First, I had to share the joke above. For anyone that lives or spends time…
I’m constantly amazed at Colorado ski real estate. Many markets are up almost 40% in the last two years alone with sales continuing to exceed. On the other hand, Denver and the front range real estate markets are starting to feel a pronounced slow down. What does this mean for Colorado mountain real estate? What is one key metric telling us?
Denver and front range slowing; what does this mean for ski real estate?
The Denver Metro Association of Realtors monthly publishes a market trends report with statistics and commentary on the Denver Metro Market. The past several years the reports have basically been a nonevent with inventory remaining low and prices skyrocketing. September has been an eye opener as the first month with a substantial change in the market. Here are some highlights from Septembers Denver real estate report:
- Active listings: increased 10.86%
- Closed Homes: decrease of 12.81%
- Median sales price (SFRs): down .86% (still up 12.75% for the year)
- Average sales price: Declined from a peak of 725k to 688 in September (~ 5% decline)
- Days in MLS: increase of 30%
Historically, when Denver slowed most of the ski resorts also showed a pronounced slowdown. Covid, for some reason, has changed this cycle as insatiable demand from buyers across the country and world have continued gobbling up Colorado ski real estate. On top of the demand remaining elevated, supply of new real estate has been nonexistent. This same trend is happening in resort areas from Idaho to Montana and everywhere in between. Although in the short term, the correlation between Denver and various ski towns is not as strong as before, it will
Why are future bookings important for ski real estate?
Since the historical correlation between Denver and Colorado ski real estate is not as strong as it once was, there is another metric that will be important to watch, future bookings. Essentially the future bookings tell us what the occupancy will be for the upcoming season. The higher the occupancy/future bookings, the more prospective buyers.
In Crested Butte and Steamboat as soon as each resort joined a major pass product (Epic and Ikon) real estate took off in each resort. The biggest driver of the increase in real estate was the increase in people from various markets that “discovered” Steamboat or Crested Butte as they utilized their pass. It is a numbers game as more people lead to more prospects and demand for real estate. Furthermore, with huge jumps in bookings rental rates also increase which encourages more purchases of investment properties as the cash flow increases.
What was in the recent data regarding bookings?
Bookings for the 21/22 season are off the charts, here are some highlights (Vail Daily)
- Vail Realty has long been in the local property management and short-term rental business. Owner Bart Cuomo said that company right now is seeing an increase of more than 100% in reservations compared to the same period in 2020, and more than 50% higher than any year in the past 10.
- 5%: Increase over 2020-21 in lodging reservations for November through April at mountain resorts.
- 4%: Projected revenue gains over 2020-21 for the same period.
- 7%: Occupancy reservation increase over the same period in 2019-20.
- 3%: Average daily rate increase for 2021-22 over 2019-20.
What does the jump in bookings mean for real estate appreciation in Colorado ski towns?
With scheduled visitation off the charts for most ski resorts in Colorado, the number of available buyers will also increase substantially. Although I don’t think that Colorado ski towns will appreciate as rapidly as before, the spike in bookings indicate that there could be a little more upside left
What will ultimately stop the Colorado ski real estate party?
Although the real estate party in the mountains looks to continue in the short term, there are some warning signs that will ultimately cause a slowdown.
- Stock market correction: By any metric, the stock market is at a peak with many professionals starting to make the call that there is a bubble forming. As the stock market corrects, which it ultimately will, high net worth buyers will pull back on purchases of mountain real estate.
- Reopening trade offs: As Covid fades into the rear view, there will be more alternatives for spending disposable income. For example prospective buyers might look to international markets (condo on the beach in Mexico) or spend more money on experiences (cruise around the world) as opposed to buying real estate
- Interest rates: Although many ski properties are purchased in cash, as rates rise the general perception of higher inflation and or hiccups in the economy increase. With the lack of future economic confidence look for many ski markets to slow
- Taxing nightly rentals with commercial tax rates: There has been a huge demand from investors to buy in ski towns for the income from nightly rentals. There is currently a proposal in the legislature to tax nightly rentals at commercial rates. If this passes, some speculative demand could decrease.
I think there could be a little more upside in the mountains based on large increases in bookings, but there are some storm clouds 1) stock market correction 2) trade offs for other international locations and transitions back to old pre covid habits 3) new legislation taxing nightly rentals at commercial rates (circulating now in the state legislature) 4) spike in interest rates. I don’t see a crash in mountain real estate, but if we have a huge stock market correction along with spiking interest rates Summit and other Colorado ski resorts will not be immune.
Mark Twain famously said that history does not repeat, but rhymes. In 2008 there was little to no overbuilding in the mountains which caused the huge issues throughout the country, but even Aspen took a hit as the general economy tanked. Real estate does not go up forever, just like the economy there are cycles, the million-dollar question is when will the next cycle begin and how low of a trough will we experience in the mountains.
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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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