The onset of COVID-19, coupled with the the general chaos of 2020, has dramatically upended the real estate ecosystem in ways few could have foreseen. Major urban centers such as New York City, Chicago have seen transactions grind to a screeching halt, while the traditionally sluggish markets in further-flung vacation neighborhoods — Montecito, the Hamptons — have posted banner years. Interestingly, one of the nation’s current hottest areas is not located in California, New York, or any other traditionally expensive state. It’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming, home to Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford, and Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, among other celebrities, which has seen unprecedented levels of interest this year.
Realtor Latham Jenkins of Live Water properties, who has worked in Jackson Hole real estate for over 20 years, points to the area’s most famous qualities as primary lures: sweeping mountain and valley views, countless recreational opportunities, and a favorable tax structure. Jenkins notes that while the trend of affluent families was already underway pre-COVID, the coronavirus became an accelerant to buyers seeking elements of the unknown, recreational pursuits, and cultural outlets. In simpler terms: if you’re adventurous, Jackson might be just the spot for you.
“Jackson Hole is special for many reasons, but what we’ve seen more so than ever this year is that people are looking for real seclusion, privacy, and the ability to reconnect,” adds Jenkins. “With the approaching ski season and cold weather months, we expect to see even more interest as we enter a new year.”
According to the latest market report, nearly twice as many Jackson homes have gone into contract since the summer versus this same time last year, and the city is on track to break its all time sales record of $1.567 billion set in 2007. Many of those buyers are transplants from virtually every state in the U.S., though a significant number of them hail from financial capitals like Manhattan, San Francisco, and California’s Silicon Valley. Those urban buyers are putting their own urban spin on their Jackson homes, too, marrying the mountain lodge style with midcentury furnishings, replacing antler chandeliers with vintage 1962 Continental jukeboxes.
Dirt got a peek at one of those transplant’s homes: a cabin in a 710-acre private club in the postcard-worthy Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Back in 2018 — long before COVID had entered the general lexicon — the current owners departed Silicon Valley, selling their Bay Area estate to “downsize” into a Jackson home on the range.
Inside, the contemporary lodge offers sophisticated decor with a definite emphasis on postmodern style. Existing stone and hardwood floors complement vintage furnishings by Florence Knoll, Herman Miller and Milo Baughman; the outdoor stone deck offers commanding views of the Tetons. The clean-lined, MadMen-inspired interior underwent major renovations and upgrades in 2020, including refacing interior walls with ’50s-inspired flagstone and installing extensive cabinetry, and there are four spacious bedrooms with four and one half bathrooms. The mountain modern style fusion has inspired the homeowner’s upcoming screenplay, and though it’s still up for debate whether pillbox hats and skinny ties go with ski parkas and snowshoes, the season’s always right for a hot toddy and a little Sam Cooke on the vintage jukebox!
The steady flow of these affluent transplants will likely increase, says Jenkins, though he notes that they could be disappointed by the fact that 97% of Jackson Hole is national parkland, which directly contributes to the severe shortage of housing. “Given our shortage of inventory, I know [out-of-state buyers] can be shocked at the limited options we have. With less than 3% of Jackson Hole being private, we have a real scarcity of land, which in its own way only makes this place more special,” he adds.