Episode 26

Luxury Real Estate Talk Episode 26 with Special Guest Doug Leibinger

Show Notes –

With telecommuting on the rise, many luxury buyers are choosing to move to greener pastures.

In this episode, I interview Doug Leibinger, a Compass Broker Associate and top producer in Aspen, Colorado.

Get the inside scoop on buying and selling luxury real estate in this international ski resort town, which is famous for its breathtaking views and year-round outdoor recreation.


  • How Covid-19 has been affecting the market in Aspen.
  • Why 3D Matterport tours are so important, especially now.
  • The nuances of marketing in an international market like Aspen.
  • Why lifestyle marketing is crucial for luxury properties.
  • Advice for buyers looking to buy a home in Aspen.
  • How property lines and water rights work for riverside and mountain properties.
  • Tips for out-of-town buyers to make the most of the buying process.
  • What it means for a market to be micro-segmented.
  • How remodeling affects property taxes.


  • “3D property tours are crucial in today’s market.” – Doug Leibinger
  • “Spend the night in the area where you’re thinking of buying.” – Rob
  • “You can’t put a generic price per square foot on a luxury listing.” – Doug Leibinger

Doug Leibinger has proudly helped some of the most accomplished people from around the world find their place in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Wall Street Journal/Real Trends has recognized Doug as one of the Top 125 Brokers in the United States and as a top-five broker in Colorado. Doug has worked with both buyers and sellers to assist with over 3/4 of a billion dollars in transactions. Clients from across the globe—Hong Kong, London, Sydney, and San Paulo—as well as around the United States choose to work with Doug for his business acumen, affinity for technology, and professionalism. Solid relationships with local architects, builders, designers, and landscapers help Doug assist his clients and proved instrumental in several high-end developments. The Doug Leibinger Team was named the #1 sales team in the Aspen Valley in 2016, 2017 and 2018 with over $800 million in sales volume.

Cell: 970-379-9045
Email: Doug@Compass.com
Website: www.DougLeibinger.com

Welcome to Luxury Real Estate Talk, where you get expert advice on buying and selling Luxury Real Estate. Learn from the best and brightest real estate agents, brokers, and other professionals, as they share real-life stories about the art and business of listing, marketing, selling, and buying high-end homes. Through casual but insightful conversations, the Talk’s host Rob Jensen will help you master your understanding of the luxury real estate market.

Rob is the president and owner/broker of the Rob Jensen Company, which exclusively specializes in working with buyers and sellers in 42 guard gated and select gated communities in Summerlin, Las Vegas, and Henderson, Nevada. Rob’s 15+ years of local industry expertise have made him a sought after real estate expert source with the media. He has served as a guest commentator for numerous national broadcast television networks including MSNBC and BRAVO. He has also provided content and commentary to The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, BusinessWeek.com, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Real Estate Executive magazine, Growing Wealth magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Additionally, Rob has penned a recurring monthly real estate column for the Las Vegas Business Press.

