Vail Valley real estate market sets another sales record
September saw a switch in where buyers come from — Front Range and out of state buyers dominated
- $515.6 million: Value of September real estate sales in Eagle County.
- 319: Transactions in Eagle County in September.
- 66: September sales in Vail.
- 66: September sales in Eagle and Gypsum.
It took 15 years to break a 2005 record for one-month real estate sales volume. The new record fell, and fell hard, one month later.
September real estate sales in Eagle County exceeded $515 million. That shattered the August record of $418 million. And, while many big sales volume months are driven by sales of hotels or other large properties, September’s sales were driven in large part by the number of transactions.
September’s transactions — 319 — were the highest one-month total of this year. The mark also surpassed the number of transactions in September 2019. According to the latest data from Land Title Guarantee Company, September marked the only month of more than 300 sales since 2014.
Another unusual mark in September was the volume of sales in Vail. Through all the town’s neighborhoods, there were 66 transactions in September. That matches the number of transactions in Eagle and Gypsum, which usually make up the biggest piece of the monthly sales pie.
All this activity comes after a very slow second quarter of 2020, driven by the tight restrictions imposed on the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, sales have been on a steep uphill climb. Year-to-date transactions are now running slightly above 2019 levels.
‘The pendulum has swung’
Longtime Vail-based broker Ron Byrne said he was “nervous” about the year as the pandemic and its restrictions took hold. But, he added, “I thought we’d be OK” through the year.
Now, “the pendulum has really swung,” Byrne said.
“It’s not just COVID,” Byrne added. “There’s been a change in lifestyle.”
That change in lifestyle is also reflected in the Land Title numbers. The makeup of buyers has historically seen about half of sales going to people who already live in Eagle County. For the year to date, 51% of all buyers are Eagle County residents.
That profile shifted significantly in September. That month, 40% of buyers were Eagle County residents. Front Range (22%) and out of state (37%) buyers together made up 59% of the buyers last month.
Byrne said people from Chicago, New York and Miami are coming to the mountains for a lifestyle shift. So are buyers from the Front Range.
Didi Doolittle, Eagle County sales manager for Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, noted that COVID’s stay-home orders have proven that many people are able to work from home. Doolittle added that the strength of local schools and the local community have drawn many buyers to the “mountain lifestyle.”
Michael Slevin, owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, said the local market is also being driven by interest rates, which remain very low.
“That drives a lot of purchasing power,” Slevin said. “We need that to have movement in our market.”
It’s a different market
Vail’s September sales marked a significant surprise in the local market.
Slevin is a valley native, and has spent almost all his life in an around the local real estate business. He said he can’t recall a time when Vail’s sales activity has been this strong in terms of transactions. The previous activity peak may have been during the first decade of the 2000s, when units associated with what was called the “Vail Renaissance” first came to market.
But, Slevin added, this market is different from that market, when new condos changed hands several times before anyone spent a night in them.
“This is a users’ market, not an investor/flip market,” Slevin said.
So what’s next?
Most people laugh when asked to gaze into a crystal ball. But Slevin said a trend toward people viewing the mountains as a place to stay may be taking hold.
“It’s the demand that’s different,” Slevin said, noting that people seem to be buying for different reasons.
Doolittle noted that the shift to a “lifestyle” market has actually been occurring over the past several years. COVID-19 has accelerated the trend, she said.
“Even when you’re at your house… there’s still a lot of things to do,” Doolittle said. Since most of those activities are outdoors, “You can still have a really good time and be socially distant.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
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