I hope everyone had a great summer, this is Luna accompanying me on an inspection in Colorado style 😊 I have recently written about ski real estate setting records for both prices and volumes, but not all ski real estate is following the same pattern. What property type is bucking the skyrocketing price trend? What are the short and long term trends driving the changes?
Commercial mountain real estate:
Although Colorado Ski resort communities are a respite from the craziness, they are not totally immune from greater market forces impacting commercial real estate. Commercial real estate in the various mountain towns, from Aspen, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, etc.. is not following the upward trajectory of residential prices.
In mountain towns throughout Colorado vacancies are up and lease rates are down. For example areas like main street in steamboat have historically had few vacancies, now there are more than a handful of dark storefronts. Many restaurants have also shuttered.
What is causing the decline in commercial real estate
- Shift to online: Visa Inc. has seen online spending excluding travel increase by 25% from a year earlier every week since mid-April, twice the growth it was generating before the pandemic. In-store spending, meanwhile, cratered 50% in early April, Visa said. It improved in recent months as cities around the world started to reopen, but still posted a decline in the high single digits by late June.
- Restrictions on capacity: Throughout Colorado there are restrictions on capacity and social distancing that is impacting the profitability of retail and restaurants, the core occupants of main streets throughout the high country. For example, restaurants can operate at 50% capacity and retail has to limit the number of customers based on their square footage. With reduced capacity revenue has no doubt taken a hit.
- Stay at home orders and future of the ski season: With large shutdowns in the spring, revenue took a nosedive in many ski communities. With the possibility of future shutdowns on the horizon many small businesses might not survive until next year.
Each of the towns has such a small commercial base in the core areas like main street where there might be only a few sales ever year. What I am seeing in my inspections throughout the various mountain towns is that in the short-term prices for commercial real estate in the various mountain towns is flat at best to slightly declining. It is definitely not following the same pattern as residential where if a property is priced correctly it is flying off the shelf. Fortunately, the restrictions on capacity and stay at home orders will get resolved within the next twelve months. Furthermore, the shift to online shopping doesn’t impact mountain retailers as much as their competition isn’t Amazon. If someone needs new gloves or a warmer jacket while on a ski vacation, they are going to buy them in town as they likely need them now or many times they are buying an item for more sentimental reasons like a t-shirt or a painting they bought in Steamboat to remind them of their visit.
Long term commercial real estate in the resort communities looks bright. There have been two recent trends that will drive long term commercial real estate prices up.
- More full-time residents: In the past, there would be two major downturns in the ski seasons, the fall after the leaves were gone until around Christmas and April to June. In the last 15 years, there has been a dramatic shift to year round communities in many ski towns which is severely limiting the “mud season”. This shift has accelerated with the recent pandemic with schools seeing record increases in enrollment and many second homeowners moving to their residences full time due to the ability to work from anywhere. This trend will continue as the pandemic continues to drag on.
- Higher house prices increasing demographics: Inventory in the mountain towns has always been limited, but with the newfound desire to live full time in many of the resort communities, prices are continuing to appreciate. As prices continue to rise, demographics of the mountain towns are quickly changing as well. The higher demographics have more spending power which will drive demand for more services like restaurants, solons, etc…
Commercial real estate will be directly impacted by more full-time residents and higher demographics in the resort communities. Over the long term this will drive commercial real estate higher as demand for more services and the ability to pay more will enable rents to increase and vacancies will decrease.
The virus is rapidly reshaping Colorado ski real estate with commercial and residential real estate reacting differently. In the short term, Colorado commercial ski real estate will take a hit with lower rents, higher vacancies, and reduced prices. Fortunately, this is a short-term event as the resort communities evolve with more full-time residents with higher demographics. These two changes will ultimately drive commercial real estate higher throughout the mountain towns.
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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in Bloomberg, Businessweek ,the Colorado Real Estate Journal, National Association of Realtors Magazine, The Real Deal real estate news, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.
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