When the COVID pandemic shut down the country in February and March, business people anticipated disaster.

And most of them were pretty much right. But people in the Jackson Hole real estate business who felt that way were wrong.

Buyer interest and sales in Teton County and nearby were already rebounding by June, and figures just compiled on third-quarter sales are showing not just a recovery but what looks to be a high point. The third quarter has put the first nine months on target to set some annual records in Jackson Hole property sales.

"We all though back in March we were going to have to put up the gate so no one could come into the valley," said David Viehman, an associate broker at the Engel & Volkers office in Jackson. "But as we've seen ... rural seems to be  getting huge demand ... a lot of people who've been dreaming about retiring  in Jackson ... COVID's pushed them to say 'We've been looking at Jackson, what are we waiting for?'"

It was the same at Jackson Hole Sotheby's International Realty, where managing broker and CEO Donna Clinton said there was no way at this point to avoid "a banner year."

"We thought no one was going to be traveling, no one was  going to be in town, that it would be bead." Clinton said. But it's been the opposite: "We've had good markets but never like this before," she said. "We have had a record year in three quarters."

Total sales hit $1.46 billion, up 75%, in the first nine months of the year, according to the accounting of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the  Christie's affiliate in the area. The Jackson Hole Report done by Viehman put total sales at a slightly higher $1.558 billion, and estimated another $622 million under contract at the start of the fourth quarter.

Christie's agent Katie Brady said August and September sales nearly doubled those months in 2019; she said September alone was close to triple its 2019 counterpart, with 98 sales  for about $300 million, an average  price o0f $1.69 million.

"From mid-June to now, it's been pretty much nonstop," said Christy Gillespie,  who with her husband  Garth works at Christie's. "We've been in business for 26 years, it's like nothing we've every seen."

Like other Realtors, Gillespie attributed the boom to "COVID, our natural resources, our tax advantages — we are the perfect  storm."  

Single-family houses

Single-family houses, usually the first market segment examined, was especially strong.

Viehman counted 268 sales worth $996 million, with an average sale price of $3.71 million and a median price of $2.3 million. Only 37 sales were for less than $1 million, a price that used to be considered rich. Segments still considered high-end were also hot: Viehman put the number of sales over $5 million at 54, with another 22 topping $10 million.

The Christie's report was close: It put total single-family sales at 266 and total dollars at $968.9 million. The average price was $3.64 million, Christie's said, and the median was $2.2 million. Christie's put the number of third-quarter sales up 41% and the dollar volume at up 99%.

Condos and townhouses

The segment always mentioned right after single-family homes, condos and townhouses, also reflected the strong interest in moving to Jackson. Though sales were down, agents attributed  that to lack of inventory, and said the prices for condos  and townhouses showed that people want them.

The Christie's report recorded 151 sales, down 21%, but with the average price up 60% to $1.48 million and the median up 30% to $818,949. Total condo and townhouse sales hit $214.24 million, up 25%, Christie's reported.

Jackson Hole Report listed 154 sales for a total of $242 million, with  an average price of $1.34 million. Viehman noted only six sales under $400,000 during the year so far, with the end-of-quarter lowest priced at $475,000. That, he said, indicates the traditional path taken by first-time buyers to get in has come to an end.

Little left to sell

Current listings, declining steadily in the past few years, hit a new low. The Christie's report put listings and the end of the  recent quarter at only 231, down 43% compared  with  this point in 2019. Viehman calculated a decline of 44%. He contrasted the 213 listings he found to the 801 at the same point in 2010. In 1996 there were nearly 1,600 properties on the market at year's end.

The decline in number of sales "can be directly attributed to the lack of available inventory," Viehman said: "I don't now what we're going to have to sell" if the market continues strong, he said.

Clinton agreed that inventory seems headed to zero, but noted that feelilng has been around for a couple of years.

"There's nothing out there  to sell, but we keep selling it, it keeps showing up," she said.

Clinton said she thinks some of the new listings are fairly quick resales, "people taking advantage" of demand and rising prices, but that some is also property that might not have been on the market for decades.

Demand is so strong that the Gillespies have recently advertised that "our listing inventory has been sold out!" since the start of the year, with 20 sales. The Gillespies asked for people who've been thinking of selling property in the area to contact them.

"We don't have any inventory left, it's going to be a big problem in the next  few months," Christy Gillespie said. "It's the biggest lack of inventory ever."

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