Scott Bayens: The politics and economics of local real estate
Yes, I’m going to go there. Be warned and please discontinue reading if your sensitivities are particularly delicate. This guest column will include comments regarding our current president, his administration, his proposed policies, and most importantly, whether Donald J. Trump will prove to be a force for positive change, a national disaster, or simply a man with no clothes.
I’ve always been told and believe that unless you really know somebody, you should avoid any talk of religion and/or politics. So what in the world does this precarious and uncomfortable topic have to do with the local real estate market? My point is this. As those who watch the Aspen market know, two of the major factors that directly affect sales are the stock market and what goes on inside the Beltway.
So here goes nothing …
Consumer confidence and speculative wealth are perhaps the most obvious of positive indicators here and in other markets, of course. When the stock market soars, as it has for a good long while now, that generally bodes well for the wealthy. When the bulls run on Wall Street, the rich get richer and look for the most exclusive playground to park their fresh earnings and dividends. Once home to millionaires, Aspen is now truly a billionaire town, for better or worse. Just look at all the hardware parked at the airport.
Pitkin County saw a record year in real estate in 2015, posting just over $2 billion in sales. But 2016 was a different story all together, down 28 percent from the previous year. The reason said local experts and prognosticators? Political uncertainly. Fear of Trump. Fear of Hilary. Brexit. China. The price of oil. A repeat of 2008. You name it, fear of the unknown and the palpable anxiety sidelined many a potential buyer, at least until the smoke cleared. But has it?
I think it’s fair to say, whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, we all wanted the uncertainty from 2016 to disappear like a bad dream. But now that we have Trump, what we have all seen as he nears 100 days in office (at least if everyone’s being honest) is far from a Tour de Force. His new regime decided to start with the Muslim ban, a toughened immigration stance, “The Wall” and recently suffered the defeat of “Ryan Care.” And worse, gridlock is back with a vengeance.
My take? A proposed ban and immigrant round-up is nothing but divisive. For those of us who live in this valley, illegals are crucial to the local economy, not to mention as benign as smoking a blunt on the chairlift. Build the wall? Come on, that’s one spending bill we all know is never getting passed. And yes, we badly need health care reform but many economists are concerned if millions of Americans lose coverage — economic havoc could follow.
I understand some may disagree, but why not start with infrastructure? Why not take a stab at tax reform? At least these initiatives would aid the economy and sustain the improving domestic job market. Why not use his new political capital to get behind the things that benefit us all and we all agree on? Whether you voted for the man or not, we all want to see good things happen this year and in the future. I think it’s fair to say we all want an optimistic, confident leader, rather distraction and reaction void of reasoned consideration.
Whether you’re a believer in fake news or refuse to live in the new world of post-truth and the alt-right, none of us want the economy to falter and know political stability is critical to the success of our country. Yes, the Dow is north of 20,000 for the first time in history. But with the political missteps since January, do we really have to burn it all down to build it all up again? Reform is great, but do we have to reinvent every wheel?
Robust real estate sales here and around the country are the direct result of consumer confidence, a strong economy and general political stability. And election years are always generally slower in our business. But like the recent recession, this stagnation has gone on too long. We have a new regime, a fresh start. So let’s get on with it and work to move forward in a positive and forthright manner for the benefit of all our people, the economy and our common values. Our collective futures depend on it.
Scott Bayens is a broker/Realtor with Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Real Estate in Aspen/Snowmass with more than a decade of experience with buyers and sellers. He works exclusively with Michael Perau. Both work as a team to offer twice the presence and availability. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
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