New Yorker Richie Lin had been skiing with his husband in Aspen for 20 years. But in 2019, when he was looking to buy a ski home, he knew that the Colorado resort’s high prices placed it well beyond his budget. Instead, he bought a home in Basalt, a 20-minute drive down the mountain, where homes are a fraction of the price.
“We were priced out of Aspen, so we looked to buy in the next town over. It’s a great little town, has everything you need and is close to the mountains.”
About 20 miles from the area’s main resorts of Aspen and Snowmass, Basalt is one of several towns down Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley where demand for second homes is growing, as the pandemic increases the draw of the mountains for buyers from coastal cities.
Demand from locals is growing, too, as long-term Aspen residents seek to cash in on years of price gains with a move down valley to a cheaper or larger home. But rising prices and the demand for holiday rentals means that housing is becoming unaffordable for many residents.
A big part of the appeal of Basalt is the discount it offers on Aspen, whose popularity with America’s super-rich has pushed prices beyond the budgets of most buyers. According to the Aspen Board of Realtors, the median price of a detached home sold in Aspen in the year to October was $9.6m, compared with $1.43m in Basalt.
Sam Augustine, an estate agent who covers both Aspen and down-valley towns such as Basalt and Carbondale for Compass, says an increasing number of his sales since the start of the pandemic have been to those who feel Aspen prices no longer offer value for money.
“I have plenty of clients who could spend $10m on an Aspen home but don’t. They see that they will get more for $3m-$5m in Basalt or Carbondale.”
Local agents say the number of buyers coming from the major US cities has increased during the pandemic. For this group, the distinction between a second home and a permanent one has blurred, with many taking advantage of homeworking to live full-time in their mountain homes.
Ryan Honey, who runs The Arts Campus at Willits, a non-profit performing arts centre in Basalt, says that growing numbers of permanent and second-home owners are showing up at performances. Between the closure of TACAW’s previous temporary building in April 2019 and the recent opening of a new permanent venue in September this year, the average age of its audiences fell significantly: “Fifty-plus had been our core audience. More and more we’re seeing younger people who are calling this place home and we’re starting to programme for them.”