Vail Valley luxury real estate shows improvement |

Vail Valley luxury real estate shows improvement

VAIL, Colorado – Luxury real estate sales in the valley are nowhere near what they were in 2007 and 2008, but transactions are up over last year and that’s news that any real estate agent in the valley is happy to hear.

The average sale price in the county was $1.197 million in 2010, up 25 percent over last year. The number is second only to 2008 – boom times – when it was $1.396 million.

Local watchers of economic indicators have said time and time again that the valley is no longer able to rely on a real estate economy – that the economy has gone back to its roots, which is tourism-based.

But it doesn’t mean real estate is a lost cause. In fact, many real estate brokers seem encouraged over the latest numbers.

“I think it’s coming back,” said Trevor Theelke, of Land Title Guarantee Company, which compiles data for the Vail Board of Realtors. “It looks like things are on the trek back, but how long that’s going to take is still anyone’s guess.”

While numbers alone show encouraging signs, real estate data isn’t always an apples to apples comparison.

There were 512 real estate transactions in the town of Vail in 2010, for example, with 84 of those transactions above $2.5 million. Thirty-two transactions were between $5 million and $10 million, and six transactions were above $10 million, according to data from the town of Vail.

Units that became available in 2010 at high-end developments like the Ritz-Carlton Residences and Solaris, however, might show a distorted look at sales prices because those units were not yet open and ready to sell in previous years, Theelke said.

The town of Vail’s real estate transfer tax collections, which is 1 percent of the sales price, also show the spike. Collections in 2010 were nearly $7 million, compared to less than $2.5 million in 2009. About $4.2 million of the 2010 collections were from redevelopment projects including the Arrabelle, Chalets at the Lodge at Vail, Founders’ Park Garage, Landmark, Lions Square Lodge North, Manor Vail, Mountain View, Ritz-Carlton Residences, Solaris and the Sebastian.

Vail in a good spot

Karry Agneberg, of Prudential Real Estate, thinks Vail is better positioned than so many other mountain resort areas for an economic rebound.

Its geographic proximity to the Front Range, combined with a slew of world-class events like the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival and Vail International Dance Festival, means Vail has plenty of selling points to show consumers.

“We have such an international flavor to this community that I don’t think resorts like Summit County and Crested Butte and Telluride (can compete),” Agneberg said. “We have as good a chance of coming out of this (recession) earlier and perhaps better than a lot of those places.”

Another sign that Vail is weathering the economic storm much better is that luxury real estate prices haven’t really dropped much here. It’s at least a sign that Vail has the confidence in the market enough to hold those prices.

Some luxury brands have begun offering packages or special buying bonuses, such as a free membership to the exclusive Arrabelle Ski Club for Ritz-Carlton buyers, for example.

Others, like Solaris, have not dropped prices or started to offer any special deals.

Craig Cohn, director of sales at Solaris, said he’s been consistently busy with qualified buyers, but the change he has noticed the most is that deals no longer take a few weeks or a month.

“We’re still dealing with qualified people, but people are much slower to make decisions these days,” Cohn said.

County-wide, there were still 60 sales in 2010 that were over $4 million – triple the sales in that price range in 2009. It’s still a ways away from the 102 transactions that were over $4 million in 2008, but it’s a sign of encouragement nonetheless.

“There are more high-priced sales going on,” Theelke said. “Everything’s going to be good compared to last year.”

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