Brower: In a dubious distinction, Grand County is more than half vacation homes |

Brower: In a dubious distinction, Grand County is more than half vacation homes

Patrick Brower
Patrick Brower

Grand County has made the big time with a distinction that some might find a little dubious. Others will celebrate it, though.

An article that ran in the Denver Post a few weeks ago concerning Grand County teased the story on the front page with this: “Trends drive up demand for vacation homes.” Colorado has five counties where more than half the homes are vacation properties, according to a new study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The article states: “More than half the housing stock in Pitkin, Jackson, Summit, Grand and Eagle counties are vacation properties, according to the NAR.”

Then get this: “Only three other counties are more concentrated when it comes to vacation properties than those five — Nantucket and Dukes counties in Massachusetts and Cape May County in New Jersey.”

The article, by Aldo Svaldi, continued to lay out some interesting facts about real estate here in Grand County. It showed that Grand is somewhat unique in the country in this regard. But it didn’t detail how that uniqueness creates all kinds of problems for locals who want to live and work in Grand County.

He goes on. “Wealthy buyers from Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York and California still dominate in traditional ski resort counties such as Pitkin, Eagle, San Miguel and Routt.” Followed by: “Newly affluent buyers from the Front Range tend to land in Grand and Summit counties, which require a shorter drive to hit the slopes.”

Grand County also made the top 10 list for the counties with the most expensive vacation homes in the nation. There are 3,141 vacation-home counties in the nation and by being in the top 10 Grand County has some distinguished company that includes Nantucket County in Massachusetts, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Grand, Chaffee and Park counties in Colorado.

There was another interesting point. Svaldi writes that, “Despite the expense of the typical Colorado vacation home, many buyers don’t require a mortgage to purchase them.” But Grand and Summit counties are the exceptions: “In Grand County, 60.5% of mortgages are for second homes, the third-highest ratio in the country. And in Summit County, 51.4% of purchases involve a second-home mortgage.”

And then: “Those two counties are also the ones where vacation home transactions have surpassed the old highs set last decade . . . That isn’t the case in most of Colorado’s resort areas.”

All this suggests that perhaps there can be lots of cheerleading and backslapping in the local real estate industry, a particular sector that employs many locals with good wages. And I suppose the county in general could take some pride in being in the top 10 nationally for high-end second homes.

But that also leads to the fact that this could be a truly dubious distinction as businesses and workers in the county struggle with the impacts that this distinction has created.

Decent homes are too expensive for the vast majority of the people who want to live and work in Grand County. And as the home-building activity is steered directly towards this profitable second-home market, there really aren’t many (or any, some would say) decent “starter” homes in the county.

The attractiveness of Grand as a second-home haven drives that problem.

So there are many jobs here that go unfilled. Many businesses struggle to find workers and when they don’t find them, business growth is delayed or even abandoned. There are other problems caused by this, such as relatively low numbers of people who move to Grand County to live and to raise families.

But for now, I suppose Grand County can wallow in the joy of what is surely a dubious distinction: A top 10 vacation-home county in the nation.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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