Rocky Mountain high prices: homebuyers priced out of Aspen head to Basalt

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New Yorker Ritchie Lin has been skiing with her husband for 20 years in Aspen. But when he was trying to buy a ski home in 2019, he knew that the high prices of resorts in Colorado far exceeded his budget. Instead, he bought a house on basalt. A 20 minute drive down the mountain, a house is a fraction of the price.

“We were priced by Aspen, so we considered buying in the next town. It’s a great little town, with everything you need, near the mountains.”

Basalt, about 20 miles from the region’s major resorts, Aspen and Snowmass, is one of several towns in Colorado’s roaring Folk Valley, where pandemics increase the mountain of buyers from coastal cities. Along with this, the demand for second houses is increasing.

Demand from locals is also increasing as long-term residents of Aspen seek to take advantage of years of price increases by moving down valleys to cheaper or larger homes. However, rising prices and demand for holiday rentals mean that homes are becoming more affordable for many residents.

Most of the charm of basalt is the discounts offered to Aspen. Aspen is popular with the ultra-rich Americans and is pushing prices beyond the budget of most buyers. According to the Aspen Board of Realtors, the average price of a single-family home sold in Aspen for the year to October was $ 9.6 million, compared to $ 1.43 million in basalt.

Realtor Sam Augustin, who covers both Aspen and valley towns such as basalt and carbondale in the compass, feels that the price of Aspen no longer offers value for money since the pandemic began. They say that sales to people are increasing.

Basalt, a small town 20 minutes from Aspen, has homes for a fraction of the price, but demand from second homers and locals is rapidly pushing up prices © Danita Delimont Creative / Alamy

“I can spend $ 10 million on Aspen’s house, but there are many clients who don’t. They can get even more for $ 3-5 million on basalt or carbondale. I think. “

Local agents say the number of buyers coming from major US cities increased during the pandemic. In this group, the distinction between a second home and a permanent home has become ambiguous, and many people use their homework to live full-time in mountain homes.

Ryan Honey, who runs the Arts campus of Willitz, Basalt’s non-profit performing arts center, says more permanent and villa owners are on the show. Between the closure of TACAW’s former temporary building in April 2019 and the opening of a new permanent venue in September this year, the average age of its audience has dropped significantly. More and more young people are calling this place their hometown and we are starting a program for them. “

According to the Aspen Board of Realtors, rising housing demand has led to higher prices. The average price of 62 detached homes sold in basalt by October is 42% higher than last year. Also, fewer homes are available. At the same time, 64 detached homes were put up for sale, down from 98 in 2019.

Despite being a fraction of the price of Aspen, Basalt offers many of the features and equipment that permanent residents expect. Growing up around the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century, the original downtown area is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, art galleries, as well as numerous vintage homes along Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road.

Willitz is a popular district developed 20 years ago. Besides TACAW, there are cinemas, restaurants and bars. There are several public schools in Basalt, and a school bus connects the town with Aspen’s private school.

Christmas greetings welcome visitors to the historic little town of Basalt near Glenwood Springs in the Roaring Fork River Valley, Colorado, USA

Basalt is not only close to the ski slopes, but also offers a variety of facilities including theaters, restaurants and bars © Nik Wheeler / Getty Images

Dan Kiley, 48, an Aspen bartender who bought a home in Willitz in 2014, says the range and quality of basalt nightlife has improved in recent years. “There was a time when all the great servers were migrating to Aspen. Now you are getting better service here.”

A popular district among buyers is Missouri Heights, on the plain between Carbondale and basalt, a short drive from highway 82, which connects the two towns before proceeding to Aspen. Here, with a budget of $ 3 to $ 5 million, you’ll buy a few acres of detached home with a garage of about 5,000 square feet. Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch and nearby Aspen Glen offer small single-family homes for $ 2 to $ 3 million.

The problem is finding what’s for sale. “We had 30 active lists at the beginning of the pandemic, and now we have three or four,” says Augustin.

