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Buying a Home in Aspen?

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The residential market in Aspen was active this summer and fall, and continues to be active as we head toward the winter holidays.  Prices have not regained their pre-slump levels, but they are definitely on the rebound — at least in the core area of Aspen and the immediately surrounding areas of Pitkin County.  In outlying areas (e.g., Old Snowmass and Lower Woody Creek) and down valley in the Basalt and Carbondale areas, prices and demand continue to be weak.

A significant part of our practice includes assisting buyers and sellers of high-end residential properties in the Aspen area.  These transactions are unusual when compared to a typical residential sale because the price points are often on par with what an office building or shopping center might cost in the Denver area, but the transactions are largely handled by residential real estate brokers using standard form real estate contracts from the Colorado Real Estate Commission.  The brokers play an indispensible role in getting the economic terms of a deal hammered out.  But there is also an important role for lawyers.

The standard form contracts are an adequate starting point for most residential transactions.  But there are nuances to how the contracts should be filled out, and in some cases altered, depending on whether you are a buyer or seller.  And many transactions have wrinkles or include risks that the standard form contracts do not address at all.  A good example from a large deal we are working on right now:  the seller wants to close (i.e., get his money) in early December, but wants the right to stay in the home after the closing for a week or two during the year-end holidays.  Such an arrangement involves questions regarding liabilities, damages, refusal to turn over possession and who is paying what expenses that need to be addressed thoughtfully.  Such matters are typically handled through the drafting of an addendum that is attached to the standard contract.

We continue to be surprised by how many people come to us after they have already signed a binding contract.  Some buyers even wait until after their due diligence period has already expired and say they just want our help with the closing.  Often times, the place where lawyers can most add value is by dealing with potential issues before they become real problems.  But if the parties have already signed the contract, our hands become tied.  This is especially true if you are buyer whose earnest money is already “hard” – i.e., non-refundable – because your due diligence period is over.

Getting a lawyer involved early typically does not increase your costs.  In fact, as often as not, it ends up saving time and money later because issues get identified and dealt with early.