Eagle County’s real estate market has been on fire since July. That torrid pace means that it only took until Nov. 30 for yearly sales volume to exceed $3 billion for the first time.
Through November, the county’s real estate sales volume is nearly $1 billion ahead of the pace set in 2019. That was the first of three years in the previous decade that the local market had exceeded $2 billion in sales.
Those years marked a full comeback from slower years since the global recession that began in 2008. The market, which had been running at a $2 billion annual clip in the mid-2000s, fell below $1 billion in annual sales in 2009 and had been climbing back ever since.
How significant is passing the $3 billion mark? It depends who you ask.
Joan Harned of Team Black Bear Keller Williams Mountain Realty in Eagle said she doesn’t pay much attention to overall numbers, preferring to focus on her clients.
But, Harned added, “It is amazing for this small of a community.”
Craig Denton of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Mountain Properties has been in the local real estate business for several decades.
Denton said he also doesn’t see the $3 billion mark as a particularly big deal.
‘A sign of the times’
“It’s a sign of the times,” Denton said. The current market reflects a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, unrest in major cities and the growing ability of families to live and work just about anywhere.
Longtime local broker Tye Stockton of LIV Sotheby’s International Realty said the $3 billion mark was probably inevitable at some point, adding “I don’t think any of us expected it to happen this fast.”
Stockton said the pandemic and other forces have accelerated trends that were already in place, particularly regarding remote work and learning.
“We have people now asking questions — do we have adequate internet” and other services, longtime broker Ron Byrne of Ron Byrne and Associates said. “It’s essential… people aren’t on the mountain, they’re in an office, on Zoom calls.”
Another part of the volume record is the number of very expensive homes being sold. Through November, 73 homes were sold at $5 million or more. Adding in homes sold for $4 million or more brings the total to 102 sales.
There were also some very, very expensive deals. A Vail duplex in August sold to one buyer for a record $57.2 million.
New wealth out there
The performance of the country’s financial markets is helping fuel the boom. Byrne noted that tech stocks have risen an average of 30% in the past six months. That’s a lot of new wealth, he said.
With this year’s torrid sales pace, Stockton said it’s probably unlikely this year’s record will be matched in 2021. The main problem is inventory.
Stockton wondered if the Vail Valley would see “buyer fatigue,” and buyers looking into mountain resort markets elsewhere. Still, mountain resorts across the west are booming.
Denton noted that market in Park City, Utah, Jackson, Wyoming, and elsewhere are also seeing strong activity.
Inventory is short, Denton said, because “In five months we’ve sold three years of inventory.”
Still, he added, there’s always activity. Some owners may be ready to move to lower or warmer places, and others may feel they’ve simply lived long enough in a resort community.
Denton now is focused on a new project in Lionshead, but outside of that and some other isolated projects, most of the new-construction activity will be west of Vail in the future.
Harned said there’s a new project coming in the lower valley, but said that project isn’t yet ready to be introduced to the public.
Byrne, whose firm has long focused on the market’s higher reaches, said there’s still inventory available there, although there’s a shortage of homes priced between $5 million and $10 million.
While it’s unlikely the local market will hit the $3 billion mark in 2021, Byrne said he expects strong activity to continue.
“I’m looking to a very strong 2021,” Byrne said. “I think we’ll all get to a safer place, and there’s new optimism.”