Scott Bayens: Looking beyond the sum of our fears for Aspen-area real estate market
It’s stressful watching TV news these days. And it’s far from relaxing scanning my daily newsfeed.
It’s a bummer as I always prided myself on being in the know and ready to debate the issues of the day. I was raised in a family where history, current events and politics were part of our education and daily discussion. After all, we were taught being informed and paying attention to the world around us was a big part of being a good citizen, understanding the American experience and critical to making a difference should one decide to do so.
This is likely not a singular experience among those who enjoy staying abreast. Unfortunately, the proliferation of misinformation has become the new issue of the day; the weaponization of point-of-view, opinion and debate. Bipartisanship is on life support; the most significant causality of which is our collective withdraw from political participation, mutual engagement and civil discourse of the very subject matter that seems to be tearing us all apart.
There’s so much white noise out there coming at us all from every direction: TV, radio, print, online and, my fav, social media. It’s no wonder we’re all trying to escape the bad news. It’s become spectator sport to try to predict the next market crash, terror attack or pandemic. It’s exhausting being so fearful and although optimism is a learned behavior for some, we all know it’s much better to look forward than in the rearview. To do otherwise is to choose to suffer.
Believe it or not, I was thinking about all that last week when I walked into a packed ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen for the annual market update and luncheon hosted by the Aspen Board of Realtors. More than 300 local brokers, bankers and investors gathered to hear the predictions of local appraiser Randy Gold and National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Laurence Yun. We’ve enjoyed a couple great years in the Aspen market — nearly $2 billion in sales last year and in 2018 — and an upward trend since the end of the great recession. But specific to my premise, I am convinced many arrived steeling themselves for a dire forecast. Maybe I did, too.
As it turned out, the outlook was mainly positive for 2020. Gold said he expects the high end of the market — homes over $10 million — to remain strong. Aspen condos remain in high demand (although in short supply) and spec builders continue to gobble up lots. Yun for his part also identified Colorado as one of a handful of states where models predict continued job and economic growth resulting in more people continuing to migrate to the Centennial State.
However, both men tempered their remarks and identified potential threats including the emergence of Coronavirus, which unchecked, could trigger a global downturn. For his part Gold reminded those in the room Aspen is not immune to economic shifts in the markets. And both Gold and Yun mentioned what’s sure to be a highly contested presidential election, which traditionally has slowed activity in past cycles.
Of course, at the end of the day, there’s no way to tell what will happen in the future. It’s prudent to be cautious, listen to the experts and watch the trend lines, but in this age of information schizophrenia, what conclusion are we to believe? How do we decipher the clarion call through all the static?
I think the answer must be a new and committed reliance on our own experiences, instincts and institutional knowledge. In my view, it is this quiet optimism and confidence that drives successful people. They have an innate ability to filter out and ignore the negative. To do otherwise is to succumb to the worry and fear that seems to surround us these days and often leads to self-fulfilling prophecy. Consider the DOW, consumer confidence and, yes, the local and luxury real estate market.
So, here’s how I intend to frame it for myself and my clients moving forward. Although there may be some bumps in the road and challenges ahead, this long-awaited correctional downturn might be a good thing. From a psychological standpoint, at least we can all stop fretting and guessing. And specific to real estate here in the valley, a 10% to 15% reduction in home prices is likely to entice buyers waiting on the sidelines.
And then there’s always the possibility the sum of our fears will end up entirely unfounded.
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a realtor and top producer with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more by visiting his website at http://www.aspendreamhome.com.
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