High prices in the Rocky Mountains: Homebuyers outside of Aspen are heading to Basalt

New Yorker Richie Lin had been skiing with his husband in Aspen for 20 years. But in 2019, as he looked to buy a ski house, he knew the Colorado resort’s high prices put it way beyond his budget. Instead, he bought a house in Basalt, a 20-minute drive from the mountain, where houses are only a fraction of the price.

“We were out of Aspen, so we looked to buy in the next town. It’s a great little town, has everything you need and is close to the mountains.

About 20 miles from the major resorts of Aspen and Snowmass, Basalt is one of many towns in the Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, where demand for second homes grows as the pandemic increases appeal. mountains for buyers in coastal towns.

Demand from locals is also increasing, as long-term Aspen residents look to take advantage of years of rising prices by moving down the valley to a cheaper or larger home. But rising prices and demand for vacation rentals mean housing is becoming unaffordable for many residents.

Much of Basalt’s appeal is the discount it offers on Aspen, whose popularity with super-rich Americans has pushed prices beyond the budgets of most buyers. According to the Aspen Board of Realtors, the median price of a single-family home sold in Aspen in the year through October was $ 9.6 million, compared to $ 1.43 million in Basalt.

Sam Augustine, a real estate agent who covers both Aspen and lower valley towns such as Basalt and Carbondale for Compass, says a growing number of his sales since the start of the pandemic have been aimed at those who believe that Aspen prices no longer offer good value for money.

The small town of Basalt, 20 minutes from Aspen, offers homes at a fraction of the cost, although demand from second home residents and locals is driving prices up quickly © Danita Delimont Creative / Alamy

“I have a lot of clients who could spend $ 10 million on a house in Aspen, but don’t. They see they’ll get more for $ 3 million to $ 5 million at Basalt or Carbondale.

Local agents say the number of buyers from major US cities has increased during the pandemic. For this group, the distinction between a second home and a permanent home has blurred, with many taking advantage of homework to live full-time in their mountain home.

Ryan Honey, who runs The Arts Campus at Willits, a non-profit performing arts center in Basalt, says an increasing number of permanent and second home owners are showing up to the shows. Between the closure of TACAW’s previous temporary building in April 2019 and the recent opening of a new permanent location in September of this year, the average age of its audience dropped significantly: “In their fifties and over had been our audience. main. More and more we see young people calling this place home and we start programming for them.

Rising demand for housing has led to higher prices: The median price of the 62 single-family homes sold in the year through October in Basalt is 42% higher than last year, according to Aspen Board of Realtors. And less housing is available: 64 single-family homes were put up for sale over the same period, compared to 98 at the same stage in 2019.

Despite being priced well below Aspen, Basalt offers many of the features and amenities that permanent residents have come to expect. The original town center, which developed around the arrival of the railway in the late 19th century, has a range of shops, restaurants and art galleries, as well as a large number of period homes along Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road.

Willits is a popular district developed two decades ago. Besides TACAW, it has a cinema, restaurants and bars. Basalt has several public schools and school buses connect the city with private schools in Aspen.

Christmas greetings greet visitors to the historic small town of Basalt near Glenwood Springs in the Roaring Fork River Valley in Colorado USA

As well as being close to the ski slopes, Basalt offers a good range of facilities including a theater, restaurants and bars © Nik Wheeler / Getty Images

Dan Kiely, 48, a bartender in Aspen who bought a home in Willits in 2014, says the range and quality of Basalt’s nightlife has improved in recent years. “There was a time when all good servers came up to Aspen. Now you get better service here.

A popular area with shoppers is Missouri Heights, on the open plains between Carbondale and Basalt, a short drive from the Highway 82 thoroughfare that connects the two cities before continuing to Aspen. Here, a budget of 3 to 5 million dollars will buy a detached house of approximately 5,000 square feet on several acres with a garage. River Valley Ranch in Carbondale and nearby Aspen Glen offer smaller single-family homes for $ 2-3 million.

The problem is to find one to sell. “I had 30 active registrations at the start of the pandemic; now I have three or four, ”says Augustine.

Many permanent residents of Basalt work in skiing or related industries in Aspen or Snowmass and a high proportion of permanent residents gives the town a warm community feel, says Kiely. “It’s not like people are partying here and leaving, like in Aspen. We [love] the relaxed and relaxed atmosphere.