Rob Jensen: With telecommuting on the rise, many luxury buyers are choosing to move to greener pastures. Today, get the inside scoop on buying and selling luxury real estate in Aspen, Colorado. An international ski resort town, famous for its breathtaking views and year round outdoor recreation. Doug Leibinger: Whether you’re buying your dream property or selling a million dollar home, why not get the highest price and the best advice? This is Luxury Real Estate Talk, the art and business of buying and selling high end homes with stories and insider knowledge from top luxury agents nationwide and around the globe. Here’s our host, Rob Jensen. Rob Jensen: This is episode 26 with Doug Leibinger, a Compass broker associate and top producer in Aspen, Colorado. Hello, Doug. So how are things going in Aspen these days? Doug Leibinger: Thanks Rob for including me, things are good. It’s beautiful here. It’s springtime in the Rockies and things are frankly very good here. Rob Jensen: Fantastic. It looks like, on the Zoom that we’re on right now, I can see some beautiful sunshine in the background. So during this COVID pandemic at the moment, how are things? How’s that affecting your market? Doug Leibinger: Well, it certainly has slowed things down. Aspen, as you know, is a ski resort town, April and May are typically our off season. So for us, we feel like off season just came a couple of weeks early this year. So it’s not that different than it normally is, I’m not sure how the summer is going to play out, but I’m certainly talking to people that want to get out of the cities. I’ve spoken recently with people from New York and Miami and LA that all want to come to Aspen this summer and escape the city reality. So working with a number of people on rentals, high end rentals, and certainly there are some people that are thinking about even relocating and moving here. Rob Jensen: Got it, yeah, given that there seems to be this trend towards people working from home and people seeming to have some good success with cutting out the commute and the Zoom meetings and who knows how long this is going to continue to play out. Even as things open with social distancing and people staying safe, it seems like we might see a lot more of this, with people willing to relocate to greener pastures, so to speak. To have a little more space from their neighbors and out of these more densely populated urban areas. Doug Leibinger: Yeah I agree with you. It’s interesting, about five years ago I started to see a trend of people leaving New York City or Houston to come to Aspen, put their kids in school, and they realized that they could telecommute and basically conduct most of their business just jumping a plane every … maybe once or twice a month. The schools here are top rated. I mean, some of the best in the, certainly in the state of Colorado, and some of the best in the US. So we’re lucky in that front. This trend started quite a while ago and now all of a sudden it seems like technological innovations, Zoom calls like this one, and just the ability for people to telecommute, it’s going to change how Aspen is. I think a lot of remote towns are going to find people moving because they want to choose to live here and they can still conduct business as they always have, but away from the cities. Rob Jensen: Got it. And if these people, I don’t remember exactly what’s going on in terms of lockdowns and whatnot in Colorado, but how is this affecting your marketing approach to selling real estate in Aspen right now? Doug Leibinger: Well, certainly COVID-related in the short term, it’s allowed me to grow a nice full beard, which I don’t normally don, and I’m starting to ramp up on more technological innovations. I’ve got three Matterport tours scheduled, actually this week. I’m meeting a photographer on some of my larger listings to do that. That technology is certainly innovative and new, and I think is going to be crucial in these times of uncertainty when people are not sure when they can actually, physically get out to see a house Rob Jensen: Yeah. The Matterport tour, and to just to explain it to the people listening that may not have heard of that before, it’s basically we go in, or the photographer goes in, and basically scans every nook and cranny of a house. So it then renders this three options, you can have this full dollhouse view where you can look at the house from different angles and the floors. You can look at it straight as a top down floor plan, the first or second or third levels. Or you can actually walk through the house and not be limited … In the past these virtual tours had maybe five different zones where you could spin around in a circle, but that was it. Whereas with these, you literally can go in the closet, look up, look down, look at the kitchen appliances. And it’s still no substitute for seeing it all in person, but in terms of convenience, it’s fantastic. Rob Jensen: And it’s 100 times better than a, maybe not 100 times, at least 50 times better, than these FaceTime