Lori and William Small

It appears 2019 will be another solid year for the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market. The overall volume of sales year-to-date for 2019 are similar to, if not slightly ahead, of the total sales volume numbers for 2018 and 2017. But if you’re making a decision to sell an existing property in the Aspen-Snowmass area, or to buy new property, what are the 2020 market conditions likely to look like?

The history of the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market shows that the health of the market depends to great degree on the direction of the U.S. stock market and the overall economy. When the economy is positive and the stock market is moving up, as we’ve seen in the past decade, the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market also responds positively. When the national economy went into the Great Recession that started in the second half of 2008, the stock market also lost roughly 50 percent of its value from early 2008 through the fall of 2009.

Unfortunately, the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market collapsed as well. During the Great Recession, the total volume of sales activity declined from roughly $2.6 billion to a low in the mid $900 million range, and real estate values declined 25 to 35 percent. So keeping an eye on the direction of the economy and stock market helps predict what’s likely to happen to the local real estate market over the next 12 to 18 months.

As 2019 draws to a close, economists are discussing the likelihood that another recession could unfold in 2020. So what are these two indicators, the national economy and stock market, telling us about what might happen in 2020? Let’s look at the stock market. The stock market has never looked stronger, hitting another all-time high at the end of November. The stock market has been on a 10-year-plus run, increasing over 360 percent since it last bottomed in the second quarter of 2009. The outlook for the nation’s economy also seems positive going into 2020. Since 2009, the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy has been 2.2 percent, ranging from a low of 0.18 percent in 2009 to a high of 2.88 percent in 2014. The final growth rate for 2019 is expected to be about 2 percent. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen modest but steady growth in the U.S economy.

Throughout 2019, economists have discussed the possibility of another recession developing toward the end of 2019 into 2020. A recession is defined as two quarters of negative growth in the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, the primary measure of economic vitality. For a recession to start in 2020, there would need to be negative GDP growth starting within the first quarter of the year.

Obviously, no signs of a recession have emerged in 2019. The GDP has grown at an average of 2.1 percent in 2019. Also, last week, the Labor Department released the jobs report for November, showing a relatively healthy growth figure of 266,000 new jobs created, keeping the unemployment rate at record low. This is a continuation of the pattern of job growth the U.S. has experienced since late 2009. Many economists believe that the top indicator of economic health and growth in the GDP is job creation. Before a recession begins, there have to be signs of growing unemployment. At this time, no such signs exist.

Other closely watched economic indicators from retail sales, leisure and hospitality job growth, direction of interest rates and growth in income have all been moving in a positive direction that would indicate that no recession is imminent. Even the yield curve that turned negative this past summer raising concerns of a pending recession turned positive again back in early November. A negative yield curve is when long-term interest rates become lower than short-term interest rates, signaling investor concern with the future of the economy. A negative yield curve is historically one of the most reliable economic indicators that a recession could start within 18 to 24 months.

From an economic and stock market point-of-view, the forecast for the 2020 Aspen Snowmass real estate market is looking a lot like the way it did at the beginning of 2019 with positive economic growth and a rising stock market. A possible dark cloud is that 2020 is a major election year. In 2016, the local real estate market showed weakness leading up to the 2016 election, but resumed its upward trajectory in 2017 after the election.

It’s possible we could see a repeat of that same pattern in 2020, but otherwise, the Aspen- Snowmass real estate market could be similar to what we’ve experienced in 2019.


Lori Small is a luxury real estate broker associate with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse; William Small is the founder and CEO of Zenith Realty Advisors LLC, a commercial-investment real estate advisory and investment firm. Lori can be reached at and William can be reached at