Prices slump for Colorado condos

If you've always yearned for a place in one of Colorado's world-famous ski resorts, now might be the time to buy. Areas such as the Vail valley, which have been booming for years, have hit an unaccustomed slump. Scores of luxury condominiums are going unsold. Foreclosures are up sharply. Developers are selling new units for under cost.

''There are excellent opportunities now, although it's a shame to have to hitchhike on someone else's problems,'' says Mary Smyth of A-Vailable Realty, one of the area's largest brokerages.

Although real estate prices in Vail have dropped, they are still among the highest in the Colorado Rockies. The least expensive units are small studio condominiums selling for about $50,000 each. Larger, luxury condominiums are still going for $250,000 and more.

Mexican nationals have invested heavily in this area. And part of the current problem stems from some Mexicans pulling out of the area because of the devaluation of the peso and related economic problems in their country.

Vail's real estate slump actually touched bottom last winter and business has begun to pick up again, says Ms. Smyth. In particular, she notes increased buying by groups forming limited partnerships. A typical partnership is eight people who buy one condominium and agree how they will share it.

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