tours. I got a call just today from an agent. Clients are in California, chomping at the bit to get out of town and look at property here, but she asked if she could do a FaceTime tour at the property. And I asked if her clients had seen the Matterport tour, because one of the things that’s frustrating with FaceTime is, you’re relegated to wherever they’re pointing the camera. And just a typical issue is when someone turns the camera towards an open window, it’s going to get bright. And that really blows out the screen and it gets like a neutron star. And then you turn back around to the family room where it’s dark again and all of a sudden the aperture over-corrects, and it turns into a cave. Rob Jensen: So the light is not very balanced, it’s just not the best use of time. So I told the agent, I said, “Look, I’m more than happy to reach out to the sellers and see if we can get you in there to chat. Talk to your buyer through the property and just views and what you think of it personally. But can you just double check?” Because she was quite confident they had looked at the tour and I said, “Can you just double check?” And so she called, they hadn’t gotten the tour, so she sent it to them, they looked at it and they decided that they weren’t interested anymore. Rob Jensen: And I thought that was great. I mean, it may not sound like that was great if the person is not interested anymore, because the reality is they were going to come walk the house anyways and realize the floor plan didn’t work, or she was going to do this FaceTime thing. So it just saved people a lot of wasted time, and so I hope this push towards these 3D tours during this COVID pandemic just continues afterwards because I think it’s such an important piece in marketing property these days. Especially with everyone looking online. Doug Leibinger: I agree with you, yeah. I think the technological innovations just get better and better all the time. I concur wholeheartedly that the FaceTime tour or the broker walking through their listing and just doing a little video clips sometimes fails the mission and this’ll be a great technology that’ll help. Rob Jensen: Got it. So in general, when it’s just normal time, so to speak, Aspen is an international marketplace. I’m sure you’ve got people all across the US and worldwide coming to both visit, whether it’s part time or second or third homes. So how does that impact your marketing approach as a whole, during just regular non-COVID times? Doug Leibinger: Sure. I mean, Aspen is unique. I’d call it a small town for big city people. We’re blessed with unbelievable scenic beauty and immediate access to nature and recreation, but also have great culture and art and terrific dining and great shopping. So it has appealed to people from all over the world. I would say most of my clients, predominantly there’s a huge thrust from the Texas markets, Houston and Austin, Dallas, Chicago, LA, New York, Miami, a lot of the big cities that you would expect. Doug Leibinger: But certainly international clients that appreciate the sophistication of Aspen, but also the small town, friendly, very warm and inviting fields. So my marketing tries to spin on. It’s a lot of lifestyle marketing, I’m an avid mountain biker and skier and climber and fly fishermen, so a lot of my marketing is keyed in on the lifestyle experience that one gets here. And then try to go the normal, traditional channels of making sure that internet marketing and print marketing is done with class and sophistication to appeal to those buyers. Rob Jensen: Fantastic. Is there a strategy, if a buyer is looking to come and buy in Aspen, or even just explore, is there a strategy on how to do that, so to speak? I’ve heard that even if you’re a skier, you should maybe … I mean, for Park City example that it’s better to maybe come look in the summertime because it’s easier to get around, but then come back and ski in the winter and see how … What’s your advice if I’m a buyer looking to come buy in Aspen? Doug Leibinger: Well, Aspen has historically been known as a ski town and is a ski destination. So most people come in the winter, initially, but we always say here that they stay for the summer. So if they’ve gotten a dose of Aspen for a ski week and then they come back in June or July or August, all of a sudden they’re completely committed because it’s just so beautiful. I think summer, in many ways, is actually our best season. And most people that discover that later on, I think realize that, and they’re fully committed at that point. Rob Jensen: Do you have many people looking to buy during the dead of winter when ski season’s in full swing and the streets are buried in snow? Are people out still out shopping? Doug Leibinger: There are, and certainly people do want to look. What I find, it seems like most ski vacations, especially if you’re bringing your family, it’s a week, maybe it’s 10 days. Sometimes it’s two weeks. And they’re usually wanting to spend time on the slopes and with their family, so I will do showings