Special from ZeroHedge
One month ago, we said that “it is not looking good for the US housing market”, when in the latest red flag for the US luxury real estate market, we reported that sales in the Hamptons plunged by half and home prices fell sharply in the second quarter in the ultra-wealthy enclave, New York’s favorite weekend haunt for the 1%-ers.
Reuters blamed this on “stock market jitters earlier in the year” which damped the appetite to buy, however one can also blame the halt of offshore money laundering, a slowing global economy, the collapse of the petrodollar, and the drastic drop in Wall Street bonuses. In short: a sudden loss of confidence that a greater fool may emerge just around the corner, which in turn has frozen buyer interest.
We concluded this is just the beginning, and sure enough, several weeks later a similar collapse in the luxury housing segment was reported in a different part of the country. As the Denver Post reported recently, high-end sales that fuel Aspen’s $2 billion-a-year real estate market are evaporating, pushing Pitkin County’s sales volume down more than 42 percent to $546.45 million for the first half of the year from $939.91 million in the same period of 2015.
The collapse in transactions means that Aspen’s high-end real estate market “one of the most robust in the country, with dozens of options for buyers ready to spend more than $10 million” finds itself in its first-ever sustained nosedive, despite “dense summer crowds, soaring sales tax revenues and high lodging occupancy.”
Like in the Hamptons, the question everyone is asking is “why”? There are many answers:
Ask a dozen market watchers why, and you’ll get a dozen answers. Uncertainty around the presidential election. Fear of Trump. Fear of Clinton. Growing trade imbalances with China. Brexit. Roller-coaster oil prices. Zika. Wobbling economies in South America. The list goes on.
“People are worried about all kinds of stuff these days,” says longtime Aspen broker Bob Ritchie. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
The speed of the collapse has been stunning. Until just last year, the local market was beyond robust, with Pitkin County real estate sales hitting $2 billion in 2015, a 33% annual increase driven largely by sales of homes in Aspen,where prices average $7.7 million.
This year, however, “a slowdown in January turned into a free fall.” Sales volume in Pitkin County is down 42%, according to data compiled by Land Title Guarantee Co.
Almost all of that decline is coming from Aspen, where the market is frozen. Sales in the Aspen-Snowmass market in the first half of the year were the bleakest since the first half of 2009, and inventory soared to levels not seen since the recession.
The statistics are stunning: single-family home sales in Aspen are down 62% in dollar volume through the first-half of the year. Sales of homes priced at $10 million or more — almost always paid for in cash — are down 60%. Last year, super-high-end transactions accounted for nearly a third of sales volume in Pitkin County.
“The high-end buyer has disappeared,” said Tim Estin, an Aspen broker whose Estin Report analyzes the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market.
“Aspen has never experienced such a sudden and precipitous drop in real estate sales,” according to the post.
Worse, it’s not just the collapse in the number of transaction: even more disconcerting for brokers who have always trumpeted Aspen as a safe and lucrative place to park a huge pile of money: Prices are dropping.