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Aspen Real Estate Blog

Bob Ritchie


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Impact of the New 2018 Tax Law on Real Estate Owners

by Bob Ritchie - Assett Preservation Inc.

Congress has approved sweeping tax cuts and tax reform that have not been tackled by the federal government in over 30 years (since the Tax Reform Act of 1986.). The new tax law, formally referred to as “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” will go into effect in less than two weeks on January 1, 2018. This article has the most up-to-date information along with a summary of how the new tax law provisions will affect homeowners and real estate investors who own all types of investment property. Although this article generally does not delve into tax issues not associated with real estate, there are many new tax provisions and this is essential information for anyone that owns real estate to understand.

Primary Residence Homeowners

As a result of doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly, according to Moody’s Analytics, as many as 38 million Americans who would otherwise itemize may instead choose the higher standard deduction under the new tax plan. The doubling of the standard interest deduction, in essence, removes a tax incentive of moving from renting a home to home ownership and a likely outcome will be fewer Americans choosing to become homeowners versus renters solely for the tax advantages.

Any home mortgage interest debt incurred before December 15, 2017, will continue to be eligible for the home mortgage interest deduction up to $1,000,000. Any home mortgage interest debt incurred after this date will be limited to no more than $750.000 qualifying for the home mortgage interest deduction. Beginning in 2018, the deduction for interest paid on a home equity line of credit (“HELOC”) will no longer be eligible for the home mortgage interest deduction. However, the new tax law preserves the deduction of mortgage debt using to acquire a second home which should have a positive impact on supporting property values in resort and vacation destinations.

State and local taxes (referred to collectively as “SALT”) can be deducted but will no longer be unlimited as under current tax law. The 2018 tax law will allow homeowners to deduct property taxes and either income or sales taxes with a combined limit on these deductions being limited to no more than $10,000. The top earners who live in high state tax like California, Connecticut,  Oregon, Massachusetts,  New Jersey, New York and other states will be negatively affected the most by no longer having the previous full federal deduction available. There is the potential for home values in high state tax areas on both the West and East Coast to see a reduction in property values. A National Association of REALTORS™ study determined there could be a drop in home prices up to ten (10) percent in these and other high state tax areas.

Both the House and Senate tax bills had originally proposed increasing the length of time a homeowner would need to live in primary residence (from five out of eight years versus the current requirement to live in a primary residence two out of five years to qualify for the Section 121 tax exclusion.) This proposed change did not become a part of the 2018 tax law. Homeowners owners will continue to only need to live in their primary residence twenty-four (24) months in a sixty (60) month time period to be eligible for tax exclusion up to $250,000 if filing single and up to $500,000 if married filing jointly. Property owners will still have the ability to convert a residence into a rental property or convert a rental property into a residence and qualify for tax exclusion benefits under both the primary residence Section 121 rules and also potentially qualify for tax deferral on the rental property under Section 1031.

Investment Property Owners

Investment property owners will continue to be able to defer capital gain taxes using 1031 tax-deferred exchanges which have been in the tax code since 1921. No new restrictions on 1031 exchanges of real property were made in the new tax law. However, the new tax law repeals 1031 exchanges for all other types of property that are not real property. This means 1031 exchanges of personal property, collectibles, aircraft, franchise rights, rental cars, trucks, heavy equipment and machinery, etc. will no longer be permitted beginning in 2018.

Some investors and private equity firms will not have to reclassify "carried interest" compensation from the lower-taxed capital gains tax rate to the higher ordinary income tax rates. However, to qualify for the lower capital gain tax rate on “carried interest” investors will now have to hold these assets for three (3) years instead of the former one (1) year holding period.

Some property owners such as farmers and ranchers and other business owners will receive a new tax advantage with the ability to immediately write off the cost of new investments in personal property which is more commonly referred to as full or immediate expensing. This new provision is a part of the tax law for five (5) years and then begins to taper off later on. There are significant concerns these business and property owners will face a “tax cliff” and higher taxes once the immediate expensing provision expire.