often in the afternoon, right after skiing’s over, 3:00 until 5:00 or 6:00. In the summertime, people often come for two or three weeks, or a month, or six weeks, and they’ve got more time on their hands and can really, a little more comprehensively, search for property. So summer’s very busy for me, winter is great, and there is certainly a cycle of busyness in December through March. Our, again, shoulder or off season, is April and May and then again in October and November. But summer is game on and most of winter is game on, but it’s relegated to afternoon showings, post skiing typically. Rob Jensen: Got it. And I’m familiar the area and with Aspen and the road up there from Glenwood Springs all the way up through El Jebel and Basalt and whatnot. In terms of locale, do you just work in Aspen or how far down canyon or downstream or however you say it do you go? What’s your territory? Doug Leibinger: So I’m sitting here at my house, which is in Basalt, which is about 20 minutes from Aspen. And I have found that my market started, initially, because I was on the development team of a private club called the Roaring Fork Club, which is right in Basalt. And I found that my clients went in a big circle from there up to Aspen and Snowmass and down towards … There’s an area called Missouri Heights that has spectacular views and heading towards Carbondale. I’d say generally my market area is mostly Aspen down to Carbondale. I will take on a ranch or a river property, pretty avid fly fisherman, as I mentioned. And so I’ve got a lot of river properties that I focus on, and I’ll take those further afield and a little bit further away from the Aspen area in many cases. Rob Jensen: Got it. What might be some things, I’m just curious, because obviously it’s very, definitely not something that happens in Las Vegas. But river properties in Aspen, do you own half way out into the river? Do you have some sort of right to fish or water rights? Or what does that generally involve if you own a riverfront property? Doug Leibinger: Yeah, no, that’s a good question. So the Roaring Fork River runs all the way from the continental divide through Aspen and down to where it hits the Colorado River and then heads out your way and brings you water in Las Vegas and all the way out to California. The rivers in Colorado, typically if you own property that is river frontage, your property line goes to the center of the river. In most cases, not always, but in many cases. You can potentially block somebody from wading your section of land, so they can’t necessarily walk through your backyard, but they can float by and fish on a raft or a boat, and there’s nothing that stops them. And then there’s a lot of public access and a lot of public land that has been preserved. So people can wade, fish, or walk along the banks of a river for extended period. And then they just either have to get permission from an owner or figure out a way to do a float by to access certain private property. So that’s how it works here. Rob Jensen: There’s some pretty big ranches out there in general. I mean, what are some of the acreage sizes that these can range from? Doug Leibinger: So I just talked to a client the other day, actually, a Texas client who’s thinking about a property that is 900 acres. A lot of that acreage is actually put into a land trust. So it’s a fairly good size parcel. I’ve got a couple of properties that are listed that have 60 or 70 acres right now. And in order to get a development right anymore, for large acres, you have to have at least 35 acres. So we see a lot of, what I would deem as more gentleman ranches. Not taking anything away from the ladies, but that’s just how they’re known, that are often 35 acres. Rob Jensen: Got it. And do those usually have water rights with them? So people don’t have to have a huge water bill or how does that work? Doug Leibinger: Yeah. Water rights here in this … We’re really kind of a high desert, it’s not as deserty as Las Vegas, certainly, but it’s fairly arid and dry. But we are at the headwaters of the Rockies, so we do get great snow melt and good water. But you want to get a property that has water rights because it’s crucial to being able to irrigate fields and pastures and make sure that you’ve got landscaping around your house that has irrigation rights. So it’s not necessarily … it doesn’t go with every property, you have to make sure that you do your due diligence and investigation, but that’s what I’m here for. Rob Jensen: Exactly. And without giving away all your secrets, are there any other buyer tips that might be really pertinent to your area? For example, in Las Vegas, two big ones that always come into my mind is just the orientation of the sun. A west-facing backyard can be pretty hot in Las Vegas in the summer, and in the winter the sunrise is more in the south. So south-facing backyard can be kind of nice as you get more of that winter sun, but not in the summer. So there’s things that have to do with the orientation of the house and the way you