The Covid-19 pandemic has forced millions of Americans to work remotely from home, in turn causing many to reevaluate their living arrangements. In particular, this means leaving cities in favor of more space. FlatRate Moving company in New York City told The New York Times that the number of moves of people moving out of the city between March and August was up 50 percent year over year.
While there’s no conclusive evidence that people are permanently moving out of cities, it’s no secret that secondary markets across the country, namely mountain towns, are seeing an influx of rentals and sales. Both rentals and purchases, including vacation homes, were up in 2020 in Aspen, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Park City, Utah; Big Sky, Montana; and Lake Tahoe, California. Similar to the mad dash for the Hamptons in the wake of Covid-19, these towns are seeing an influx of people coming in and scooping up the most sought-after real estate.
“Homes in the mountains serve as sanctuaries of privacy and security for newcomers and second homeowners,” says Philip White, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty. “The clean air and space are also a big draw.”
With the vaccine on the horizon, it’s unclear if people will permanently relocate out of cities to mountain towns, but right now, real estate is competitive.
The glamorous ski town of Aspen is no stranger to billionaires and celebrities and now, many wealthy denizens are considering a primary residence in the glitzy town.
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“Historically, Aspen, Colorado has been a second home destination; however, since the onset of Covid-19, we have seen an increase in people choosing to make Aspen their primary location,” says White. “Out-of-state urbanites aren’t just buying vacation homes. They are buying homes to move into. In fact, the region is seeing record-high enrollment numbers for daycare, private school and private club memberships.
Unlike other ski towns, Aspen also attracts summer visitors, too, making it a great year-round destination. Coveted listing 711 Willoughby Way is a fantastic Aspen estate with six bedrooms, lush gardens, outdoor dining areas, waterways and courtyards surrounded by nature. Built in 1991, the home sits on 1.37 acres and has glorious mountain views. The home is co-listed by Slifer, Smith Frampton and Tracy Eggleston and Bubba Eggleston of Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty for $23.75 million.
White says other cities experiencing a real-estate boom in Colorado are Vail Valley, Crested Butte and Telluride thanks to world-class skiing, resort lifestyles, restaurants and shopping, plus easy access to Denver, a two-hour drive from many of these destinations.
“Even with social distancing guidelines in place, you can find a quiet trail to hike or bike,” White says. “Even if required to shelter in place, people can live in relative isolation and still partake in the plethora of outdoor activities offered year round that don’t put them at risk of contracting or spreading the virus.”
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Horseback riding, hiking at Grand Teton National Park, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities is what draws Americans to Jackson Hole. It’s also filled with luxury real estate on large plots of land that make it so desirable as a relaxing escape.
Not only do people buy here because of Wyoming’s tax-friendly status, but those looking for a more outdoor lifestyle have so much to choose from. The Teton Mountain Range is a big draw, and Jackson Hole has an avid fishing and golfing community. Jackson Hole also has nearby access to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
“Jackson Hole has generated tremendous interest, specifically from prospective buyers from California and Texas,” White says. “We are also seeing interest generating from states in the Great Lakes area and the northeast.”
Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty reported a massive increase in sales in the upper end of the market in Teton County, which are properties listed at $5 million and above. This year, sales in Teton County tripled, bringing in a staggering $873 million in volume with 94 sales.
“The upper end of the Jackson Hole market was almost the same dollar amount as the entire market in 2019,” says Brett McPeak, associate broker at Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty.
Several estates come with plenty of land, including Riva Ridge Retreat, which sits on 117 acres. This magnificent five-bedroom home has beautiful architecture, western-inspired interiors, dramatic views of the Teton Mountain Range and well-appointed lounge areas. There is also a guest house next to the main house with four bedrooms, living area and stone wood-burning fireplace. No detail was left to chance; the bathrooms feature marble tubs, and there are custom walk-in closets, floor-to-ceiling windows, a sauna, game room, movie theatre and wine room.
Riva Ridge Retreat is listed by Ian Osler and Drew Orlando of Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty for $33.9 million.
Park City, Utah
Just a short drive from Salt Lake City, Park City is outdoor heaven, known for impeccable skiing in the winter and marvelous mountain life in the summer. It’s renowned for hosting the Sundance Film Festival, attracting celebrities and film industry elite and is just a short flight from major West Coast hubs, like Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s the perfect place to have a vacation home with its close proximity to cities, and since the onset of the pandemic, Park City has seen increased activity at the upper end of the market.
