We all know the Aspen/Roaring Fork Valley real estate market has never been stronger as people flee cities in what is now being referred to as “the urban exodus” to take shelter from the pandemic (albeit in the lap of luxury) from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. We also know inventory is low, with slim-pickings from homes in desperate need of updating. Buyers who are in a big hurry to move and enroll their kids in Aspen schools don’t have the luxury of a typical second-home buyer who can take as much time as they need with an extensive remodel.
The result is a boom in demand for quick-fix remodeling, which has put tremendous pressure on everyone from interior designers and general contractors to the City of Aspen, where the permitting process is completely backlogged, causing significant delays.
“All these people want quick-fixes while they plan for a bigger remodel,” says Kristen Dittmar Doremus, interior designer and owner of Kristin Dittmar Design, who has been inundated with these types of projects in recent months. “Everybody wants everything right away. And everything is either sold out or slow in getting in here due to a disrupted supply chain and a delay in transportation for shipping. Everything is slower than it used to be, which makes it even harder to meet the demand.”
Dittmar says all the subcontractors are maxed out, from electricians and plumbers to design firms that are getting overwhelmed with these short-timeline projects. “Everyone is trying to get a nice place to stay while they wait for the pandemic to be over. There has been an influx of people purchasing homes, and everybody wants everything done on a much tighter timeline than usual.”
Last month, more than 50 permits were submitted to the City of Aspen, and Dittmar says it’s taking 8-10 months just to get a permit (typically it takes 4-6 months). “The fact that it takes forever to get a building permit in the city has slowed everything down,” says Bill Baker of William H Baker Construction. “We had a project in Fox Crossing where it took four months just to get the permit itself.”
Baker says general contractors are also feeling the pressure of immediate demand. “Everybody wants to move in right now, so there’s a lot of what I call ‘rouge and blush’ projects going on, which is really just a nicer way of saying ‘put a bow on a pig,’” he says. “We’re getting repair permits to do smaller upgrades like gutting bathrooms and redoing old kitchens, things like that.”
Baker says he’s seeing a lot of clients who want to move in immediately and are doing what they can to make smaller upgrades but then move in while they wait for their full-scale renovations. “Often what starts out as a very insignificant remodel turns into a major remodel,” he says.
Baker predicts we will see another surge in construction because of all the people who rushed to move here and that will eventually want to take the time to do more extensive work. “There are so many old homes that have old tile and old design, and people are willing to live with it until they figure out what they’re doing and then go from there.” Baker believes this was the result of low inventory, but also people who wanted to make sound investments in houses that were less expensive than those with new construction. “Buyers were looking at buying the lowest-priced house in the best neighborhoods,” he says.
Despite these uncertain times, one thing is becoming increasingly clear. Baker sums it up this way:
“The middle of nowhere is where everyone wants to be.”
Before & After Remodels by Kathy Kroger Interiors