Investment property owners can continue to deduct net interest expense but investment property owners must elect out of the new interest disallowance tax rules. The new interest limit is effective in 2018 and applies to existing debt. The interest limit, and the real estate election, applies at the entity level.

The new tax law continues the current depreciation rules for real estate. However, property owners opting to use the real estate exception to the interest limit must depreciate real property under slightly longer recovery periods of 40 years for a nonresidential property, 30 years for a residential rental property, and 20 years for qualified interior improvements.  Longer depreciation schedules can have a negative impact on the return on investment (“ROI”) and property owners will need to take into account these longer depreciation schedules if they elect to use the new real estate exception to the interest limit.

The tax law creates a new tax deduction of twenty (20) percent for pass-through businesses. For taxpayers with incomes above certain thresholds, the 20 percent deduction is limited to the greater of: 50% of the W-2 wages paid by the business or 25% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, plus 2.5% of the unadjusted basis, immediately after acquisition, of depreciable property (which includes structures, but not land). Estates and trusts are eligible for the pass-through benefit. The 20% pass-through deduction begins to phase-out beginning at $315,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The new tax law restricts taxpayers from deducting losses incurred in an active trade or business from wage income or portfolio income and this will apply to existing investment and becomes effective in 2018.

State and local taxes paid in respect to carrying on a trade or business, or in an activity related to the production of income, continue to remain deductible. Accordingly, a rental property owner can deduct property taxes associated with a business asset, such as any type of rental property.

The new tax law retains the 20% tax credit for the rehabilitation of historically certified structures, but taxpayers must claim the credit over a five (5) year time period.

This article is only intended to provide a brief overview of some of the tax law changes that will affect any taxpayer who owns real estate and is not intended to provide an in-depth overview of all the new tax law provisions. Every taxpayer should review their specific situation with their own tax advisor.

Local Woodbridge Office to Close, Colorado Securities Division Claims Violations

by Bob Ritchie - Ryan Summerlin Glenwood Springs Post

Woodbridge Realty's office in Aspen Glen, where the company holds numerous lots and listings, is closing.

"Woodbridge will close the sales office at the end of the month," the company said in an emailed statement. "Our remaining properties will be listed with local brokers. We will continue to sell, hold and develop land in Aspen Glen, based on market conditions."

The development coincides with news that the company is under a fraud investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Post Independent also learned Friday that Colorado is one of at least six states now where the company has been accused of securities violations. On Oct. 12, the Colorado Securities commissioner ordered Woodbridge to "show cause as to why he should not issue a sanction against them for Colorado Securities Act violations."

Colorado joins a list of states where, in the last two years, Woodbridge has been accused of securities violations related to sale of unregistered securities. As previously reported, the firm has faced similar litigation in Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. The Colorado securities division's allegations are practically identical to those in the other five states.

According to the securities commissioner's order, the Colorado filing "alleges that in the pursuit of these investments, the respondents and their agents have made misleading statements to investors regarding: the lack of proper registration and licensure; qualifications of the fund managers; the company's ability to pay back investors should the loans default; the risk involved in the investments; and the fact that the Woodbridge Funds and companies have already been sanctioned by securities divisions in Massachusetts and Texas for similar violations."

The Colorado securities division's order also called out three Front Range sales agents, who the division accused of having sold the company's unregistered securities and omitted material facts to investors.

"Woodbridge made these sales to Colorado investors using at least 10 other sales representatives, none of whom were licensed to sell securities in Colorado," according to the Colorado filing.

"To date, the division alleges that [Woodbridge has] raised approximately $57 million from 450 Colorado investors, and [continues] to solicit investors through online and radio advertising," according to the securities division.

Robert Shapiro, president of Woodbridge, said by email that the company has settled three of these state cases, in Pennsylvania, Texas and Massachusetts, with no admission of guilty or finding of fraud, while discussions in the other cases are ongoing. And he emphasized that the SEC has so far not concluded that Woodbridge or any affiliated individual has violated federal securities laws.

The SEC for the past year has been investigating whether Woodbridge, which has "raised more than $1 billion from several thousand investors nationwide," has been defrauding its investors.

