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Uncharted Territory

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak is being felt across the country, around the globe and especially in Western Colorado. Our local economy and real estate market has entered into uncharted territory. Never in modern history have we witnessed a lockdown of the global economy to the degree that we’re experiencing now. What’s happening in Western Colorado is happening across every community in our country and every country around the globe.

What does all this mean for the future of the Western Colorado economy and the local real estate market? The short answer is a great deal of uncertainty in the near term. To think that everything will return to normal in a couple of months seems unfathomable. But in an effort to try to make some more reasonable predictions, there are factors we can examine that could give us some clues as to what’s next.

The United States now leads the world in the number of Coronavirus cases. Today that number was over 386,194 and could exceed 500,000 by next week. On April 2nd, Coronavirus cases doubled in a 5 day period. Based on experiences in other countries like China and South Korea, strict containment measures and social distancing seem to be the only strategies available to contain the virus spread. If all states in the US enforce strict containment measures to stop the spread, the experts feel we could see a flattening of the curve of new infections within the next 14 to 21 days, near the end of April. In the US, we have different states and cities enacting strict containment measures at different times. Some areas of the country, like Washington State, have been in lockdown mode for almost a month, while other areas like Florida have just entered their lockdown periods. As a result, this 14 to 21 day timeframe could extend out another 30 days through the end of May.

Assuming we can flatten the curve of infections, the country will likely have to endure these social distancing and containment measures until the number of active cases start declining significantly. Experts from the medical community and pharmaceutical industry seem to think we could see drugs readily available by late summer or early fall that could reduce or alleviate symptoms of the virus, but widespread distribution of a vaccine to fully eradicate the virus could be a year to 18 months away. So, if all goes well, isolation and social distancing could be the norm for at least the next 3 months or so.

Projecting out three months means we may begin to see the Western Colorado economy and real estate market start to open again for business in late June to early July. For the first quarter of 2020, the local real estate market will likely report reasonably healthy results. The number of properties under contract versus active listings is a relatively strong. Although some transactions have fallen through and a number of listings have been withdrawn from the market as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, it’s likely a large percentage of the currently pending contracts will ultimately close. However, because of the national and international restrictions on travel and movement, we’re likely to see the real estate markets in Western Colorado resort towns slow significantly over the next three months as potential buyers delay or cancel travel plans and financial uncertainty puts buyers on the sidelines.

How quickly the Western Colorado economy and real estate market will return to some level of normalcy will depend on how quickly the country gets the coronavirus under control, and what the national economy looks like at that point. Unfortunately, for Western Colorado major summer events such as the Food and Wine Festival, Aspen Ideas Festival and other events have already been cancelled. It’s too early to tell if other summer events will follow suit. It’s very likely that the cancellation of major events and the lingering effects of the Coronavirus outbreak will result in a slow 2020 summer for the local economy and real estate market.

The $2.0 trillion Federal stimulus package and a determination of the Federal government and Federal Reserve to reverse any resulting recession will be wind at the back of the national and local economy. The best prediction at this point would be for the local economy and real estate market to start picking up steam again in the fall and return to some semblance of normalcy by the 2020-2021 winter season.

Just remember, we’re all in this together. Our Western Colorado communities are very resilient and will get through this temporary setback, and will always be a great place to live, work and visit. Stay safe and stay well!

About The Author

William Small, Zenith Realty Advisors

William Small brings over 28 years of experience in all aspects of commercial real estate to Zenith Realty Advisors. Based in Aspen, Bill Small provides commercial real estate investment consulting and advisory services to major US and foreign corporations and institutions.