Basalt and Aspen Map in Colorado, USA

Melanie Muss, a local agent for Douglas Elliman, says the Basalt community is attracted to those who leave Aspen. They represent a significant portion of its buyers – especially the ‘impending empty nesters’ with nearing adulthood children who no longer need to be near Aspen schools. The summer season, a busy time for Colorado hill stations, is longer, thanks to the lower elevation of the basalt, making it popular with those who prefer hiking, mountain biking, or golfing to skiing.

A move to Basalt or Carbondale has long been part of the life plan of those working in the local ski industry. Bill Kane, the mayor of Basalt, bought his home in the town in 2009, after living 38 years in Aspen, where he raised his family and worked for the Aspen Skiing Company, which operates the resort. “We like [Aspen] upon death, but we knew part of our retirement savings plan was to bank our home equity [by moving]. “

But recent price increases exacerbate a long-standing affordability problem in Basalt for tenants and buyers and disrupt the city’s sense of community, much of its appeal.

Rising selling prices mean a growing number of local workers can no longer afford to buy homes, and agents estimate rents have risen 20-30% since the start of the pandemic. Tax revenue from short-term rentals this year is expected to increase by a third, according to Basalt City Council. Kane says landlords are moving their properties from long-term leases to short-term rentals, reducing the rental supply for residents.

A house in Carbondale, another town in the Roaring Fork Valley

A house in Carbondale, another town in the Roaring Fork Valley © Liesl Clark / Getty Images

To combat this trend, all new apartments approved for construction since September must have included in their leases a minimum rental period of six months. In November, the city raised a bond of $ 17 million; a portion of the proceeds will be used to finance affordable housing.

But Auden Schendler, head of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and resident of Basalt, says local politics are hampering smart home building measures. “[Local politicians] run on a platform of ‘I want to protect the character of the small town.’ He says the growing proportion of secondary residents reinforces these attitudes.

At a local social gathering, a resident who had recently moved to Basalt from a large coastal town asked Schendler to support his objections to a downtown development plan. “It was precisely where [housing] should go if you care to put it in the urban core rather than sprawling all over the place. And that person right next to the boat was [trying to] make sure the city doesn’t change at all, ”he said.

Kiely says the newcomers are eroding Basalt’s sense of community. “There was always a very community feeling to living in the valley. When we had big forest fires [several] years ago, everyone came together to help each other, we were all in the same boat. As different people move in and prices go up, it feels like that is changing, ”he says, pointing to less courteous drivers on city roads.

He plans to sell his house and take a career break, but fears that rising prices in the Roaring Fork Valley mean he won’t be able to buy a house near the Aspen bar where he works when he returns. “It’s the sales problem: where are you going to go? “

Purchase guide

  • Basalt is a 20-minute drive from Aspen / Pitkin County Airport, from where flights to Denver International Airport take an hour; from there, flights to New York take 3h 40m and to Los Angeles 2h 30m.

  • In most cases, home purchases in Willits incur a transfer tax of between 1 and 2 percent, while those elsewhere in Basalt and Carbondale incur none.

  • The basalt is found at an altitude of 2,015 m; Aspen is 2,438 m away.

  • The Roaring Fork River, which runs through town, and the Frying Pan River to the east are designated Gold Medal Trout Fishing Waters by the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

What you can buy for. ..

$ 675,000 A three bedroom, two bathroom home within walking distance of downtown Willits. The ground floor has an open plan living / dining area and an additional room which could be used as a home office or as a fourth bedroom. In the market with Douglas Elliman.


$ 2.85 million A five bedroom detached house in the Holland Hills neighborhood. The house has an office, entertainment area and gym, with exposed brick interiors and high ceilings. There is also a mature garden and a sheltered terrace. For sale with Christie’s International Real Estate Aspen Snowmass.

© Michael Brands with Mountain Home Photo


$ 3.595 million A four bedroom, four bath home on two-thirds of an acre. Built in 2007, the property is in the Blue Creek area of ​​Carbondale, a five-minute walk from the Roaring Fork River. Features include a desk, screened porch and three fireplaces. Available through Compass.

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