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Aspen real estate dips despite $49 million sale of Hala ranch

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One handy gauge for checking on the relative financial health of the world's one-percenters can be found right here in Colorado -- well, okay, the other Colorado, the one populated with champagne wishes and caviar dreams. And the latest figures for real estate transactions in the Gucci-padded wonderland known as Aspen suggest that the economic recovery among the super rich is still stalling out a bit, no doubt thanks to pesky fears about the future of the euro.

According to this account in the Aspen Times, the total volume of property sales in Pitkin County for the first half of 2012 is down 15.5 percent from the same period in 2011, a mere $600 million in play compared to $710 million last year. And that drop takes into account the $49 million purchase a few weeks ago of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan's Hala Ranch and adjoining property -- complete with 14,395-square-foot mountain manse -- to billionaire hedge funder John Alfred Paulson.

Without Paulson's appetite for Aspen properties, the local picture might look much gloomier. He picked up another ranch in the area two years ago for almost $25 million, but the 12,500-square-foot home on the site evidently didn't quite fit all his gear.

As it is, the number of properties changing hands declined in 2012 by about 14 percent, with a particular nosedive in sales of $10 million or more. The "average" home price for Aspen-area transactions in the first six months of 2012 works out to around $1.78 million, versus $1.82 million a year ago.

Still, things don't look quite as bleak in the high elevations of luxury real estate as they did last summer, when it was estimated that nearly a quarter of the area's estimated market value -- a cool $10 billion -- had basically evaporated over a two-year period. Thanks to Paulson and other plungers, that value is slowly coming back, even though most of it is still on paper.

More from our Business archive: "Barbi Benton's oversized crib comes to MTV amid Aspen real-estate woes."

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