What type of fraud the SEC suspects is not completely clear. But the agency has subpoenaed both Woodbridge and 235 LLCs affiliated with Woodbridge. The SEC says these companies are "interwoven into the structure of the products Woodbridge offers for investment" and the agency believes these companies are owned or otherwise controlled by Shapiro.

It's unclear whether these developments will register as a big impact locally, despite Woodbridge's outsized presence in Roaring Fork Valley real estate.

Sean de Moraes, an agent with Roaring Fork Sotheby's International Realty, said he didn't expect events surrounding Woodbridge to affect the local real estate market.

"Any immediate negative impact on a specific market segment will only be a ripple in the long-term values of estate in our valley," he said. "Simply put, in the end, there are buyers and there are sellers, property will continue to change hands just as it always has at prices that both parties agree on, and that will always be the true value of a property."

Five states claimed securities violations against Woodbridge

by Bob Ritchie - Ryan Summerlin Glenwood Springs Post

Woodbridge Group, a national investment firm with a major Roaring Fork Valley real estate presence that is under fraud investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has in recent years also faced litigation in several states over claims of securities violations.

These states include Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These cases alleged that Woodbridge offered and sold unregistered securities, didn't provide investors with information required by law and in some cases alleged that Woodbridge also had defrauded investors by not providing full disclosure.

The fraud allegations, in at least some of these state cases, appear to revolve around the company failing to disclose to investors that securities agencies in other states had ordered it to stop selling unregistered securities and that Woodbridge had failed to disclose investment risks.

Several of these states issued cease-and-desist orders, requiring the firm to stop offering or selling unregistered securities or otherwise violating securities laws.

To date, Woodbridge has settled actions in Pennsylvania, Texas and Massachusetts, while it is still in settlement discussions in other states, Robert Shapiro, Woodbridge president, wrote in an email to the Post Independent.

"So far every state action that has been settled was settled with no admission of guilt nor finding of fraud," said Shapiro, who lives part time in Aspen Glen, the epicenter of the company's real estate holdings in the valley.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, the SEC has for the past year been investigating whether Woodbridge has been defrauding its investors. The SEC "is investigating the offer and sale of unregistered securities, the sale of securities by unregistered brokers and the commission of fraud in connection with the offer, purchase and sale of securities," according to a court filing.

Most recently, the SEC applied to a U.S. district court in Florida for an order forcing 235 Woodbridge-affiliated limited liability corporations to fully comply with a subpoena for documents​. ​which the agency says are critical to determining whether the company "is operating a fraud on its investors."

The SEC says the 235 LLCs are "interwoven into the structure of the products Woodbridge offers for investment." SEC investigators believe that these companies are "owned and/or controlled by Woodbridge's President, Robert Shapiro."

In his email, Shapiro said, "Woodbridge notes that the SEC expressly concedes that the agency 'has not concluded that any individual or entity has violated the federal securities laws.'" Asked if he owns or controls the 235 subpoenaed LLCs, he wrote "no comment."

"We have provided over 4 million pages of documents and continue to cooperate with their overly broad request for documents," he wrote.

After those LLCs did not respond to the subpoena, the SEC also applied for a court order forcing their compliance.

"Woodbridge has raised more than $1 billion from several thousand investors nationwide through multiple investment offerings using various forms and structures," according to the SEC.

In 2015, in Massachusetts alleged the company was selling unregistered securities. The Massachusetts securities division ordered the company to pay a $250,000 civil penalty and issued a cease-and-desist order. Later in 2015, the Texas State Securities Board also accused the company of offering unregistered securities and of failing to disclose to investors the Massachusetts order, as well as various investment risks. The Texas board issued an emergency cease and desist order.

The Arizona Corporation Commission alleged that Woodbridge had been selling unregistered securities, had conducted transactions with unregistered "dealers or salesman" and had committed fraud in connection with the sale of securities. A cease-and-desist order from the Arizona commission says that the company committed fraud by not disclosing the previous accused violations in Texas and Massachusetts. Before a couple of Arizona investors put in their money, "Woodbridge Group misrepresented to them that, 'Woodbridge and its predecessors have never been found to have violated any securities law,'" according to the commission.

