Ski-valley Home Sales Lofty

Posted by — April 9, 2006

By Julie Dunn, Denver Post Staff Writer

As skiers and snowboarders flock to Colorado to make their final runs of the season, some are also using the trip to snap up multi-million-dollar second homes.

"March is typically a big month because a lot of high-end buyers take their last ski trip of the season, so there is an urgency to make a decision," said Jim Flaum, president and managing broker of Vail's Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate. "People are ready to pull the trigger."

In the past five weeks, the firm has put under contract 18 Vail Valley homes priced at more than $5 million each. In 2004 and 2005, only about 20 homes in that price range sold during the entire year in Eagle County, home to the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

Slifer Smith & Frampton participates in 65 percent of all Vail Valley real estate transactions, but last week it had its busiest single week ever. Forty-one homes went under contract, selling for a total of $167 million. Twenty-one properties were priced above $1 million.

"The market has really lit up, especially the high-end stuff," Flaum said.

Many Colorado resort areas shattered previous residential real estate records last year. Eagle County saw $2.8 billion worth of homes sold, and Pitkin County saw $2.2 billion.

San Miguel County, home to Telluride Ski Resort, saw $724 million in home sales last year. In January and February, they were up 39 percent over the same period last year, according to T.D. Smith, president of Telluride Real Estate Corp.

"We're certainly starting off the year strong," he said. Baby boomers snapping up vacation home are helping to drive the growth. Ninety percent of the Vail Valley units priced over $2 million are purchased as second homes, according to Flaum.

"The baby boomers are looking at these resorts as a place to gather families," he said. "And we're just in the beginning of that wave."

Whether or not 2006 home sales will top previous records depends on how much new inventory comes onto the market, brokers agreed.

"Prices have escalated exponentially, but we just don't have the inventory this year that we had last year," said Bob Starodoj, president of Mason & Morse Real Estate in Aspen. He said his firm's March sales spiked more than 20 percent over last year.

"We're certainly not following the slowdown trend of the national market."

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