Whether you’re a Trump or Biden supporter, the results of this year’s election could impact the local Aspen-Snowmass real estate market.
Elections do have consequences for the national economy and real estate markets. During the 2016 presidential election, the Aspen-Snowmass market declined 37% in total sales volume from the previous year as uncertainty took hold over what the outcome of that election might mean for the economy. It’s possible we could have seen a similar decline in sales activity leading up to this election if not for the reverse impact of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has created unprecedented demand for resort real estate across the country, offsetting any negative impact that the upcoming election may have created. The impact of this year’s election is likely to play out after the election.
So, what could that impact be? There are three factors currently impacting our local real estate market: the pandemic, interest rates and the health of the stock market.
The pandemic has resulted in a wave of people migrating from major cities to Aspen and Snowmass and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley this summer. This migration has resulted in an unprecedented demand this summer and fall for Aspen-Snowmass real estate both to rent and buy. This demand is coming from the wealthiest top 1% of the national population. If Trump is reelected, it’s likely his policies, or lack thereof, in dealing with the pandemic will not change. If that’s the case, the Aspen-Snowmass area is likely to remain a more attractive place to live than most major cities for the foreseeable future.
If Joe Biden is elected, it’s likely that his administration could impose more restrictive measures in an effort to bring the pandemic to a quicker end. An earlier end to the pandemic would likely reduce the need to migrate from cities to towns like Aspen and Snowmass thereby eliminating some of the buying pressure on the local real estate market. But any policy change brought on by a new Biden administration wouldn’t likely happen until well into next year since the new administration wouldn’t start until after the inauguration in January. With vaccines and better treatments likely by next spring, it’s unlikely a change in administration would have much impact on the pandemic factor.
The second factor to look at is interest rates. Since the pandemic hit, the Federal Reserve has acted to push interest rates to historically low levels to keep the economy from collapsing which has also translated to historically low mortgage rates. Zero or negative real interest rates (nominal interest rates minus inflation) make investors more likely to buy assets that don’t produce a current cash flow like stocks, real estate, gold and other assets like Bitcoin. Low interest rates have historically made real estate a more attractive investment. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell, has made it clear that the Fed will keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future regardless of who wins the presidential election.
The final factor to look at is the health and direction of the stock market. The spending patterns of the top 1% is tied to a great degree to the stock market. Despite the 37% decline in stock values this spring, the stock market mostly recovered those losses over the summer. As a result, the wealthiest 1% continued to buy expensive real estate in Aspen.
During the Great Recession back in 2008 through 2010, we saw the opposite effect when the stock market lost over 50% of its value and the local real estate market felt the negative impact with real estate values and volume of sales declining as well. In recent weeks, the stock market has been watching closely the likelihood of another fiscal stimulus package from Congress. Without one, many investors feel a deeper recession could unfold.
We believe if Trump wins the election and the Republicans continue to control the Senate, a stimulus package might not happen. This could lead to a major disruption in the economy as a second wave of the pandemic hits this winter. That could likely lead to lower stock prices and subsequently take the wind out of the sales of the local real estate economy. If Biden is elected and the Democrats take control of the Senate, it’s likely that a generous stimulus package could be passed by the first quarter of 2021. That would likely push the stock market to new highs in 2021 that could help to continue the strong local real estate market.
Of the three factors impacting the local real estate economy, the direction of the stock market post election may be the most significant. Experienced stock investors and economists are currently debating the issue of which candidate would be more favorable to the stock market and the overall economy. A Biden victory could lead to a more generous economic stimulus package that would help the economy and lead to further stock market gains. But some argue that a Democratic sweep of the White House and the Senate could lead to policies that could dramatically increase the federal deficit and ultimately lead to higher interest rates that could negatively impact the stock and real estate markets.
The one item that seems to concern everyone is the uncertainty as to whether or not the election outcome will be contested. A contested election is likely the biggest negative factor that could hurt the stock market and the local Aspen-Snowmass real estate market.
Lori and William Small, CCIM are recognized luxury and commercial real estate experts with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse in Aspen. They can be found through their website theSmallsaspen.com or by email at thesmalls@theSmallsaspen.com.