Earlier this year Pennsylvania's Department of Banking and Securities alleged that a Woodbridge company used an unregistered agent to sell securities. The department fined the company $30,000 and ordered that it comply with the state's securities act.

In August, the Michigan Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau also issued a cease-and-desist order against the company. The bureau found evidence that Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund had sold "First Position Commercial Mortgages," in which about 230 investors had invested more than $14 million. However, those "notes were not federally covered, exempt from registration or registered," according to the bureau's court filing.

Investigators from Michigan also asserted that Woodbridge failed to give investors sufficient "financial information to demonstrate its ability to pay returns promised by its advertisements" or information about various cease and desist orders in Massachusetts, Texas and Arizona.

The Michigan bureau also ordered the company to cease and desist selling the unregistered securities and pay a $500,000 civil fine.

"Woodbridge continues to offer, in all the states where it operates including (Pennsylvania, Texas and Massachusetts) other investment opportunities in the form of securities that (pursuant to the filing of private placement memoranda with the SEC) are exempt from registration under federal law," Shapiro wrote.

Appeal leads to higher ranking for Aspen schools

by Robert Ritchie

The Colorado Department of Education has upgraded the Aspen School District in a standardized testing category based on information from appeal, according to a recent release from the district.

“In 2016, the Colorado Department of Education lowered Aspen School District’s accreditation to ‘Accredited’ from ‘Accredited with Distinction.’ In order to be considered ‘Accredited with Distinction,’ the state requires a 95 percent student participation rate in the standardized testing, but in 2015 many students chose not to participate, resulting in the lowered accreditation,” it continued.

The Aspen School District lacked the documentation needed to appeal that decision. But that changed in the 2016 school year, the release noted.

District test scores and performance became one of the signature campaign issues during the 2017 election season, which saw voters on Nov. 7 elect one challenger, Susan Zimet, and return two incumbents, Susan Marolt and Dwayne Romero, to the board. Candidate Jonathan Nickell, who used the district’s test performance as a campaign issue, finished fourth in a race where the top three won seats.

In a letter dated November 2 to Aspen School District Board of Education President Sandra Peirce and Superintendent John Maloy, Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes said, “The district submitted additional information to the department to correct miscoding of student assessments experienced during the PSAT/SAT state assessment administration. With these students recoded and removed from the accountability participation rate for the PSAT/SAT state assessment administration, the district would meet the 95 percent participation rate threshold.

“Thus, the district would move from ‘Accredited: Decreased due to Participation’ to ‘Accredited with Distinction: Low Participation.’ CDE appreciates the time and effort that the district put into the request to reconsider process,” Anthes’ letter concluded. 

The school district has implemented a new policy to help it from being penalized for students opting out in the future. Tom Heald, assistant superintendent, said, “This school year we implemented a simple and uniform way for parents to opt their children out of the testing. We provided that documentation and appealed to the state and they have reversed our status back to ‘Accreditation with Distinction Low-Participation,” he said.
The district’s release announcing the results went on say, “Of the 178 school districts in the state of Colorado, only 25 made the Accredited with Distinction level. It is difficult to achieve as a district must meet 80 percent or more on the District Performance Frameworks, that measure student performance in academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps and post-secondary and workforce readiness. 

It continued: “The Aspen School District had achieved the level Accreditation with Distinction from 2010-2014 and then in 2015 the CDE paused their accountability system in order to introduce new assessment standards.”
No funding is tied to earning the higher level. 

“But we know how hard our students work and the high level of education they are receiving. We take pride in the ability of our seniors being able to say that they are graduating from a ‘District with Distinction’ on their college applications,” Heald said.

Aspen business scene doing its yearly offseason shuffle

by Bob Ritchie

As the snow starts to blanket the slopes around this time each year, new businesses begin trickling into empty Aspen storefronts in preparation of the winter season. "This is the time of year when we fill up the vacant spaces," longtime Aspen commercial broker Karen Setterfield said Friday. "We have a fun mix going on with some new and different stores." There is also a lot of shift and realigning with some of Aspen's established businesses.