Many of the permanent residents of basalt work in skiing and related industries in Aspen and Snowmass, and the high proportion of permanent residents gives the town a warm community atmosphere, says Keeley. “It’s not like people have a party here and leave, like Aspen. [love] A laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. “

Map of basalt and aspen in Colorado, USA

Douglas Elliman’s local agent, Melanimus, says the Basalt community is attracted to people getting off Aspen. They make up a significant portion of her buyers — especially the “imminent empty nest syndrome” where children who no longer need to be near Aspen’s school are approaching adulthood. The busy summer season at Colorado’s mountain resorts is long due to the low altitude of Basalt and is popular with those who prefer hiking, mountain biking and golf to skiing.

The move to basalt or carbondale was part of the life plan of people working in the local ski industry. The mayor of basalt, Bill Cain, bought a townhouse in 2009 after living for 38 years in Aspen, where he raised his family and worked for the resort-run Aspen Ski Company. “We loved [Aspen] Until death, but we knew that part of our retirement savings plan was to deposit the equity we had in our home in a bank. [by moving].. “

However, recent price increases have exacerbated long-standing affordability issues for both basalt renters and buyers, confusing the sense of the community, which is much of the city’s charm.

Rising selling prices mean that the increase in local workers can no longer afford to buy a home, and agents estimate that rents have risen 20 to 30 percent since the start of the pandemic. According to the Basalt Town Council, tax revenues from short-term rentals this year are projected to increase by a third. According to Kane, landlords are moving real estate from long-term rentals to short-term rentals, reducing the supply of rentals to locals.

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Carbondale’s House, Another “Down Valley” Town in the Roaring Folk Valley © Liesl Clark / Getty Images

To counter this trend, all new apartments approved for construction after September must have a minimum rental period of 6 months in the rental agreement. In November, the town raised $ 17 million in bonds. Part of the proceeds fund affordable homes.

However, Oden Schendler, head of sustainability for the Aspensky Company and basalt resident, says local politics is hampering wise housing construction measures. “”[Local politicians] We will run on a platform that says “I want to protect the characters of a small town.” He says these attitudes have taken hold with the increasing proportion of second homers.

At a local get-together, residents who recently moved from a large coastal city to basalt asked Schendler to support their opposition to the proposed downtown development. “It was exactly that place [housing] If you care about putting it in the center of the city rather than spreading it around, you should go.And this person right next to the boat [trying to] Make sure the town doesn’t change at all, “he says.

Keeley says the new arrivals are eroding the basalt community consciousness. “Living in the valley has always had a very community feel. When there was a big forest fire. [several] A few years ago, everyone got together and helped each other. We were all together. It feels like it’s changing as different people come in and prices go up, “he says, pointing to less polite drivers on the streets of town.

He’s thinking of selling his home for a career break, but the rising prices across the roaring Folk Valley may prevent him from buying a home near Aspenbar, where he works when he returns home. I’m worried. “That’s a sales issue. Where are you going?”

Buying guide

  • Basalt is a 20-minute drive from Aspen / Pitkin County Airport and an hour’s flight to Denver International Airport. From there, flights to New York take 3 hours and 40 minutes, and flights to Los Angeles take 2 hours and 30 minutes.

  • In most cases, buying a home in Willitz will incur a 1-2% transfer tax, but nothing else in basalt or Carbondale.

  • Basalt is at an altitude of 2,015m. Aspen is at 2,438m.

  • The roaring Folk River and the Flying Pan River to the east of the town have been designated as gold medal trout fishing waters by the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

What you can buy. ..

$ 675,000 A 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house within walking distance of the town center of Willitz. On the ground floor, there is an open-plan living / dining area and additional rooms that can be used as a home office or a fourth bedroom.To the market Douglas Elliman..

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$ 2.85 million A 5-bedroom single-family home in the Holland Hills district. The house has an office, an entertainment area and a gym, and the interior features exposed bricks and high ceilings. There is also a mature garden and a protected terrace.For sale at Christie’s International Real Estate Aspen Snowmass..

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© Michael Brands with Mountain Home Photo


$ 3.595 million A four-bedroom, four-bathroom home in two-thirds of an acre. Built in 2007, the property is located in the Blue Creek district of Carbondale, a 5-minute walk from the Roaring Fork River. Features include a study, a screen pouch, and three fireplaces.Available through Compass..

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