Scott Bayens: Lessons of “A Christmas Carol” for 2020 and the New Year
In the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”, a cold-hearted miser is visited by three ghosts; one from the past, one from the present and one from the future. Most if not all of us are more than familiar with the story and its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s a tale that resonates not only with the young for its life lessons, but holds profound meaning for grown-ups who care to reflect upon and take heed of the warning within. The literary work remains one of the greats for good reason and for me, holds special meaning looking back on the year that was, the year that still is and the promise of the new year ahead.
This time of year I’m always compelled to look back at the previous twelve months, reading and watching all the year-end reviews. I’m always amazed at how much has happened, how many people died, what I remember and somewhat surprisingly, what I’ve forgotten. If there was ever a year when just the thought of attempting to reconcile the last 365 days risks short-circuiting our fragile and collective sub-conscience, 2020 was it.
As you might recall, as 2019 was nearing its end, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump (the Senate later acquitted the President). We rang in 2020 with the usual fanfare with some taking note of the numerological significance of the year’s sequence. By mid-January we began hearing about an emerging virus in the Wuhan district of China. By the end of January the US began screening airline passengers from there and by the end of the month the first case was reported in Washington State.
But Americans were not yet paying attention. As I’ve written before, the story was oceans away, out-of-sight/out-of-mind and of no consequence to us. Instead we hosted Super Bowl LIV, watched as the North Korean film “Parasite” won best picture at the Oscars and saw Joe Biden emerge victorious after the Super Tuesday Primaries.
Then on March 11, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus a global pandemic. As week later, the crisis hit home as the ski season was dealt a gut punch as the governor ordered lifts closed and bagged the remainder of the ski season. And so began history’s yearly equivalent of a burning bag of dog**** left on the front porch.
Since then we’ve endured lockdown, safer-at-home, masks, social distancing, PPP, all the colors of the corona-meter, and of course, an unprecedented selling season in regional real estate that began as a trickle in May and then developed into a torrent which continues to swirl as we round out the year. At least one of the local boutique title companies remains so busy, they are scheduling for mid-January. If you need to close prior to end of year; tough luck.
Although the final tally of real estate sales volume has yet to be calculated, we know the numbers are simply mind-blowing. When I asked Randy Gold with Aspen Appraisal Group what he thought the final year-end number might look like he answered simply, “I’m fairly confident we’ll be north of three billion for the year.” The previous high was $2.6 billion back in 2006.
Other data from Randy and local title companies show sales in Aspen (homes, condos and land) more than doubled from 2019! Snowmass Village sales are up roughly 75%. There were more than 250 residential sales in Aspen Snowmass in Q3 alone.
About 10 years ago, it was always a shock to reveal to Buyers the average price of an Aspen home to be $5M. At the end of this year, that number has doubled. It now takes an average of $10M to live and play here if you want a single family house. That too is a record high.
Meanwhile the number of homes available to buy (listing inventory) is at a 10 year low. Aspen is off by 25% compared to the same period last year and Snowmass Village is down 40%.
Like the Dickens novel, what remains is a cautionary tale. With so much property trading hands in the greater Roaring Fork valley the past seven months, we brokers still have plenty of buyers but no much left to sell. The stuff that’s out there is either the tired leftovers or new listings priced in the “make me move” range. Indications are buyers will return the market en masse this spring and summer. Demand is there; money’s cheap; but we need more stock on the shelves.
Lastly, because of the staggering amount of wealth this year’s sales reflect, I feel the need to acknowledge the world outside the fluffy bubble of Aspen Snowmass. What we perceive and experience as our own reality here in the mountains does not match most of the outside world. Fortunes can change just 30 miles down Highway 82.
The pandemic remains out of control. Yes, the vaccine has arrived and is providing some semblance of relief. But many are struggling and suffering. More than a few of our neighbors are in need of assistance. Please don’t forget about them this holiday season. There are a myriad of ways to help. My friends at the Aspen Community Foundation are a great resource as are the dozens of other non-profits here in our valley.
It’s been one hell of a year. But despite resistance, pushback, deniers and conspiracy theorists, we have persevered, persisted and made progress. We will get through this. My hope and prayer for this new year is we’ll be stronger, better, wiser and not forget our fellow man.
Love and peace from my family to yours this holiday season!
Scott Bayens (GRI, ABR, CNE) is a Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty. Learn more about him and view current listings at http://www.aspendreamhome.com.
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