Among them is the husband wife duo behind Bangkok Bowl purchasing the former Upper Crust space in the same plaza at Puppy Smith and Mill streets to open a casual, Hawaiian-style restaurant next month. Tiki Mana Island Grill will feature a large selection of popular island dishes such as fresh fish, chicken, specialty noodles and a build your own poke bowl bar, owner Kirk Coult said. Mai Tais and other tropical cocktails also will be on the menu. "Everything has an island twist to it. There's nothing in Aspen like this," Coult said. "We're excited because it's unique and it's different. "There's nothing better on a cold winter day than to have some nice, hot foods from the islands." He said the restaurant's aesthetic also would reflect its island vibe, with decor imported from Fiji and the Polynesian islands. As of now, Tiki Mana Island Grill will open around 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, with extended hours until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Aspen's lone Thai eatery will open a four-seat sushi bar inside its space "some time before Christmas," Coult said, around the same time they plan to open their new restaurant. He and his wife, co-owner and executive chef, Paula Rungsawang-Coult, served sushi for three weeks this fall and said it was "very popular." Bangkok Bowl's upcoming sushi bar will mirror those inside its Breckenridge and Hawaii restaurant locations, he said.


Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss changed direction after saying in late October that he was not relocating their taproom to the Peach's cafe space at 121 S. Galena Street. "It was one of the options," Clauss said on Thursday of the ex-Peach's spot. "There's a lot to work out in a commercial lease." Clauss said he signed the lease on the brewery's new taproom, titled "Aspen Tap," late Wednesday afternoon. The goal is to open Aspen Tap, which also will serve bites, before the holiday season. "It should be a pretty quick turnaround. There's not a ton of renovation to do," Clauss said. "Mostly aesthetic just to turn the Peach's place into a bar and restaurant. And we're going to work our butts off to get it open as soon as possible." Aspen Brewing Co. vacated the upper floor of the Seguin Building (304 E. Hopkins Ave.) on Oct. 31 at the request of its new owners, the Hillstone Restaurant Group, which purchased the building for $6 million on May 10.


The American guitar manufacturer will open its first store next week at 240 S. Mill St.D'Angelico Guitars, which boasts showrooms in New York and Los Angeles, signed a six-month lease on the 1,500-square-foot Aspen space, CEO Brenden Cohen said Friday, adding, "hopefully everyone supports us and we stay longer." His vision is for the space to serve as a "hang out slash music store." Along with selling guitars and accessories, the shop will offer music lessons and host parties and events, he said. "It's really a place where you can come get your hands on the instruments, too" store manager Shane Allen said. The guitars will range from $400 to custom, build your own pieces for $25,000-plus. D'Angelico Guitars will open the morning of Nov. 17 and also host a grand opening party at 7:30 p.m.


The London-based active-wear brand Sweaty Betty will open a 760-square foot pop-up shop at 529 E. Cooper this winter. Sweaty Betty, seeking to "blur the lines between fitness and fashion," sells workout and yoga clothes, ski apparel and more. The brand operates more than 50 shops internationally, 14 of which are located in the United States. "Having skied for over 20 years, Aspen has always been a dream location of mine for Sweaty Betty," founder Tamara Hill-Norton said in a statement. She added, "It's the perfect place for our new retro ski collection and printed base layers." Sweaty Betty will be open seven days a week from Nov. 20 to April 1.


The eclectic shop Maker and Place, which sells handmade homeware, jewelry and other goods, will reopen at 614 E. Cooper by Thanksgiving, according to commercial broker Angi Wang. Maker & Place is downsizing from its summer pop-up in the 9,549-square-foot space – about 600 of which Aspen Entrepreneurs occupied – at 315 E. Hyman Ave., otherwise known as the former Hub of Aspen. The brand's new store, sandwiched between Mezzaluna and Pierre Famille, is about 1,100-square feet, Wang said.

Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC's "The Profit," is expanding his fashion group to Aspen. The mixed brand luxury store "Marcus" will open next week inside the former Burberry space at 501 E. Hyman Ave.

