The number of Jackson Hole real estate deals during the coronavirus-plagued second quarter of the year saw a sharp dip, with the bottom apparently coming in May followed by a rebound in June.
The pattern has been seen by most Realtors in the area, though with some difference from one compilation to another.
The hit — coming after a strong start to the year — was shown by the reports and observations of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates associate broker Katie Brady; by the Jackson Hole Report, a study done by David and Devon Viehman, associates at Engel&Volkers; and by figures gathered at Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty, according to associate broker Brett McPeak and managing broker and CEO Donna Clinton.
“The big takeaway is that we saw the biggest hit in April, May, which was to be expected,” Brady said, “with things picking up in June.”
Viehman also saw the recent rebound, noting that 90 of 123 listed properties went under contract during the month, up from just 46 in June 2019.
And the same was seen at Sotheby’s: “In April we saw an all-time low in transactions pending,” Clinton said Monday. “But as of this morning we hit an all-time high.”
McPeak said the turnaround was a surprise.
“If you had told me two months ago we’d have this level of activity, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said.
All said they’ve seen big interest from potential buyers during the pandemic, the rush to buy often attributed to virus shutdowns and growing political unrest.
“It’s clear that many buyers are being driven out of large cities by both COVID-19 and civil unrest,” Viehman wrote in his report. “Most have been contemplating a move for some time, and felt that now was the right time.”
Brady agreed the attractions of a clean, quiet and relatively low-virus-risk Wyoming were pushing shoppers to turn into buyers.
“They want something and they want it now,” she said. “They want to live here now; they don’t want to go back to their city. ... We’ve seen unprecedented numbers of out-of-town buyers coming into our valley.”
Clinton said one agent in her shop had walk-ins from Chicago, New York City and Austin, Texas, in just two days.
The dip in sales, though, was real.
Brady, using sales reported in the Multiple Listing Service, tallied just 63 sales in the second quarter, down from 110 in the same period of 2019. That was a drop of 43%, a fall she politely called “significant.”
The decrease was seen in every month of the quarter, Brady said, but hit bottom in May, with fewer than half the sales of May 2019. By June, she said, the decrease was only 10 fewer sales, “perhaps an early indication of increase interest/sales as we move through the summer with the influx of out-of-town visitors and buyers.”
The drop in dollars realized, though, was tiny in comparison. Brady reported the value of all sales in the quarter as $145.1 million, down just $3 million from second quarter 2019. That pushed the average price to a shade over $2.3 million, which was nearly a million dollars more than the 2019 average.
More than three of four sales during the quarter were single-family houses, compared to about 35% in 2019, Brady said. Total sales of single-family homes in the first half of the year were 105, Viehman said, a fall of 5% year to year, but with the dollars paid up 19% to $345 million, an average sale price of $3.24 million, up 25%.
Owners looking to sell apparently haven’t been deterred by COVID-19, and may even have been encouraged.
“Sellers are not changing their behavior due to COVID,” she said. “Sellers think we are at or near the top” of the market.
Viehman also reported that the first six months of the year saw big price boosts that more than made up for fewer sales. He tallied sales of $603 million, and said that at the time of his report contracts worth $141 million were moving toward closing. If the under-contract sales all close that would boost the dollars committed by mid-year to $1.017 billion; the record year, the pre-Great Recession 2007, saw total sales in the area of $1.567 billion, offering a good chance that 2020 “could potentially break a record.”
“I think what we’re seeing is a leveling up of the regional real estate market,” McPeak said. “And at the end of the year, 2020 will have been one of the biggest ever in dollar amounts.”
Besides the generally rising prices, agents said sales in the over-$3 million market — seen as the luxury segment — were strong all along.
Viehman counted 61 sales in the over-$3 million range, up 22%, with 36 of the sales actually above $5 million. Of those, 59% were on the West Bank.
“The one segment that held strong was the over $3 million,” Brady said.
Many buyers are showing up ready to sign right off, without worrying about a mortgage.
“A lot of cash transactions,” Clinton said. “The money is out there and it’s coming here.”
Clinton noted house rentals topping $35,000 a month; a recent sale and two pending at Vogel Hill, a new high-end project on the south end of West Gros Ventre Butte; and a Crescent H house that had been on and off and on the market for four years that suddenly attracted four offers.
All the factors pushing the market indicate that absent a major national problem — even more than what’s been seen in recent months — the Jackson property market will get through.
“Even if we started to see more COVID activity, I think the genie’s out of the bottle,” McPeak said. “People desperately don’t want to be stuck in New York, San Francisco, LA, Dallas or in other urban centers.”