“Many people still have high values in their portfolios and are looking to take advantage of the pricing in Park City, which is relatively low compared to their own markets in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles,” says Jake Doilney, who helps lead The Agency’s Park City team.
Destinations like Park City offer plenty of space, both in terms of a home’s square footage and larger lot sizes, not to mention, these towns have naturally social distant activities.
“Many buyers are looking for mountain homes but perhaps aren’t quite ready to give up their residences in the city,” White says. “However, others are ready to commit to a different lifestyle and are investing in a permanent residence to call home.”
Enjoy mountain living at 2755 Telemark Drive in Park City. One of the few new homes in the area, the five-bedroom estate pairs mountain style with modern living. There are floor-to-ceiling windows in nearly every room, which shape the beautiful views of nature. Materials like wood, stone and glass result in a contemporary, yet cozy home for the ultimate escape. It’s listed by Mike Mazzone, managing partner with The Agency’s Park City team, and is for sale for $4.175 million.
Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky has always been a great ski destination, but the town hasn’t seen a real-estate boom like 2020 has brought in quite some time and lack of inventory is becoming an issue. This also includes other cities in Southwest Montana, including Bozeman, Livingston, Belgrade and Manhattan.
“Pending sales on land in Montana are up 40% in Big Sky and 50% in Bozeman,” White says. “Lots that have been on the market for some time are now under contract. Private clubs in Big Sky are nearly all sold out and our companies in the region are seeing sales for land, condos and homes selling quickly in all price ranges.”
In recent years, luxury hotels have set their sights on Big Sky, including Big Sky’s first-ever ultra-luxury resort, Montage Big Sky from Montage Hotels & Resorts, which operates luxury hotels in the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico. Though it’s currently in development, the introduction of ultra-luxury offerings has certainly attracted a wealthy clientele to view Big Sky as the next luxury destination.
“Montana is also seeing this same trend with folks buying both second homes and permanent relocation,” White says. “Those buying second homes are also planning on spending a lot more time here than their other homes and school enrollment has also increased.”
The rustic allure of Montana can be experienced at 47 Saddle Horn, a grand residence in Big Sky’s Moonlight Basin’s Diamond Hitch community. The home sits on 1.07 acres and its interiors span 8,686 square feet. There are seven bedrooms, eight full baths and features three spacious living rooms, dining room, chef’s kitchen, home theater, a gym and hot tub. It’s sold fully furnished and owners will delight in the stunning views of the Spanish Peaks. It goes without saying that this ultra-private estate, ensconced by pine trees, is the perfect private escape. It is listed by Sandy Revisky, an agent from PureWest Real Estate – Big Sky, an Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, for $9.25 million.
“Ski-in/ski-out properties became highly sought after because of Covid-19,” says Brenna Kelleher, an agent with PureWest Real Estate – Big Sky, an Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “People could work and ski from home and then go to lunch at home or just ski a couple hours then call it a day without having to come into contact with anyone.”
Kelleher also says Montana’s biggest problem is lack of inventory, specifically on the upper end of the market. She said demand was so strong in the summer that several homes were sold without the client ever even stepping foot in the home.
Lake Tahoe, California
Just three hours east of San Francisco, Lake Tahoe offers some of the best skiing in California. For Silicon Valley executives, and even those in Los Angeles, it’s a short private flight and easy to commute to on the weekends for skiing, hiking or other outdoor activities. Thanks to its proximity to major hubs in California, luxury home sales have been skyrocketing.
“In the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee region of California, there was a 156% uptick in sales,” White says. “Inventory is low in this region, which has resulted in competitive bidding situations. Multiple luxury homes in the $30 million price range that have been on the market for several years have recently sold or are currently in escrow, further speaking to the appeal of the market and demand for resort lifestyle among buyers.”
Take 360 Abbey Road, for example. Technically based in Stateline, Nevada, the home is just seven minutes from all the activity Lake Tahoe has to offer. The home has views of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Resort, Mount Tallac, Round Hill and Chimney Rock, all surrounded by beautiful forest land, with direct access to hiking trails.
The home is built against a bluff of granite boulders and was constructed with the finest craftsmanship. The location and exterior alone is awe-inspiring, but it’s not until you enter the home that rustic grandeur and modern materials unite in a beautiful way. There is a main home as well as a guest house, each featuring rock fireplaces, massive windows that let in plenty of nature and opulent detailing, like marble features in the bathrooms, and wooden vaulted ceilings. There is a spacious home gym, a wine cellar, sauna, game room and outdoor areas featuring stone walkways. It’s listed by Gregory Ochoa, founder of Mountain Luxury Properties, for $8.95 million.