The number of real estate sales was off slightly in the first part of 2019, but dollar volume took a big jump, according to local agents.
The cause? More high-end sales and a continuing rise in prices at the lower end, where locals are finding themselves struggling in their search for a place to buy, the experts said.
At the rich end “we’re seeing a lot of sales in the $3-million-plus range,” said David Viehman, an Engel and Volkers agent who publishes the Jackson Hole Report. “We are also getting much more action in larger properties, $10 million, $15 million properties ... we’ve doubled our sales over $10 million last year.”
Viehman put the total number of sales in the first quarter at down 3%, with overall dollar volume up 45%. He calculated that 61% of sales were for more than $1 million. He said there were 27 sales at prices topping $3 million, up 50%.
Katie Brady, an associate broker at Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the local Christie’s affiliate, generally agreed: She calculated that dollar volume in the first quarter was up about 40 percent, riding a strong 2018.
“2018 was super explosive, not just an uptick,” Brady said. “It was a very strong year, mostly thanks to the high end.”
Besides the healthy performance in the $1 million to $5 million segment, Viehman recorded 12 sales topping $5 million, with the highest at $17 million.
Viehman said that in Jackson proper even the “small stuff” is seeing “8 to 10% appreciation right now.”
He pointed to the old Virginian Apartments, 56 units previously filled mostly by workers that are being remodeled and sold, some with restrictions designed to keep them in the local housing market and eligible for Federal Housing Administration financing and others now being sold on the open market.
Though small, the units are selling fast and seeing a run-up in prices. Viehman said open-market units have seen prices rise up to 20% in the past few months.
Recent records show a one-bedroom, 476-square-foot unit at the Virginian on the market at $308,000. A pending sale of a two-bedroom unit of 762 square feet was listed at $420,000.
The Virginian units prove that, despite price increases, there’s strong demand in the part of the market where people with jobs are looking for places to live. Though small, the Virginian units are in town, sit next to the library and are being refurbished. Brady said she has sold two of them.
“It’s a great location; they’re nice, remodeled, have new appliances,” she said. “They’re the nicest thing on the market at that price point.”
Anything in that price range — these days almost entirely condos and townhouses rather than single-family houses — moves quickly.
Viehman said there are “multiple offers ... on anything under a million.”
“I’ve had clients looking for two years,” he said. “There are hundreds of people looking for condos under $500,000 or $600,000 ... the locals who still want to get in, who don’t want to drive to Idaho or to Star Valley.”
Brady sees the same. “Multiple-offer situations,” she said, are common in “a very competitive market.”
The strong market and continuing confidence is widespread. At the local Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate, Brokers of Jackson Hole Real Estate, majority owner Kurt Harland said a strong first quarter came on top of a good 2018. Harland said his office came close to doubling its business in the first quarter this year compared with the same period last year.
“Numbers are up; the dollars were up,” he said. “It would be a dream year if we continued like the first quarter.”
At Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty, Chief Operating Officer and responsible broker Donna Clinton agreed. She said that Sotheby’s “had a record year last year” and that the surge continued in the first quarter, with dollar volume up nearly 53 percent. Sotheby’s put the number of sales at down about 10%.
Though Sotheby’s saw a slight slowing in the start of the second quarter, Clinton expects a big year.
“The third and fourth quarters are usually very strong,” she said.
Clinton also has seen some more midprice housing coming on the market, a factor she thinks will push sales and see “people finding something they can move into.”
Viehman noted that inventory remains tight, as it has been for the past four years, with only about 280 listings of all kinds last week. But Brady said some new properties are coming on the market as potential sellers decide recent good prices and demand are a reason to stop waiting and sell. She said “sellers are feeling very bold, understandably,” and she tells people looking to buy that they should be ready to move quickly.
“Demand remains high, not just with people here but people who want to move here,” she said.
When Brady hears people say they’re waiting for a break in the market and a chance to get in cheap, she says, “I don’t think that’s good advice, I don’t think that’s happening.
“Part of me says the current trend is not sustainable,” she said, “but the other part says, ‘What’s going to stop it?’”