Renowned for its world-class skiing, Vail has spent years working to position itself as both a winter and summer Colorado destination — and then the pandemic hit and expensive ski towns saw an influx of people looking to buy or rent year-round all on their own.
“Vail Resorts has been making a big effort to market and educate the population that we have more than just skiing and riding,” Michael Routh, a broker with Keller Williams Mountain Properties in the town, told Inman. “And I think that the pandemic is going to accelerate some of that knowledge.”
His team is currently under contract with five clients looking to relocate to the high-end resort town, where the average home sells for just over $1 million. Most of those looking at real estate are city dwellers who have wanted to wait out the pandemic in a less crowded and outdoor-friendly space (beach towns like Malibu and the Hamptons have experienced a similar influx). Worldwide border closures and travel restrictions have also pushed Americans who would otherwise go to Europe to spend the summer closer to home.
“I would say that the people are looking not because of the ski activities but because of the quieter smaller community and mountain lifestyle,” Routh said. “People have also learned that they’re able to work effectively and efficiently from home.”
The draws of a ski town in the summer are evident: clean mountain air, lots of space and the peace and quiet that comes from proximity to nature. While the warmer months have always drawn in vacation homeowners and other visitors to ski resorts, the demand has been magnified amid the pandemic, broker Carrie Wells of Aspen’s Coldwell Banker Mason Morse told Inman. Private airports in Aspen are consistently busy, and there are waiting lists to get children into private schools in the area.
“This is something I’ve never seen,” Wells said, adding that she has seen clients from out of town pay $100,000 a week to rent an Aspen property. “There is a frenzy of people who want to be here and who will pay anything to be here.”
As the town’s population hovers just over 7,300 people and has strict land use laws, there has been a major dearth of inventory on the market. Wells said that she’s had clients try to price each other out through bidding wars for multi-million-dollar homes, a rarity for high-end vacation properties.
There has also been increased interest in the areas several miles outside of Aspen, as most of the homes in the city center were snapped up months ago. Rental properties were all leased in March at the start of the pandemic, and are now, according to Wells, “non-existent.”‘
“Almost every home will be occupied this summer whether it’s people who own their home and don’t want to leave or people who have rented places,” Wells said, adding, “People have been exposed to this amazing lifestyle and they want to stay.”
The Lake Tahoe area of California is near multiple ski resorts but has always been just as, if not more, popular as a summer destination. Amie Quirarte, of Tahoe Luxury Properties, said that they currently have 304 single-family properties on the market — a major drop from 427 properties in June of 2019. There have also been 158 sales in the last 30 days, compared to 104 sales in the same period last year. Once the pandemic-induced restriction on short-term rentals was lifted, those soared too.
“Tahoe is really attractive because [temperatures are] in the mid 80s and we have a beautiful lake,” Quirarte said. “You can hike, you can run and you can do so many things outside right now. Being up here is just easy right now, and that’s really attractive for a lot of people. I will be very curious to see what happens when we move into our next season.”
She added that the pandemic has pushed many people with money to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about vacation properties. Many were tired of being cooped up in a city where most things were closed and looked for opportunities to live a quiet and outdoor lifestyle.
That said, Quirarte believes that once the pandemic is under control and businesses open up, the market will change yet again. Initially swayed by the charm of a mountain or lake lifestyle, some people will eventually start to miss big city life and opt to put their homes back on the market or rent them out.
“It’s a very different way of living,” Quirarte told Inman. “I think that people that were seeking that out prior to the pandemic will be the ones that stay, but the people that are looking for a change of scenery based on [the pandemic] will want to move on.”