Friday, August 6, 2010

Mountain Town News


High-end buyers return to the well-heeled resorts

ASPEN, Colo.—The high-end market has been returning to the West's most well-heeled markets, Aspen and Jackson Hole.

In Colorado, Aspen has had one of the strongest real estate markets—but only in the most rarified sector. The number of transactions through the year's first half was up only 4 percent from last year, but the dollar volume grew 22 percent. Stated in another way, the extremely high end accounted for a disproportionate amount of the bulk.

The Estin Report found that 81 percent of sales in the second quarter for the Aspen area were for $4 million or above.

Speaking with the Aspen Daily News, long-time real estate agent Bob Ritchie said that the recession had washed away most of the speculators. Today's buyers, he said, "tend to be very well-heeled buyers, people well prepared for the downturn, and very liquid," he said. "When times are good all over, people are less discerning."

The sellers? They're in some distress. But the buyers "have no pain," he added.

Something of the same trickle-down theory was advanced in Wyoming. Jackson Hole's David Viehman and Devon Wheeldon of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates report a slowly improving market for high-end real estate, but a pretty soggy bottom end for the time being.

They predict a slow recovery through 2011, resulting eventually in boosted sales for the lower-end market, which in Jackson Hole is defined as $1 million and less.

Prices for local, entry-level real estate and resort condo/townhomes have dropped by as much as 50 percent when compared to the all-time high of 2007, Viehman and Wheeldon tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Recession results in half-baked buildings

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—The base of the Crested Butte ski area has its fair share of concrete foundations and building sites, the soil turned asunder and now growing noxious weeds and muddying water during rainstorms. The Crested Butte News says town officials have been talking about how to avoid such half-baked building in future slowdowns.

"Nobody anticipated this sort of thing happening, and now we're stuck with these," said Gary Keiser, a councilman in Mt. Crested Butte. "Hopefully, eventually these will be viable projects again. When we get out of it, we need to think about, 'How do we avoid these problems next time around?' I don't have an answer for that right now," he said.

Ice cream was literally bear's fatal weakness

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Using bait of ice cream and chicken, police in Crested Butte have trapped a 305-pound bear that they believe had broken into 20 houses.

The bear had broken into several mudrooms looking for food—and seems to have found it. The stomach of the bear contained dog food and bird food. Authorities tell the Crested Butte News that the bear had to be killed, because it had become habituated to going into houses. And that made him a dangerous bear.

The only bears that might be relocated after being trapped in Crested Butte are those young bears that haven't made the jump from trying to get into trashcans to trying to break and enter people's homes.

Ever-more moose on the loose in Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Some 32 years since they were reintroduced into Colorado, an estimated 150 moose are wandering around places like Summit County and Vail, mostly causing no harm although not taking kindly to dogs.

Whether moose are indeed indigenous to Colorado remains in dispute. The Colorado Division of Wildlife speculates that moose may have been extirpated soon after settlement, because they were so easy to kill. But another school of thought holds that moose never were common in Colorado.

Economic strategies ID'd for Lake Tahoe Basin

LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—A consulting firm charged with spearheading the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity plan has identified three economic development strategies for igniting the basin's smoldering economy: health and wellness, green building, and geotourism.

The firm, Applied Development Economics, says that geotourists are vacationers that go to a place because of geographic features as opposed to cultural, culinary, urban or other features. With green building, the consultants see the application of energy efficiency and renewable energy features to existing structures stimulating a lethargic economy.

And as for the final category, they advocate spa and athletic events with such national cachet that Tahoe would become a destination for people who are ailing, are hoping to improve their health, or training for a marathon.

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