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First Quarter Market Report 2024 | Christie's International Real Estate Aspen Snowmass

First Quarter Market Report 2024
Blog Details
Elliot Eisenberg P.H.D
Published on Apr 23, 2024
Report Written By: Elliot F. Eisenberg, Ph.D. Source: Aspen Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service

Q1 2024 Economic Overview:

A year ago, a national recession seemed an almost certainty. Interest rates were rising rapidly and peaked out in July 2023, and overall economic conditions weakened for several more months. Flash forward to today, and the economy continues to pleasantly surprise, to wit, 23Q4 GDP growth came in at a solid 3.4%, the sixth straight quarter that the annual growth rate has been above 2%. Current estimates for 24Q1 are for a slightly slower but still respectable 2.1%. There are a few key items that are driving current growth. The rise in home prices and equities is boosting consumer spending. Second, immigration is meaningfully higher than we think, and income by those persons, be it reported or unreported, is also boosting spending. Lastly, labor productivity is strong, helping reduce inflationary trends.

U.S. employers added a very strong 303,000 net jobs in March, the best level since 5/23, and there were upward revisions to January and February of 22,000. Better yet, the workweek rose, the labor force participation rate increased from 62.5% to 62.7%, and wage growth slid from 4.28% in February to 4.14% in March. If there is a weak spot, it’s that only three sectors continue to generate almost all the growth, and the March report was no exception. Education/healthcare was responsible for 88,000 jobs, government, 71,000, and leisure/hospitality, 49,000. Outside of these sectors there has been little job growth since 11/22. It would be nice to see broader employment growth, and critically, more growth outside the public sector.

Unfortunately, inflation remains stubbornly above the Fed’s 2% target. March CPI rose 3.5% Y-o-Y, the 10th month in a row that headline CPI has been trendless and rangebound between 3.1% and 3.7%. The lowest reading since the 2021 inflationary rise was 3.1% in 6/23. Moreover, core CPI, which since peaking in 9/22 has fallen every month except 3/23, rose slightly, from 3.76% to 3.80%. Inflation’s decline appears to be stalling and thus Fed rate relief remains on hold. With inflation not fully in check, and the size and timing of Fed rate cuts uncertain, the prospect of a ‘soft landing’ remains, although a mild recession is also still a possible outcome. In 1989, the Fed’s last rate hike was in 6/89 and 13 months later a recession began. In 2000, the lag between the Fed’s last hike and the recession was 10 months. In 2006, the gap was 18 months, and in 2018, the lag was 14 months. The median and mean are both about 14 months. This cycle, the last hike was in 7/23, and therefore if past trends and history hold true, there is the possibility of a fall recession, although that is far from certain.

Consumer spending is a key driver of GDP growth. Household net worth rose $4.8 trillion in 23Q4 and has gained $11.6 trillion since 22Q4. Net worth is now $156.2 trillion, slightly above its previous 22Q1 peak of $152.3 trillion. This recent surge is undoubtedly why consumer spending remains profoundly strong. The top 20% of the population saw their wealth rise by $4.1 trillion, while the bottom 50% saw a trivial $34 billion rise. But far too many in that bottom 50% are tapping into credit for purchases. Pre-Covid, revolving consumer credit totaled $1.10 trillion, was growing by $3.5 billion/month, and was 6.6% of disposable income. After collapsing through 4/21, it’s now increasing rapidly, at a rate of nearly $10 billion/month, and is now $1.34 trillion, or 6.5% of disposable income. Worse, the average credit card rate has risen from the mid-teens in the pre-Covid years to the low twenties today. These rapid balance increases, coupled with high rates, are concerning, and at some point, become unsustainable.

Bottom line: the continuing strength of the jobs market and the fact that inflation remains stubbornly above the 2% target means the Fed is not likely to cut interest rates until sometime in 24Q3 and possibly even later.

Q1 2024 National Housing Market Overview:

In the national housing market, February existing home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.38 million, well above the 3.92 million expected, and the best pace since 2/23, although down 3.3% Y-o-Y. Moreover, inventory is 1.07 million, up 100,000 Y-o-Y, and months of inventory is now 2.9, up 0.3 months Y-o-Y. The February median price was $384,500, up from $363,600 last year. Recovering sales, rising inventory, and reasonable price appreciation, is the “just right” scenario we hopefully continue to see.

February new housing starts rose 5.9% Y-o-Y and permits rose 2.4% Y-o-Y. Drilling down, new single-family starts are up an impressive 35% Y-o-Y, while multifamily starts sank 36%. Similarly, single-family permits are up 30% Y-o-Y while multifamily permits plunged 33%. Multifamily housing is meaningfully weaker than single-family, as high interest rates push up costs, and with a huge number of new multifamily units recently coming online or about to do so, there is a surplus of supply, pushing down occupancy rates, and ultimately, rents. With rents continuing to slowly decline while interest rates remain high and home prices keep rising, it’s now cheaper to rent than own in all top 50 U.S. metros.

