The top news story this past week has been the global spread of the coronavirus. From its origin in Wuhan, China, with an outbreak that started in December, the coronavirus has in just two months spread to 47 countries and every continent in the world except Antarctica. From its historic peak on Feb. 12, the U.S. stock market has, as a result, lost almost 14 percent of its value, the bulk of that decline in the past week, on concerns that the spread of the virus could have a significant impact on the global economy. The airline and travel industry have been hit the hardest with multiple canceled flights to and from Asia and the cancellation of conferences and events around the world over concerns that assemblies of large groups could help spread the virus faster. Most recently, a January conference of just 109 people in Singapore has been traced as the source of coronavirus outbreaks in Malaysia, South Korea, England and a small alpine ski resort in France.
The coronavirus is not a new disease. A previous outbreak of a coronavirus took place in China in 2003. However, in 2003 China wasn’t as big a part of the global economy as it is today. In the past two decades, much of the world’s manufacturing has moved to China. Today, as the manufacturing capital of the world, China is currently in lockdown mode to prevent the spread of the virus within China. As a result, many factories that produce the goods that supply the world are shut down or experiencing significant slowdowns. Companies in the U.S. from Apple to GM are warning of shortages of parts from China that could slow manufacturing in the U.S. Many companies around the world are now reporting that the coronavirus outbreak could impact their bottom lines for the foreseeable future. As a result, profit forecasts have been cut back, which is impacting global stock markets.
Against this backdrop, could the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market be impacted? Because Aspen-Snowmass is a popular international resort with a heavy reliance on tourism, it’s possible the local real estate market could be impacted in some manner, at least in the short term. That impact could be direct or indirect. A direct impact might be an outbreak of the virus in the Aspen-Snowmass area, brought on by someone exposed to the virus by traveling through parts of the world where the virus has already shown up. An indirect impact could result from uncertainty and tumult in the financial markets that could lead to a prolonged slowdown in the global economy, which could lead to a slowdown or recession in the U.S. economy and a reduction of buyer interest in resort real estate markets like Aspen-Snowmass.
The probability of an actual outbreak of the coronavirus in Aspen is likely low due to the fact that only 8-10 percent of the visitors to the Aspen-Snowmass area are from foreign counties, and few if any of those visitors come from areas of Asia directly impacted by outbreaks of the virus. However, as a precaution, there is always the possibility that events planned for Aspen that would attract an international audience could be canceled or postponed, jolting the local economy. The most likely impact, if any, would be indirect from a possible extended decline in the stock market and economic slowdown. The Aspen-Snowmass real estate market tends to track closely the direction of the stock market. As the stock market goes up, the local real estate market tends to follow. The opposite has historically also been the case. Past pandemic virus scares, like the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak six years ago, resulted in a 6-13 percent stock market correction followed by a resumption of the upward stock market trend. It’s too early to tell whether the stock market will follow past virus outbreak patterns, or if this is an entirely new situation.
Regardless of how this coronavirus situation plays out, and even if the local market is impacted negatively in the near-term, the fundamentals for Aspen-Snowmass real estate still look good over the long run. A growing affluent class combined with low interest rates should continue to be positive influences on resort markets like Aspen-Snowmass. It’s also possible that somewhat isolated resort areas, such as Aspen-Snowmass with a high quality of life, may become even more attractive places to live compared to larger metropolitan areas that could be more susceptible to future virus outbreaks. If that is the case, the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market will continue to be attractive to buyers.
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 Lori@LoriSmall.com and William can be reached at William.Small@ZenithInvestment.com.