The women's wear boutique Shari's Place will open its first store outside the east coast at 208 S. Mill St. in December, according to Setterfield. A New York-born brand with six shops from Palm Beach to Nantucket, Shari's Place sells women's clothes, evening wear, handbags, shoes, accessories and more.

Real, an exotic leather handbag and accessories pop-up, is open at 315 S. Galena St. until April 30. "Everything we do is real, it's really made in the U.S., and it's real luxury," co-owner Jeremiah Kapp said of the brand's name. Jeremiah and his wife, Natalia, run the business together.

Kathryn Penn Fine Jewelry is back with a long-term lease at 431 E. Hopkins Ave., according to Setterfield.

The Hawaii-based Christopher Egan Fine Art Gallery will open an Aspen location at 406 S. Galena St. in December, Setterfield said.

Aspen Core Ventures, controlled by developers Andrew Hecht and son Nikos, applied to make a few changes inside the Aspen Core building at 535 E. Hyman. Their application includes raising a floor and adding a heating unit inside the space that's also known as "lego building," according to Aspen chief building official Stephen Kanipe. While the work is minor, it reveals some movement within a high-profile building that's remained mostly vacant since it was built. Calls to Andrew Hecht were not returned.

Asie Restaurant, despite rumors of a closure, is undergoing an extensive remodel and will reopen for the season in mid-December, owner Frank Lu confirmed.

ZEMA Lingerie relocated to 555 E. Durant Ave.

Katebaby rebranded to Ro + Fern at 205 S. Mill St.

Courage.b is now Runaway at 205 S. Mill St.

Base Village is again under construction

by Bob Ritchie

Base Village is again under construction - Click for illustration

Basalt, El Jebel will add 213 affordable housing units by March

by Bob Ritchie


Under construction

Roaring Fork Apts, 56 rental units

Skico seasonal housing, 34 units


Tree Farm, 40 rental units, 10 sale

Approval pending

Basalt Vista, 27 sale units

Stott’s Mill, Up to 25 units

Under review

The Fields, up to 27 units

Total units: 342

Basalt and El Jebel will add 213 affordable-housing units before winter is over and the number could swell to 342 in the not-too-distant future.

Mariner Real Estate Management led the surge by completing 50 apartments and 27 condominiums at Willits Town Center this summer. The apartments are being rented to qualified members of the public. Most of the condos were purchased by the Roaring Fork School District for rental to teachers and staff. Both complexes are open and partially occupied.

Close on its heels is the expansion of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park. Crawford Properties LLC added five pre-fabricated homes last winter and is in the process of adding another 41 residences.

Sidewalks and other final infrastructure are being completed as well as installation of skirting to prepare the residences for winter, said Robert Hubbell, president and CEO of the corporation.

They will be ready to occupy in November. The company vetted a waiting list of 304 households to select tenants.

"We're completely full. Everyone's been selected," Hubbell said.

The eight two-bedroom units go for $1,800 per month and the 38 three-bedroom units rent for $2,100 per month.

Those 127 units at Willits and El Jebel will make an immediate dent in the affordable-housing need. Other projects are on the horizon.

RealAmerica Inc. anticipates opening its 56-unit Roaring Fork Apartments next to Stubbies bar and restaurant in March, according to president Ronda Weybright. There is already a list of 79 households potentially interested in renting, she said.

Roaring Fork Apartments will target an often-neglected segment of the market — the lower end. Forty-four units will target households making less than 60 percent of the area median income. Six units will be rented for $450 to $550 per month; 11 will be rented at between $810 and $980 per month; and 27 will be rented for between $1,000 and $1,200 per month.

The remaining 12 will be rented at 120 percent of area median income, producing a rent between $1,350 and $1,450.

Aspen Skiing Co. also is using midvalley property to ease its affordable-housing shortage. It is adding 34 additional tiny homes to its Aspen Basalt Campground for seasonal workers. The mobile units will be moved in for winter.

While that housing is a private-sector project with the residences reserved exclusively for Skico seasonal workers, its addition relieves pressure on the broader rental market.

