One of the consequences of our August cover story on Harrison Ford’s gorgeous 800-acre property along the Snake River in Jackson Hole was that I got a much better understanding of the dynamics of the real estate market in that corner of Wyoming.
Those Teton views that we all adore come with a steep price tag: about $100,000 per acre. (Did I mention my newfound appreciation for Ford himself buying in Jackson 20 years ago?)
Why so much? To say “supply and demand” is the easy out, but the rock-bottom answer is supply and demand. On the supply side, a long list of government entities–Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the state of Wyoming–combine to own an astonishing 97 percent of Teton County. That leaves fewer than 100,000 acres in private hands, which is precisely why the county seems so pristine. On the demand side, who wants to live in Jackson? Package breathtaking scenery with a compelling range of activities and services and then throw in a major airport with daily non-stops to Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake, and the answer is everyone. Now consider this: Wyoming has no state income tax. All things being equal, would you be inclined to pay Colorado’s 4.63 percent flat tax to enjoy views of Vail Mountain or would you prefer to watch the sun set over the Grand Teton at no additional charge? Long story short, Teton County has the highest per capita income in the country.
Premium land in a strong market such as Jackson Hole presents two opportunities. The first and most obvious is to invest right in Teton County. Think you’re too late? Worried about missing the boat? Then check out these figures from City-Data.com: In 2006, the median home price in Jackson jumped 28 percent from $920,000 to almost $1.2 million. This market is a long way from cooling off.
Too rich for your blood? That’s where the second opportunity lies. Follow the smart money over Teton Pass into Idaho. It’s an easy drive–less than an hour–and it’s where I went to attend the groundbreaking for Greg Norman’s new links-style course at River Rim Ranch in July. On the way there I passed through several bustling small towns. Median house price in Victor, Idaho? According to City-Data.com, it’s about $180,000, a pittance when compared to Jackson.
Do you want to take a guess where a good number of the guests eyeing Norman’s designs for the Teton Rim Golf Club were from? That’s right, Jackson Hole. These people live on the land. They already know it and enjoy it. And they know where to look next.