Banker’s Hours column: Mountain resorts have been recession resistant
I don’t predict anything anymore. Used to think I was pretty smart (a minority of one).
On March 23, I wrote a column about the coming train wreck of the Pandemic Express. Sadly, it turned out to be spot on, right down to the value of toilet paper. Two out three of my readers (that’s all of them) thought it was on the edge. Naturally, I strutted my stuff.
But otherwise, I’ve been wrong about everything that I’ve predicted in the past six months from the pandemic to the developments in racial relations that were unimaginable on New Year’s Eve, 2019. Remember those days? What a quaint time it was.
My wife, of 60-plus years, on the other hand, has been frustratingly right.
Me: “This virus coming out of China won’t be any big deal.”
She: “As usual … you’re wrong.”
Me: “It’ll quiet down in the summer, and they’ll have a vaccine by then.”
She: “Dream on, buster.”
Me: “Mask? What mask? I don’t need no stinking mask!”
She: “You’ve got it on upside down. Here, these loops go behind your ears. Cover your mouth and nose. Wow, you look great!”
So, my crystal ball is just another moth ball. But I’ve been around real estate finance a long time, so I’m entitled to quote from experience. Geezers may not know what’s ahead, but they can go on forever about what’s behind.
I’ve been asked what might be in the immediate future for real estate values in Colorado. Can’t say, but I have been around at least four recessions while making mortgage loans in the state. As time marched on, I increasingly found myself amazed by the resiliency of Colorado real estate, especially on the west side of the divide, and particularly in the resort communities.
It was because Colorado has been a money magnet. To paraphrase scripture, the 1 percent will always be with us, and that tier of wealth has gravitated to the state for the past 60 years. Generally, these folks don’t lose money during a recession; they make it. And the ones that do see a decrease in net worth still have plenty.
In western Colorado, mortgage lending has always marched to a different drummer. Some of the economic downturns have been almost counter-cyclical, in that lookers and buyers have increased, particularly in the resort venues. Maybe this was because the movers-and-shakers who were busting their chops in a hot economy take a step back, look around, and say to their significant other, “Honey, maybe it’s time for us to take a look at building that house we’ve talked about in (Aspen, Vail, Telluride…).”
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, luxury condos in Vail were exceptionally popular with wealthy Mexicans. Then, in 1982, the peso was devalued, and a lot of condo loans defaulted, with many foreclosed. It seemed to be something of a catastrophe at the time, but it wasn’t really. Foreclosed units were quickly snapped up by people who hadn’t lost a bundle. Which illustrates a basic economic law: The Bad Breaks for Some, Are Good Breaks for Others.
A current survey of online home shoppers showed that people looking for single-family, detached homes had increased dramatically, an apparent response to virus fear of close quarters. That could mean more buyers coming to an outlier market like Colorado. Not a lot is available for them to buy. Not much is being built, due to high cost of labor, land and materials, and home owners are sitting tight, reluctant to move and resisting the lowering of price perception. Will real estate values hold, or suffer only a slight downturn, running counter to expectations? Who knows.
I do know that Colorado suffered less than other parts of the country during the downturns I’ve experienced. And, I know that, although they’re not recession proof by any means, the state’s premier mountain resorts have certainly been recession resistant.
Do I know what’s going to happen? Beats me.
I’ll ask my wife.
Pat Dalrymple is a western Colorado native and has spent more than 50 years in mortgage lending and banking in the Roaring Fork Valley. He’ll be happy to answer your questions or hear your comments. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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