Four additional projects are in various stages of local government approvals. The 27-condo Basalt Vista project at Basalt High School will seek final approval tonight from the Basalt Town Council. If approved that will add 27 for-sale units for teachers and staff in the Roaring Fork School District as well as 12 units for qualified workers in Pitkin County. The project, led by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork, has received the first of two approvals needed from the town.

Stott's Mill also is up for a second reading of an approval. There are 25 affordable-housing units included in the 113-unit subdivision. The free-market units also are intended to be "attainable" for workers by design — with small lot sizes.

In the El Jebel area, the Tree Farm project was approved by Eagle County and will be phased in over time. The 340 residences include 40 deed-restricted rental units and 10 price-capped for-sale units.

Tree Farm also includes 150 resident-occupied units. Once they are listed for sale, the units can only be purchased over the first 60 days by qualified residents of the valley and Eagle County. After the 60-day period lapses, they can be sold to anyone. Therefore, there's no guarantee they will remain affordable housing.

The Eagle County commissioners also are reviewing a project called The Fields, which has as many as 27 affordable-housing units. The outcome of the vote remains uncertain.

The completion and pursuit of the projects follows a consultant's advice to Basalt officials in April 2015 to build a minimum of 200 affordable-housing units over the next five years. The completed and approved projects in Basalt alone add as many as 185 units.

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney, who took the helm in June, said it appears that good progress is being made on affordable housing, given the number of units being built and the recommended goal.

"I think the scorecard looks pretty good," he said.

However, Basalt cannot stop once 200 units are built, he said. The addition of the affordable housing still lags behind demand.

There are no numbers available to quantify the demand for affordable housing. Anecdotally, the demand seems as great as ever.

"There's still a lot of need," said Hubbell, noting that 304 households became interested in the El Jebel Mobile Home Park addition just through word of mouth.

Aspen Ski Company Aquires Mammoth Resorts

by Robert Ritchie

Mammoth Resorts has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by a newly formed entity controlled by affiliates of the Aspen Skiing Company, L.L.C. and KSL Capital Partners, LLC. A Starwood Capital Group controlled affiliate owns a majority interest in Mammoth Resorts.

Mammoth Resorts is a great operator with a large California footprint. They operate Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and several hospitality properties as well as two golf courses. Mammoth Lakes is a vibrant community on a year round basis, offering alpine and freestyle on-snow camps well into June. Their extensive mountain biking trail system attracts visitors all summer and their close proximity to Yosemite National Park is also a big draw. Just as importantly, these resorts have distinct personalities stemming from their early days as fledgling resorts, creating a strong sense of place that is alive and well.

Considering these attributes in the context of the Intrawest deal, the strength of this overall combination is clear. While the details of how Aspen Skiing Company will collaborate with this collection of amazing resorts will be worked out over the coming months, they share a common passion for the mountains and for our communities. 

Aspen Ski Company Aquires Intrawest Resort Holdings

by Bob Ritchie

Aspen Skiing Company (Skico) has been announced that they have partnered with an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners, LLC (KSL) to acquire Intrawest Resort Holdings. Together, they are forming a new entity to acquire an incredible collection of resorts.  Intrawest, headquartered in Denver, owns Steamboat and operates Winter Park in Colorado. The company also has several resorts in the East, including Snowshoe, WV, Stratton Mountain, VT, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Blue Mountain, Ontario, as well as Canadian Mountain Holidays, British Columbia, and the management of several condominium hotel properties.

Aspen Skiing Company will continue to be operated separately from Intrawest and Squaw, but will work together in areas that make sense.

2016 Real Estate Market Analysis

by Bob Ritchie

2016 Real Estate Market Analysis

Aspen’s beautiful and busy Summer was followed by a fantastic start to the ski season with early total snowfall reaching 200% of normal. Aspen’s Total Real Estate Sales Dollar Volume recovered from down about 50% in the Spring of 2016 to end the year down just 32%.  The town’s activity, retail sales tax collections, restaurants, hotels, cultural venues, long and short term rentals, etc.,  are at record levels. The Ski Company, Ideas Fest, Fortune Forum, Aspen Music Festival, the Art Museum, Non-Profits…. across the board all had a great year, and Aspen hosts the World Cup Finals March 17th.