like the light or the way you want to enjoy your pool or backyard. Rob Jensen: Plus I always pull my hair out, so far there’s plenty of hair to pull out, thank God, but when clients come to visit … And one of the biggest things, people, a lot of buyers coming from out of state, specifically California, and generally their list involves considering Henderson, which is pretty much Southeast Las Vegas. Very nice. You’ve got Summerlin, the west side of town, which is still technically Las Vegas. Summerlin is just a master plan. A little more southwest area like Southern Highlands, and then even Lake Las Vegas, which is more east and a little south. And yet when these folks come to tour properties, they’ll stay on the strip. And the reason why it drives me nuts is look, if you’re going to live in Vegas, you’re going to have plenty of time to have fun at the strip. Rob Jensen: And even if you’re here, you could still go. But I always would just wish or plead that these folks, when they’re coming, if they’re not sure what area they want to be in, if you’re considering Henderson spend one night at Green Valley Ranch. And then the next night you can spend one night at the Red Rock Casino so you get a better feel of what it’s like to be a local in terms of dining, accessibility, your morning coffee shop. Versus just being on the strip and not really getting a feel for the zones you’re considering. Do you have any tips that you think could help buyers make the most of their process? Other than of course calling you? Doug Leibinger: Sure. No, your point’s well taken about Las Vegas and certainly I’ve spent enough time in Vegas over the years that I would not want to live right near the strip. Although I’m sure you get those requests. I think, for me and the clients that I work with here in this Valley, and I kind of consider it to be the Aspen Valley. So it does extend down away from the center of town. It depends on what they’re really interested in. If I know that they are specifically skiers and that their biggest driving force is a ski-in/ski-out property, then I’m going to have them consider Aspen, but I’m also going to direct them towards Aspen Highlands or Buttermilk or Snowmass, which are … We have four mountains here, and Snowmass in particular has just amazing ski-in/ski-out properties, individual homes, as well as condominiums. So that’s a place to focus on. Doug Leibinger: If they’re an avid fly fisherman and they’re mostly going to be here during the summer, I’m probably going to have them look in Basalt, which is 20 minutes from Aspen and Snowmass, but is where two gold medal streams, the Roaring Fork River and the Frying Pan, meet. And so right at the confluences, is the little town of Basalt and that’s an A-plus fishery, centric minded person’s place to be. So it just depends. If they’re equestrian minded and they like to horseback ride, then they’re probably even going to go a little bit further down valley and think in terms of the Carbondale or Missouri Heights area, where there’s a lot of land and open space. So it depends on what they’re after, and then I try to direct them in that direction. So depends on, really it’s more lifestyle driven than anything, I would say. Rob Jensen: Got it. Do you find pricing property out there to be tricky? Just given all the variables of whether it’s acreage or mountain front or ski-in/ski-out or you got the lay of the land and you can still pull it off? Doug Leibinger: Well, I mean, listen, I’ve lived in the valley for 28 years. I’ve been in real estate for 25. I certainly can help direct people from a market analysis perspective. And I know the market. Yeah, there’s always the subtleties, I mean a house in Aspen is going to be a lot higher on a price per square foot than a single family house in Snowmass or in Basalt or Woody Creek or further down. Unless, of course, it’s got some unique factor; a spectacular view, it’s right on the river, it’s got a lot of acreage, ski-in/ski-out, and that will drive the price up. And I would say that Aspen and this valley is more micro segmented than a lot of places. You can’t just put a generic price per square foot on any listing, because there are so many unique factors that will take that price up or down accordingly. Depending on those benefits. Rob Jensen: Got it. I know you have an airport right there and Aspen, how far to your other, like Denver and Glenwood Springs, would you say? That the drive? Doug Leibinger: Yeah, so the beauty of Aspen, certainly, is the main Aspen airport is only 10 minutes from downtown. A lot of people will actually fly into the Eagle Airport, which is about 50 miles from the Aspen area by road, and it’s about 35 miles to Vale. So it’s kind of in the middle of those two, and it’s a bigger airport, has larger planes that come in. That’s quite easy. And then Denver really isn’t that bad a drive, it’s about a three, three and a half hour drive. And it’s a really beautiful drive. So many people will fly into Denver and then just rent a car and drive up that way. Rob