18 percent of the transactions and 9 percent of the dollars.  Year to date, there have been 44 bank sales recorded in the county, totaling $27.6 million, which accounted for 18 percent of the transactions and 9 percent of the dollars.

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