For a bit of perspective, compared to the 2006 Housing Boom peak, home prices are currently 71% higher. However, after accounting for inflation, home prices are just 10% higher. Thought of slightly differently, nominal home prices are exactly double what they were in 2004. That works out to a compound annual growth rate of 3.6%. While housing prices went crazy during Covid, over the long run price increases have been rather pedestrian.

While the long-term impact of NAR’s agreement to end litigation brought by sellers related to broker commissions may take a while to become fully apparent, the immediate results were clear. On the day the agreement was announced, the stock prices of RE/MAX, Redfin, Zillow, Compass, and Douglas Elliman all declined meaningfully, suggesting, at least initially, that overall commissions and brokerage profits will dip. That said, house prices may well not get cheaper. To a large degree that will depend on the competition between buyers and sellers and inventories. In tight markets, we may see little change in commissions, while in weaker markets there may be more negotiation. At the end, I suspect that commissions are a bit reduced, that the number of Realtors declines, and that the average Realtor probably completes more deals/year.

In terms of non-residential real estate, in 24Q1, the U.S. office vacancy rate hit a new high of 19.8%, besting the 23Q4 record of 19.6%, and the previous record of 19.3% for both 1986 and 1991. Those highs were the result of massive overbuilding followed by the S&L crisis recession that started in 90Q3. The aftereffects lingered, and the vacancy rate, even in 2007, at the height of the Housing Boom, remained very elevated at 7.9%. This time, the damage is the outcome of Covid and the work-from-home shift that followed, and the largest exposures seem to be in small and mid-size banks. The Fed appears to be watching this issue closely to see if intervention becomes necessary.

With inflation falling slowly, the Fed may only cut rates twice this year, and unless and until we see the gap between the current 30-year mortgage rate and the 5.0% mortgage rate that more than 75% of mortgage holders enjoy, we are only going to see a moderate pickup in activity. Even so, life happens, and eventually people must move because of marriage, divorce, jobs, and family, and over time we will see this sort of natural market activity rise. Most expectations are that 2024 will be a year of transition, nothing like the rocket ship of 2021, but also nothing nearly as bad as the last quarter of 2023. Dr. Eisenberg comments: “The timing and depth of interest rate cuts remain uncertain; however, they are now most likely to occur in late summer, fall, or even later than that, and we are unlikely to more than two 25bps cuts. This expected delay in interest rate cuts is likely to keep many homeowners locked-in to existing mortgages and thus keep inventories tight, with a solid floor under home prices. Overall, I anticipate mid-single digit increases in home prices during calendar 2024.”

Q1 2024 Colorado Overview:

Unemployment in Colorado is 3.5% as of 02/24, up from last December’s 3.3%, after hitting a peak of 11.7% in 05/20 (for comparison, the pre-pandemic rate was 2.8%) and remains below the February U.S. national average of 3.9%. Statewide continuing claims for unemployment hit a high of 265,499 for the week ended 5/16/20 (compared to a pre-pandemic level of 20,735) and are now at 28,434 for the week ended 03/23/24, a year ago it was 21,415. In Pitkin County, the February unemployment rate was 3.3%, a year ago it was 2.6% and for comparison, pre-Covid in 11/19 it was 5.7%. The final employment data shows that Colorado gained an average of 4,900 jobs per month in 2023, up from 2,000 monthly jobs in 2022. Additionally, payrolls increased 2.5 percent in 2023, which put Colorado in 11th place compared to other states when it comes to job growth. State and local government was the biggest job creator in Colorado last year, although that is expected to cool during 2024.

Statewide, the March 2024 median price of a single-family home of $576,945 was 4.1% higher than March 2023, while the year-over-year average price rose 5.1% to $724,475. In the condo/townhome market, the year-over-year median price gained 3.7% to $425,000 while the average price increased 6.9% to $553,290. Through March, closed sales across the state are down 3.1% while new listings are up 8.9%. There are 15,881 active listings statewide at the end of March, up 2.3% compared to last year and representing 2.2 months’ supply of inventory. Across the state, the percentage of list price received at sale was 99.2%, up from 99.1% last year and 98.1% at the end of last year. The average home spends 56 days on the market until sale, almost the same as last March and down slightly from December 2023’s 62 days, suggesting a market that is still strong.

