The Aspen Buzz

Million Dollar Listing Aspen

Talking with Lorrie B about the climate of high dollar real estate in Aspen, eight figure deals, and how insider connections and experience are the formula for success.

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This downtown 8,000 square foot Penthouse recently sold for $25 million — unfinished.

If you’ve ever watched the “Million Dollar Listing” reality television series on Bravo, you may have learned a thing or two about the high dollar real estate transactions that regularly take place in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. With sky-rocketing real estate sales in downtown Aspen and prices reaching over $3,000 a square foot, Aspen could easily have it’s own real estate reality TV show. Except for most people, these prices are a far cry from reality.

For Lorrie B. Winnerman of Lorrie B Aspen & Associates, Aspen’s top-tier real estate prices are nothing new. After 30 years in the business, she can tell you firsthand that Aspen has always been “the place to be,” and therefore on the forefront of high-dollar real estate.

We caught up with Lorrie B. for a little reality check about Aspen’s skyrocketing real estate market.

There’s been a surplus of 8-figure deals in the past year. Is this something you saw coming?
For the last couple years it’s been crazy. Every year, the number of sales over $10 million has increased. In 2013, there were 14 sales over the $10 million mark. In 2014, it went up to 24 sales. In 2015 we’ve already seen 29 sales over $10 million and the year isn’t even over yet. I see the wealth in the United States—all I have to do is drive by the airport like I did Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s just insane to see all those private planes lined up like that, which I love. It’s a great lifestyle. But you don’t have to look very far to see the big money is there.

Still, you’re saying this is nothing new.
From the time I was a young woman, coming to Aspen in the 60s and all of a sudden I found myself skiing with Senator’s children. Growing up in Minnesota, I would never have that opportunity. Even back then you’d have all these trust funders. society women, debutantes, and they all wanted to come to Aspen.

Ha! So Aspen was a scene, even back then.
I remember when the first heiress came to town and built a 10,000 square foot house on 40 acres, and this was in the sixties. Or when the actress Hedy Lamarr built an entire complex called Villas Lamar that’s now The Aspen Villas today. And then the 10th Mountain Division soldiers came here after World War II and we became a real ski town. You have all this fabulous history here. But the bottom line is, they were coming no matter what the era. Aspen has always attracted new money. The joke has always been, if you didn’t have a PhD you couldn’t be a waiter. Things haven’t really changed that much. Aspen was always been the place to be.

Then came Hollywood …
When I started my career in real estate in the late seventies, it became clear that all of a sudden Hollywood wanted to be here: Cher, Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell … they’d sneak everyone in the back door of Andre’s. There were no paparazzi back then. Once Hollywood started getting tired of us, there was the oil surge in the 80s and a lot of new wealth. After the oil bust in late 80s then it was Steve Jobs and all the technology money, and it’s kind of been going like that after since. Now we’re seeing a lot of foreign money.

Did real estate prices seem high back then?
I bought my first duplex in Aspen in 1975. I think I paid $75,000 for 1,500 square feet. In Minnesota, I lived in a nice area of the Twin Cities and bought my estate on a couple of acres for $79,000. I was able to subdivide and sell one of the lots off. The prices here were always shocking to me, yes.

And now Aspen has eclipsed New York City in its prices?
If you look at what New York is selling at, it’s easily $3-4,000 a square foot for incredible properties. Aspen is starting to get there. This Penthouse that just sold in downtown Aspen for 25 million for 8,000 square feet was unfinished. It’s a shell. By the time someone comes in and spends the money to finish it, this property will easily be worth $4,000 a square foot, so that’s basically the same as Manhattan prices.

Why do you think that particular property sold for so much?
With the current tenor of city government there aren’t going to be any more penthouses allowed in downtown Aspen, so that drove the value way up. The prices are only going to keep going up because there’s so little inventory left for those kinds of properties in downtown Aspen.

Do these prices shock your clients?
No. New York prices are running very similar to Aspen because it’s similar buyers. In Palm Beach, Florida if you want beachfront property you’re looking at $20-30 million. It’s the same thing in Beverly Hills. People are not surprised—they’re playing in the same field.

Is it hard to sell these high dollar properties?
What’s amazing is how buyers find you. I just got a call from a guy the other day who said he wanted to rent the biggest, most expensive house that’s closest to the gondola for the holidays. It just so happens I know the owner of a 19,000 square foot house within walking distance to the gondola. The asking price for New Years was $250,000 for 10 nights. I told him I don’t have 100 properties just like this, I only have one. Still, without my connections and relationships, I wouldn’t have even had one property to show him. It’s all about those relationships and connections–that’s the key to selling real estate in this market.

So that’s one thing that separates us from those high-dollar markets in big cities, is low inventory.
There’s no inventory. It’s supply and demand. It’s economics 101. There’s really no room for negotiating in this market.