Jensen: Got it. Very exciting. Being such a small mountain town, is there development still going on in that zone? Whether it’s Aspen or Snowmass? Are they actually doing any new builds or new condos or that kind of stuff? Doug Leibinger: The answer for Aspen is generally no, there was a new hotel, The W, that was just approved. And they’re selling that, it’s partially fractional ownership. And I have a lot of clients that have bought fractional, high end fractionals over the years. That was a new development. Most of the development, per se in Aspen, is redevelopment. So it’s taking an old house, it’s scraping it, rebuilding, or doing a major remodel. Snowmass Village is almost built out, but the new base village got approved a few years ago and there was a couple of new hotels and then quite a few condominiums. They’ve actually approved 10 new individual home sites right on the ski slopes, right near the base. Doug Leibinger: And then as you press further down valley towards Basalt and then Carbondale, there is more land that is undeveloped. And so we continue to see some housing developments that are popping up, and that will continue, I would say, for the next 10 years. But I equate the valley as like a large Manhattan, where we’re surrounded completely by forest service and government land. And the development area really is pretty limited for the whole valley. So that is part of the reason that you see prices just continually edge up over time. Rob Jensen: Got it. When it comes to redevelop our remodeling, I believe in California it’s like you can keep your current property taxes if you keep one wall standing. Or you keep one original wall and then basically redo the whole house. Whereas if you tear the whole thing down and then start over, it gets triggered to be reassessed. Is that a similar case in Aspen? Doug Leibinger: It’s not, it’s a little different than California. So the Aspen area will reassess every two years. So during the 2008, ’09, ’10 timeframe. We actually saw assess values come down notably in 2011, ’12, ’13. And then they started to gradually climb back up. So the county assessors reassess based on values every two years, and then judge accordingly. So you don’t catch that trick of keeping one wall intact and a benefit of tapping into that old value, it’s completely reassessed at the current value. Rob Jensen: What about, are there caps in place for a primary residence? So for example, in Las Vegas, if it’s your primary residence, they can only raise your taxes a maximum of 3% a year. Doug Leibinger: So our area is known for very, very low taxes. You can buy a $3 million house and your taxes are $15,000, $18,000 for the whole year. And that doesn’t go up. And a lot of that is because, not only are we a second home market, but we’re a fifth home market, and you have a limited amount of year round residents that are taking advantage of the schools and the roads and the highways and parks and those things. So the tax basis is very low in comparison to… I mean, most of the rest of the country. Doug Leibinger: I have got clients in Texas and California and New York that are paying $100,000 to $150,000 a year in taxes for a house that’s probably half as much as valuable as maybe a property they own here. So it’s a very notable difference. The one thing I will say is that, in Aspen, there is a one time buyer paid fee of one-and-a-half percent at closing, and it’s only one time and it’s always buyer paid. And in Snowmass, it’s a 1% fee. And that goes directly to arts and culture and parks and recreation, which is nice. Rob Jensen: Got it. So that’s the one time buyer fee, is there also a transfer… not to get too technical here, but is there also a transfer tax? Because in Las Vegas there’s a $5, it’s $5.10 cents per thousand, as a transfer tax. Doug Leibinger: So that real estate transfer tax, or RETT that I just mentioned, is just in Aspen or just in Snowmass and within the town city limits. And it is just a strict transfer tax at a one time basis. It doesn’t carry on on an annual basis. Rob Jensen: Got it. So that’s exactly it, the fee you just mentioned. All right, well, that’s very exciting. So if someone’s looking to get a hold of you to talk with you a little bit more directly about buying or selling, what’s the best way for them to reach you? Doug Leibinger: Well, I appreciate you asking. You can always call my cell, which is (970) 379-9045. My email is doug@compass.com. So that’s pretty easy to remember. And somebody can certainly log onto my dougleibinger.com website and get ahold of me that way. And that’s D-O-U-G L-E-I-B-I-N-G-E-R.com. But yeah, happy to help anytime, and certainly available to assist with the Aspen lifestyle. Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to Luxury Real Estate Talk with Rob Jensen. If you like what you heard, please share with your friends and colleagues and give us some stars. We would love to hear your feedback. Connect with Rob at robjensen.com.


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