Mountain News 

Sales slow but prices climb

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — After two phenomenal years in nearly every resort valley of the West, the real estate market this year has slowed in some places. But almost everywhere, prices continue to rise.

Among the slow-downs is at Crested Butte. That town’s real estate transfer tax is projected to yield $1.3 million this year, compared to $2 million last year.

"A year to a year and a half ago, sellers were getting full price," says Justin Feder, president-elect of the Gunnison Country Association of Realtors. "Now, if a buyer comes in, (he or she) can negotiate."

One trend reported by the Crested Butte News is for locals to cash out from Crested Butte, then move 29 miles down valley to Gunnison, where prices are lower.

In Aspen, the volume of sales has also fallen, but prices continue to rise crazily. Two years ago prices rose 5 to 15 per cent and last year they rose 15 to 25 per cent. But this year, agent Robert Ritchie says, prices have inflated 25 per cent in Aspen. In Snowmass Village, he tells Mountain Town News, they have gone up 33 to 40 per cent.

In Vail and the Eagle Valley, higher interest rates have caused sales in the lower end of the market to falter, but the high-end market remained vigorous through early summer. As of June, total sales were 2 per cent above last year’s record clip, when $2.8 billion in sales were recorded in Eagle County (which includes several Aspen suburbs).

But prices continue to rise, and with the higher end more active, the average sales price this year through June has been up by 26 per cent. Last year, average sales prices were $722,000. This year they’ve been $911,000.

"It’s not as frenetic as last year, but I’m still plenty busy," one agent tells Mountain Town News. However, the number of properties for sale is now swelling once again.

But no particular worries are evident in any of the reports. The long-term story is of continued immigration into mountain valleys of the West, particularly by people from cities in the East. That emigration is being pushed by the imminent retirement of Baby Boomers, who are spending both their considerable fortunes as well as the inheritances from their parents.

Iraq is wrong war

SILVERTON, Colo. — Silverton is increasingly a cauldron of creativity and interesting people. Among the 900 residents is Robert Baer, an ex-CIA agent who wrote the book from which the movie Syriana was adapted.

The movie, a complicated thriller, is about how U.S. policy in the Middle East is being steered by U.S. oil companies, and ultimately U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The author is no fan of Vice President Dick Cheney.

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