The spring homebuying season is in full swing with homesellers making a pretty penny for their old abodes, including famed American sportswear designer Tommy Hilfiger who sold his Aspen Mountain estate for a mind-boggling $50 million mere months after purchasing it for $31 million.
“With limited inventory, high-net-worth buyers will pay whatever it takes to live the Aspen dream,” Aspen-based Compass managing broker Steven Shane told The Post of the deal on Thursday. “I have to go off-market to identify unlisted properties that work for my clients. A home in Aspen is an investment in lifestyle. Buyers realize you can’t ski on a Damien Hirst or fly fish shares of Apple stock.”
The 7,100-square-foot, four-bedroom estate is one of two homes that have direct ski-in and ski-out access to the Little Nell ski trail. The previous owners were Texas oil barons Cynthia and George P.Mitchell, who built the home in 2003. The Hilfigers purchased the home from the late couple’s family as another forever home; however, Shane told The Wall Street Journal, Aspen’s red-hot market made it impossible for the designer and his wife to pass up a $19 million profit.
“It was never their intention to buy it and sell it,” Shane said. “It’s difficult to pry a property like this one away, but I think everything has a price.”
In a phone call with Inman, Shane said he’s worked with The Hilfigers for the past few years and finally pinned down the perfect property for the couple in December. “They are sophisticated real estate buyers, they own homes around the world,” he said. “And finally, we found the legacy property they were looking for. They have a pretty astute understanding of value, and a ski-in ski-out home on the Little Nell run on Aspen Mountain is a unique commodity.”
The fashion moguls closed the deal a few weeks before Christmas for $4 million under the listing price with the hopes of transforming it into their perfect mountain paradise. However, two months later another one of Shane’s buyers upended Hilfiger’s plans — they were dead-set on purchasing a ski-in access home on Aspen Mountain and were willing to do whatever it took to secure their dream home.
“We had looked at a couple of different things that really didn’t resonate,” Shane said of the process of working with the buyer’s team. “I said, look, it’s funny, but I just did a deal with buyers that kind of bought what I think the principal is looking for. It would take a significant number to pry it away from the new homeowners, but everything has a price.’”
As it turned out for the Hilfigers, $50 million was the magic number needed to reimagine their Aspen Mountain legacy home. “It would have been fiscally irresponsible not to take that deal,” Shane said.
The Compass managing broker said Aspen’s market has been red-hot throughout the pandemic, thanks to affluent homebuyers who are seizing the opportunity to live and work year-round in unique locales such as Aspen. Shane said he expected the market to eventually cool down as inventory buckled under the weight of explosive demand; however, buyers have remained resolute in their desire to live in one of the nation’s top luxury destinations.
“In addition [to remote work], there were people who have been renting here during the summer paying $150,000 to $300,000 a month,” he said. “I think they really stared mortality in the eyes and said, ‘What am I waiting for?’ So it was the perfect storm.”
From 2019 to 2021, Shane said Aspen’s annual sales rose from $1 billion to $2.6 billion, and they’re expected to keep climbing this year as inventory reaches rock-bottom levels. “We have a finite amount of inventory in Aspen,” he said. “We don’t have any developable land, so as long as there’s a demand to be here, whatever the buyers are buying today should prove to be an appreciating asset.”
Shane said he’s had to do a lot of real estate matchmaking by reaching out to homeowners, who, like the Hilfigers, may be convinced to sell their homes for the right price. The broker said buyers who want to live in Aspen only for the winter ski experience would be better off purchasing properties in other ski meccas, such as Tahoe, Telluride or Sun Valley.
However, if you’re dedicated to being a year-round Aspenite, Shane said the extra cost is worth it.
“The people that come here are appreciative of all things Aspen — our culture, art, music and restaurants,” he said. “That’s the difference [between buyers who just want to ski and buyers who want to make Aspen their home], and if they can afford the barrier of entry, they are going to have the ultimate life experience here. I mean it’s really pretty remarkable.”
Although their first Aspen abode now belongs to another, Shane said the Hilfigers aren’t giving up on their real estate goals.
“We’re working on another property,” he said while noting he’d been receiving calls from Dee Hilfiger all morning. “They never had the intention of buying and selling this. It was going to be a generational property for their kids and their kids’ kids. I feel the difference in what they paid versus what they sold [for] made the decision worth it.”