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Mountain News: Real estate sales drop sharply



ASPEN, Colo. – The real estate market this year in some ski towns is such that realty agents picked up second jobs.

The story isn’t universal. Summit County, for example, continues to perk along, with dollar volume not drastically different from last year. But in those markets that sizzled most in recent years, the “quiet” of today is heard most loudly.

Aspen has had among the most severe drop-offs compared to its halcyon years, 2005, 2006 and early 2007. Through May, real estate transfer taxes collected by the city had declined 38 per cent compared to the same period in 2007. The decline elsewhere in Pitkin County was more severe yet.

For those inclined to drama, The Aspen Times finds witnesses.

“It’s the first time in 10 years I’ve seen a number of people in the business really looking elsewhere to supplement their income,” said Craig Morris, a partner in a realty firm called Morris & Frywald.

Another major firm went out of business — although it should be noted that the owner was nearing retirement anyway.

A measured view of the times comes from Don Taylor, Aspen’s city finance director. He notes that this year’s real estate sales still are greater than those of 2004 and before, when the record-smashing business began.

Elsewhere in northwest Colorado, the story is mixed. Eagle County, which includes the Vail and Beaver Creek resorts, had a drop off of 25 per cent in volume through May, as compared to the same months last year.

Steamboat Springs and Routt County encountered an even sharper cliff, 62 per cent, according to figures collected by the Land Title Guarantee Co.

Summit County has had a much smaller dollar volume in past years as compared with Aspen and Vail. But that gap has diminished, as Summit County’s market has declined not quite 15 per cent.

Garfield County, located west of Aspen and Vail, fell about 10 per cent. This is an area that is part of the resort economy, but also for the booming gas and oil fields and preliminary oil-shale work.


Turbines considered for Snowmass

ASPEN, Colo. – Several years ago the Aspen Skiing Co. examined its four ski mountains and concluded that winds on top are just too gusty for wind turbines. Wind is best for producing electricity when it’s strong but steady.

But turbines are now strong enough to withstand blasts of 120 mph. If gusts that are even stronger arrive, new designs allow blades to fold.