The sale of the Monarch Penthouse set a new record of $4,250/sf in February 2016.

The sale of the Dancing Bear Penthouse late in the year at $5,000/sf unfinished, set a new record high,

it is now listed at $10,000/sf finished.

After the election, every month’s total Real Estate Sales have exceeded the previous year’s. 

All this great news from a 4 Mountain Ski and Cultural mecca that does not make you wait in lift lines.


Current Market Forces

1. From 2014 through 2016, several well healed developers purchased, repositioned, remodeled, and rebuilt a significant percentage of Aspens’ prime residential and commercial building sites, tear downs, and fix and flips. These redevelopment projects focused first on the prime West End, Red Mountain, and Core locations with activity in 2016 moving into adjacent neighborhoods. Due to Aspens, higher price structure Buyers are beginning to look into areas in which prices have not recovered from their 2008 highs such as some surrounding neighborhoods, Starwood, Down Valley and parts of Snowmass.

​Snowmass Real Estate will experience a boost as Base Village sold to a partnership which includes Aspen Ski Company and East West Partners. They are planning starts of three projects this year which will break the ice of a 8-year halt to the million-square foot project that dominates Snowmass. The first crane is to go up this April.

Aspen’s prices jumped ahead from 2014-2016. Buyers who also faced disruptive US elections, news of terror attacks, and shifting geopolitics took a break in the first half of 2016. After the election, the Trump Effect took hold of the stock markets and Buyers became very active, we had a near record 4th quarter, a great January, and currently under contract properties total $320,000,000.

2. Aspens’ Downtown Downzoning will eliminate residential uses, lower building heights to 28’ add employee housing requirements… in all there are 8 ways Aspen City Council is saying “no more downtown development”. After the 17 currently approved and exempt projects are built there will be nothing new built downtown until the codes change.

Aspen Home Sales in 2016 vs 2015

Total # of homes sold were 55 (2016) vs 109 in (2015)

Homes under $5.0M = 24 properties (2016) vs 40 properties in (2015)
Homes from $5.0M to $10.0M = 19 properties (2016) vs 43 properties in (2015)

Homes over $10.0M = 12 properties (2016) vs 26 properties in (2015)

Snowmass 2016 home and condominium average sales prices were up a few % and the number of sales were down slightly. The down valley markets were slightly stronger than last year.

2017 Forecast

Aspen’s fantastic world class amenities are driving a sales recovery, we will likely look back on 2016's lull as a missed buying opportunity.

Reasons to buy now are;

1. Lifestyle, there is no better community in which to safely live, raise your family, visit or vacation. No other place has the combination of Aspen’s accessibility, natural beauty, cultural, educational, and recreational amenities.

2. Inventory is still very high, we are in a Buyers’ Market for properties 5 years old and older, with many options and motivated Sellers

3. Historically values in Aspen do not drop in recessions (the 2008 recession was the first decrease since at least the 1960s) making Aspen a historically excellent place to store and accumulate wealth.

4. Worldwide upheavals will continue driving tourism and more Buyers to Aspen.

5. Interest rates are extremely low.

6. With the average 2016 Aspen home sale at $6.6M, and the average lot sale at $5M, as a backdrop, the additional new much higher permit fees, new very high employee mitigation fees, and high hard and soft construction costs, will force New Product asking prices much higher.

7. Many older properties are priced well below replacement value.​

Expect the high end of the Aspen Real Estate Market to improve in the near future driven by Aspen’s unique amenities, popularity, Buyers’ high levels of liquidity, their aversion to the risks and fluctuations of the stock and bond markets, the $3 Billion post-election jump in stock market value, and Buyers’ acceptance of the fact that new product will be at prices higher than the current inventory.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any and all Real Estate matters, I look forward to assisting you.


Robert Ritchie

Broker, Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, 970-379-1500

The statistics used in this document are from the Aspen Glenwood MLS, Land Title Guarantee, and the Aspen Times. The opinions are my own. Buyers and Sellers should do their own research to validate their thoughts and decisions. 

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Robert Ritchie
Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International Realty
300 South Spring Street
Aspen CO 81611
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