‘It’s going to be a real shock’: Carrie Wells on Aspen’s luxury crackdown

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Since launching her real estate career more than two decades ago, Coldwell Banker Mason Morse’s Carrie Wells has consistently been ranked as one of the top agents in Colorado and across the Coldwell Banker network.

During the course of her career, she’s sold more than $3.5 billion in real estate, and in 2022 she ranked as the No. 33 agent in the nation and No. 1 in Colorado, according to RealTrends/The Wall Street Journal.

The Aspen-based agent has become the go-to luxury expert in her market over the years and has developed deep ties in the community by serving on advisory boards for a number of community groups, including the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Wells is also currently in the midst of a sea-change in her home market, where on June 6, the Community Growth Advisory Committee submitted a report to county commissioners of significant proposed changes to land-use regulations in Pitkin County. Among them was the suggestion that the maximum size of a house in the county’s rural areas be reduced from 15,000 square feet to 8,750 square feet, and within the county’s urban growth boundary, down to 9,250 square feet.

As she gears up for summer and in advance of her appearance at Inman Connect Las Vegas this August, Wells sat down with Inman to share some of the things that are top-of-mind going into summer, including those impending land-use code changes. Here’s what she had to say, edited for brevity and clarity.

Inman: What are the big things going on in your market right now?

Wells: Probably one of the biggest news items is about to hit, and many brokers and homeowners don’t know that. The county we’re in, in Aspen — Pitkin County — is rewriting the land-use code. We currently are able to build up to 15,000 square feet and they are going to lower that, and we don’t know what the number is going to be but rumor is it could be 10,000. [When Inman spoke with Wells, the Community Growth Advisory Committee had not yet submitted its proposed land-use changes to Pitkin County commissioners.]

That’s going to be a real shock to a lot of homeowners and a lot of brokers. We live in an area, both the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, where growth codes are very, very strict. For instance, the city of Aspen, they just changed their land-use code so that there are only six demolition permits in the city of Aspen per year. We have historically seen anywhere from 12 to 19 demo permits.

So every time we turn around, they’re making things more restrictive. What’s interesting about that is it just makes prices go up more. So I think it will make larger homes more valuable because you may not be able to create them [in the future]. So that is some of the big news, what’s going on with zoning and land use that affects properties that are already built and affects projects that haven’t been built yet.

Very interesting. Do you think that will encourage people who are constructing their own homes to try and build taller properties? 

There’s no question that unfortunately, people who have the right to build more square footage most likely will jump and get a building permit and do that while they can before the new zoning is adopted. So they’ll come out with these new regulations and then we’ll go through a process of them announcing it to the community.

There will be discussions, first reading, second reading, and then it will be adopted at some point. So I think there will be a huge amount of pushback, but I think we have to be prepared that it’s going to happen and it’s going to force people that don’t even want a bigger house to build a bigger house, because they’ll lose their right if they don’t.

Wow, that is definitely something new you’ll all have to deal with. As we gear up and get closer to the summer market, are you seeing a big increase in traffic in Aspen?

Yes. We always start our summer selling season in mid-June when we start off with the Food & Wine Classic. Then, it’s followed by the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, which is the end of June and goes into the first few days of July. July 4 is a huge time to be in Aspen. We have a big parade in town and everybody seems to want to be here.

Then, we have a summer-long, seven-week music festival that runs from the end of June until the end of August, and that’s one of the world’s foremost classical music festivals. We have an art museum benefit in early August with Artcrush. We have jazz concerts, both in June and on Labor Day, that bring in big artists.

So culturally, we have a lot of exciting things happening in the summer, and then of course, we have all the wonderful things to do for recreation, whether it’s hiking, cycling, mountain biking, golfing, fishing and on and on. That’s why people are drawn to this area.

Sounds like the place to be. As the market has shifted in the last year or so, have you seen any changes in the types of buyers coming to Aspen?

We all saw the shift in the market around June a year ago at this time. And I really have not seen a change in the type of buyer who wants to be here. It can really be young billionaires to multi-generational families to people who have multiple homes all over to people who want to change their primary residence to Aspen, for many reasons, whether it’s for tax purposes, coming out of high-tax states, the terrific schools we have here or just the safety of living in Aspen.

That’s great. Is there anything special you have planned while in Vegas for Inman Connect, or something you’re particularly looking forward to?

I love seeing my broker friends from all over who are with all different brands and love meeting new brokers and developing that network of broker relationships. So that’s the main thing I’m looking forward to.

Anything else?

I’m very honored to have won the Inman Golden I Award for Top Luxury Agent last year. That was a huge honor. I feel very humbled and grateful about that. Inman is my main source for real estate news — that and The Wall Street Journal — and I’m very appreciative of all the work that you guys do keeping us all informed and up-to-date.

We’re happy to help.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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