Scott Bayens: What we don’t know in life and real estate is a lot right now
I found an old newspaper in my briefcase the other day. I actually knew it was there; reading material from a trip my family and I took in late February; essentially a time machine in waiting.
In light of everything that has changed since then, I hesitated to open and read it, get this, for fear it might actually disrupt and distract me from this constant, crazy, delirium most of us have been locked into these past three months.
Back to the paper, the front page shows a lone skier ripping on corduroy beneath bluebird skies. There are ads for winter events, quirky letters to the editor and, yes, those ubiquitous real estate ads. But curiously, I also found a political cartoon referencing the virus and an article about how the disease was already having significant impacts in other parts of the world. I’m sure I skimmed it but sure don’t remember really seeing it. At the time, it wasn’t as important as the sports page and restaurant specials. Besides, it can’t happen here.
Today, as we continue to reel from the shock of the shutdown, lockdown, reopening and now signs of a summer surge, it’s no surprise most of us remain gripped and on full tilt. As soon as we get our bearings, it seems there’s another shift, sea change, cancellation or closure, with no end in sight. In a way that seems to be the very definition of this “new normal.” And while some of us can’t seem to let go of the steering wheel, and still others are hitting the accelerator, there are those among us looking for meaning in this unique and unprecedented time.
For now, we all seem far too busy to take a more thoughtful and philosophical approach to current events. The masses from who knows where have now arrived as we expected they would. The airport reports “jam packed flights” and ABO is stacked with jets. Restaurant patios are full. And my buddies at the fly and float shops are reporting high demand for trips.
In the world of real estate, we saw 32 homes and 13 lots go under contract last week alone. A total of 20 properties valley-wide closed; from a $125,000 lot in Glenwood Springs to a $12 million house outside Aspen; all post-COVID deals. realtor friends around the country in out of the way places like Tahoe, the Hamptons, Wyoming, Montana can’t keep up with the calls.
Clearly the migration away from urban centers has begun in earnest. De-urbanization is a thing.
The Wall Street Journal reports once the recent restrictions were lifted, twice as many Americans chose to relocate than did last year. And we’re clearly seeing that trend here.
We’re actually seeing buyers “up-sizing.” Working families need more space for kids who’d left home and have now returned, and need not one but two offices for couples now working remotely. Money is dirt cheap, demand is off the charts and available inventory remains low. That’s likely to become a problem for buyers (if not already) and amps up the frenzy even more. So what’s ahead? If we’re honest, what we don’t know is a lot. In normal times, none of us had a crystal ball, but most of us did have some experience and perspective to help us predict what was around the corner. If you think about it, that’s what’s got us all so stressed and in high gear. The unknown is scary — and no one really has any answers.
Most seem to agree, we’re not out of the woods yet and there are more challenges to come; second wave, stock market, recession. Depending on which news channel you watch, the predictions can be quite dire. It’s almost too hard to watch. Our blood pressure goes up, we look away and end up distracting ourselves by returning to the safety of the frenzy.
As we embark on these summer months we say things like, “It’s good to be busy” and “Sow while the sun is shining.” After hiding in our houses for eight weeks, no one could have predicted the speed at which we ramped back up again.
For now, we’re all using this surprise window as effectively as we can, without knowing how long it might be open. After all, we now know just how fragile and fleeting normal everyday life can become in the age of COVID. I’m sure there are larger lessons to be learned and I sincerely want to learn them. But for now, for many of us, that invitation for new insight is going to have to wait. And when you stop to think about, that may be the reason we’re all a bit off balance.
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.