DENVER - Colorado mountain real estate has turned white-hot in the state's swankiest ski resorts, with many towns expecting to best recent records by year-end.
Vail fixture Slifer Smith & Frampton posted $1 billion in annual sales for the first time in its fiscal year ended in September. In Aspen, real estate tax revenues tell the tale of a banner year: By Sept. 2, collections already had surpassed all of last year's.
And the buyers seem to keep coming.
"We have the most pending business on the books in the history of our firm," said Jim Flaum, president and managing broker at Slifer Smith, whose record-setting sales in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30 compared with $900 million in sales last year.
Brokers in the state's top resort towns said baby boomers seeking vacation homes, as well as an influx of new full-time residents, have contributed to the boom. At the same time, the number of properties on the market has been shrinking.
Markets around the region also have enjoyed a boom.
"This summer's been the craziest that I think any of us have ever seen," said Dennis Hanlon, head of the Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance, based in Park City, Utah. "It looks like everybody is going to be way above last year."
Hanlon, who tracks sales throughout the region, said he is still collecting 2005 data from Colorado ski resort towns. In Park City, he said, sales have more than doubled in the first nine months of the year - to $1.5 billion from $700 million in the same period of 2004.
Few see a bubble on the horizon, given the dearth of vacant land backing up to ski runs and other big mountain draws.
"We've had record-level activity at record-level prices," said Brent Waldron, managing broker at the resort town's Coates, Reid & Waldron. "We're about 20 percent ahead of last year. I think that's probably what (all of Aspen's numbers) will reflect as well."
Even with the phenomenal growth in sales of fractionally owned units, interest in individually owned homes has been strong.
"People with a lot of money don't have to share and don't," said Slifer's Flaum. "Most of them don't rent their homes. They have their clothes here. They have their artwork the way they want it."
While just about all market segments have done well in both Summit and Eagle counties, Flaum noted that Vail Village remains a big-ticket draw.
A small house on one-third of an acre recently sold for $12.5 million even though the buyer planned to tear down the dated house and build another one.
"Some folks bought it obviously just for the land," Flaum said.
Waldron said booming fractional ownership offerings in Aspen actually have fueled an interest in wholly owned condominium and single-family-home sales.
Waldron said those who bought a share of a condo for a few weeks a year have decided they want to come more often that.
The frenzied activity has boosted Aspen's take from a 1 percent housing real estate transfer tax, which buyers pay at closing to help fund affordable housing.
"We're assuming we're going to be close to $9 million this year (in housing transfer tax revenues), which is about $900 million in real estate sales in town," said Paul Menter, Aspen's finance director.
The robust market extends to other Colorado resort towns, too.
Where buyers still could find a two-bedroom ski condo in Steamboat for about $150,000 last year, prices have moved closer to $200,000 or more.
"We can't produce mass quantities of ski-in, ski-out properties," said Doug Labor, a Steamboat Springs real estate broker. "It's going to be another record year for us."
In the first three quarters of 2005, the Steamboat market had 1,054 transactions, up 14.9 percent from 917 in the same period a year ago. Those properties sold for a combined $376 million, up from $316 million the year before, said Labor, who compiles data for the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.
The same goes for Telluride.
"Every month this past year has been to a certain extent setting records," said Kim Havell, president of Telluride's Board of Realtors. Through August, sales were up 15 percent in dollar volume and the number of deals had climbed 7 percent vs. last year.
Havell said the number of people seeking a small-town life year-round has contributed to the increased interest in Telluride real estate.
"Families are looking for quality of life changes," Havell said. "This has been a very comfortable and protected place to live."