Q1 2024 Aspen Overview:

The median price of a single-family home in Aspen through March 2024 was $12.0 million, a 9% gain compared to the same period of 2023, while the average price increased 27.0% to $15.7 million. Aspen townhomes and condominiums remained very comparable to last year, with a median price of $3.0 million, up 3.0% from last year, and an average price of just over $4.3 million, down 3.0% from last year. In Snowmass Village, the single-family median price increased 46% to almost $7.2 million, while the average price gained 50.0% to just over $8.0 million. Snowmass Village townhomes and condominiums also saw a 51.0% gain in median price to just under $1.9 million, although the average price declined 13.0% to just under $2.5 million. Across the Aspen/Snowmass Village area, closed sales were up 43.0% compared to last year and overall sales volume rose 27.0% to nearly $553 million. The percentage of sold price to original listing price compared to last year increased except for Aspen single-family homes, where it dipped from 92.0% to 91.0%. Days on market increased for Aspen single-family but remained the same for Aspen townhomes and condos. In Snowmass Village, average days on market meaningfully decreased.

Aspen has recently dominated the headlines with luxury home sales, including what is about to be the first $100 million-plus transaction. Dispelling all notions of a slowdown, it is clear that high-end buyers are still drawn to Aspen and Snowmass Village for the culture, dining, recreation and outdoor lifestyle. With new restrictions on home size in place, existing homes have already and will continue to benefit from these supply constraints. Additionally, the steady and pleasantly surprisingly strong run-up in equity prices has boosted the ability of high-income net worth individuals to pursue their passions, and for many, it includes a residence in Colorado’s high country. Dr. Eisenberg notes: “I am not at all surprised at the strength of the Aspen/Snowmass Village housing market. With inventory low and net worth up, buyers are willing to bring cash to the table, thus largely negating the current interest rate environment. I expect home prices to continue to rise, but the stock market will be the key variable to follow.”

Aspen Single-Family Highlights:

•    The median price for a single-family home in Aspen through March 2024 was $12.0 million, 9% more than last year’s $11 million while the average sale price of nearly $15.7 million gained 27% over last year.

•    There were 15 closed sales through the end of March, a 25% decline compared to the first quarter of 2003, but rising prices helped overall dollar volume decline by just 5% to just over $235 million. The average sold price per square foot increased 20% to $3,389.

•    As of the end of March, there were 77 single-family homes on the market, compared to 79 at the same point last year.

•    The most expensive single-family home sold in Aspen during the first quarter of 2023 was almost $37 million, compared to a $35 million sale during 23Q1.

•    Days on market increased from 199 to 264, while the percentage of sold price to original listing price declined slightly to 91%.


Aspen Condos/Townhomes Highlights:

•    Compared to 23Q1, the median price of townhomes and condominiums in Aspen rose a slight 3.0% to $3.0 million, while the average price declined 3% to just over $4.3 million.

•    The number of properties sold during the first quarter of the year increased from 21 in 2023 to 35 in 2024. Dollar volume surged 61% to almost $152 million and the average price per square foot increased 10% to $3,027.

•    Condominium and townhome inventories increased slightly from 52 units last March to 56 units at the end of March 2024.

•    The most expensive unit sold during the first quarter was $14 million, well below 23Q1’s highest sale of nearly $22 million.

•    The average days on market for condominiums and townhomes through March was 136 days, the same as last year. The percentage of sold price to original list price increased from 94% last year to 96% this year.


Snowmass Village Single-Family Highlights:

•    In Snowmass Village, the 24Q1 median sale price of a single-family home was almost $7.2 million, compared to 2023 when the price was $4.9 million, while the average price increased 50% to just over $8 million. The average price per square foot jumped 21% to $1,840 per square foot

•    Year-over-year Q1 closed sales increased from 7 last year to 9 this year, a 29% increase and that nearly doubled overall dollar volume to $72.2 million.

•    There were 15 single-family homes for sale in Snowmass Village at the end of March, compared to 25 at the end of the first quarter of 2023, a 40% increase.

•    The most expensive single-family home sold in 24Q1 in Snowmass Village was $15 million, while the highest price in 23Q1 was $10.8 million.

•    The number of days on market for single-family homes in Snowmass Village declined from 159 days last year to 97 days this year, while the percentage of sold price to original list price rose from 92% last year to 95% this year.


Snowmass Village Condos/Townhomes Highlights:

•    Condominium and townhome median prices in Snowmass Village rose slightly more than 50% to almost $1.9 million. The average price declined 13% to just under $2.5 million, although the average price per square foot rose 10% to $1,736.

•    Closed sales during the first quarter nearly doubled to 38, and overall sales volume rose 65% to $93.4 million.

•    At the end of March there were 38 townhome or condominium units on the market in Snowmass Village, compared to 40 last year.

•    In the Snowmass Village condo/townhome market, the most expensive property sold during 24Q1 was $9.5 million, compared to the highest sale price last year of $8.8 million.

•    The percentage of sold to original list price rose slightly from 96% to 97%, while the days on market declined from 266 to 90.


To read the Full Report with graphs and stats from Aspen to Glenwood Springs: Click here