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What’s Happening to the Over $10 Million Residential Real Estate Market?

About 20% of properties listed for sale in the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market are priced over $10 million. This segment of the market represents a significant portion of the overall sales volume. Is there any evidence that this segment has started to slow? Perhaps, but let’s look closer at the numbers.

Of the 611 properties currently listed for sale in the Aspen-Snowmass market, 77 are under contract, representing roughly 13% of the total market inventory. That is historically a strong ratio. Of the 117 properties listed at prices over $10 million, eight, or about 7%, are currently under contract. This is about half of the overall ratio of pending property sales. Is this level of activity relative to the overall market a sign of a changing trend in the over $10 million residential real estate segment?

In an effort to answer this question, it’s helpful to review the results of past years.

In 2017 and 2018, pretty robust years for real estate sales, the Aspen-Snowmass residential real estate market saw 29 homes in 2017 and 23 homes in 2018 sell for prices in excess of $10 million. But in 2016, a particularly slow year for the market with overall volume off nearly 32% from 2015, there were only 12 sales of properties over $10 million. In 2015, the strongest market since 2008, there were 30 sales of properties over $10 million. The slowdown in 2016 was likely caused by political uncertainty leading into the 2016 presidential election since the market rebounded in 2017 to a level similar to 2015.

From these statistics, we can conclude that a good market in recent years produces an average of 27 sales of properties valued at $10 million or greater. In contrast, in just the past three months there have been only five closings of such properties, about 25 to 30% off the pace for of 2018, 2017 and 2015 and slightly above the rate of these property sales in 2016.

If a slowing trend is unfolding in the $10 million-plus market segment, there could be several reasons. One explanation could be that it’s just seasonal.

But when we look at previous years during this same period from Dec. 1st through the end of February, with the exception of the end of 2015 into the beginning of 2016 and the end of 2016 into the beginning of 2017, where there were only 5 and 4 sales, respectively, the market has generally produced an average of 6 to 7 sales in this price range.

Another possible explanation could be that prices throughout the Aspen-Snowmass market in most segments reached all-time highs in 2018. Basic economics teaches us that as prices rise, demand generally declines.

Another reason could be changing demographics. Properties priced over $10 million have in many cases been large homes purchased as gathering places for high net-worth families.

Many of the buyers of these types of properties over the past decade, not only locally but in other areas of the country, have been baby boomers with children and grandchildren who wanted large multi-room homes in resort areas. As the baby boomer population grows older along with their children and grandchildren, the interest in these types of larger properties could be waning.

If this segment of the market is truly slowing, the likely cause is a combination of factors such as the ones above.

It also may be part of a general slowing of existing property sales across the country. The National Association of Realtors recently reported that sales of existing homes had declined in the West by 2.9% in January and 13.8% from a year earlier.

In the Hamptons, another luxury real estate market, Bloomberg recently reported that the inventory of homes for sale had increased 82%, the highest level in 12 years, with sales declining to their lowest since 2009. Manhattan, another expensive market, has also been experiencing for over a year declining sales volume, increasing inventory and declining prices.

Although there is some evidence that the $10 million-plus market in Aspen and Snowmass may be slowing, it’s far from conclusive. Only time will tell if this is the beginning or a trend or just a pause in an otherwise healthy market.

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.