The Potential Impact of War on Aspen, Colorado Real Estate and Survival: A Complex Hypothetical Scenario

Stephanie Kroll

When discussing the stability and security of real estate investments, conventional wisdom suggests that properties are generally safe havens that tend to typically continue to appreciate over periods of time. However, this notion is significantly challenged during times of war. In order to look towards the future and what is possible, we first have to look at data from the past. Historical data from World War II and more recent conflicts provide us with insights into how war can deeply influence real estate markets, with a focus on how these trends might play out in a unique real estate market like Aspen, Colorado. Here we not only address what could happen to property values and property conditions in a wartime scenario, but also reference what could occur in Aspen from a strategic survival standpoint as well. 

Historical Insights and Modern Implications

Aspen's real estate market performance is typically directly correlated with the performance of the stock market, particularly the Dow Jones Industrial Index. During World War II, the stock market suffered. Despite severe infrastructural damage across Europe, the post-war period saw a sharp increase in demand for residential real estate overseas as well as abroad in the United States, as returning soldiers sought to rebuild their lives. However, in war zones, while property structures were often destroyed, ownership of the underlying land generally remained intact, preserving a semblance of continuity despite the chaos. The 1944 Veterans Administration home loan program further illustrates how war-time policies can shape the housing market. This program facilitated a boom in U.S. home ownership post-war, showing that legislative frameworks can have long-lasting impacts on the market.

Fast forward to recent times, the conflict in Ukraine and other geopolitical tensions have demonstrated how wars disrupt global supply chains and inflate costs of construction materials, echoing the effects seen during previous global crises like the 2008 financial meltdown and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aspen's Unique Position

Aspen, a rural private outdoor-focused location with a unique wealthy socio-economic profile, might experience war-time real estate dynamics differently. Over 50% of homes in Central Aspen are vacant for most of the year, serving primarily as second homes for the wealthy. In scenarios of nationwide instability or war, if legal or political justice systems did collapse and chaos broke out amongst everyone, these properties could either become targets for break-ins from locals for supplies, or, conversely, refuges for those seeking safety away from more volatile urban centers coming up through the mountains from cities like Denver or Salt Lake City. Alternatively, some of these sizable estate properties on large parcels of land in gated communities could become safe havens for the wealthy who are fleeing major cities, and some may already even have private bunkers underneath them or built somewhere on the property that nobody knows about, and so Aspen could be a place where people come to hide and stay safe from the chaos occurring in the rest of the world. 

Given its rural setting, the Roaring Fork Valley's dependency on external supplies for food and goods being shipped in, could pose significant challenges in wartime scenarios, as those supply chains and transportation and logistics companies could be severely disrupted. However, the valley's abundantly occurring natural resources could also provide a means for self-sufficiency to those with the necessary survival skills and plans, including but not limited to - access to fishing, hunting, multiple water sources, and more.

Economic and Social Dynamics:

Economically, war influences interest rates, inflation, and consumer confidence, all of which directly impact real estate affordability and market stability. Aspen could see varying effects:

  1. Property Damage and Scarcity: While direct damage from war time activities in Aspen is less likely due to its geographical and rural positioning, than neighboring cities such as Denver, Aurora, Fort Collins, or Colorado Springs, the scarcity of usable land in high conflict zones around the country and the world could elevate land values in safer areas like Aspen.

  2. Market Volatility: Aspen's real estate market might experience fluctuations. An influx of wealthy individuals seeking refuge could drive up prices temporarily, but a prolonged conflict might lead to a stagnation or decline in prices if these individuals decide to sell off properties in a destabilized economy.

  3. Shifts in Demographic Patterns: Aspen could either see an increase in its population as a safe haven from outside cities, or a sharp decrease if logistical and economic challenges outweigh the perceived safety benefits. Tourism would likely be hit hard by the economic impacts of war, and so we could see a sharp change in the demographic as those struggling to survive in the service industries need to move, and the wealthy may continue to flock to Aspen due to the privacy, security, outdoor resources, and more. 

Long-Term Considerations and Wartime Predictions

In the long term, the consequences of war on real estate in Aspen hinge on the duration and scale of the conflict, government policies, and the global economic environment. The town's high level of property ownership without financing (since most buyers and owners purchase in cash or own their homes outright) could shield it somewhat from immediate market crashes, but might not insulate it from broader economic downturns affecting the luxury rental market segment.

Here are our predictions for what could potentially happen to Aspen the Roaring Fork Valley real estate in the event of a global World War or a greater Civil War:

  1. New construction could stop altogether or become more difficult during war time with a constraint on building materials and supplies. This applies to projects under construction at the time the war first starts, as well as started during war time. Remodel projects would also be significantly impacted and so those with a desire to do a huge remodel project or scrape and build may not be able to do so for many years. 
  2. Demand for land parcels or large ranch properties will increase, especially if buildings and homes across Colorado are impacted and destroyed as a result of war. Even in wartime scenarios when structures crumble, the enduring value of land, unlike buildings, cannot be destroyed. The demand for farm crops, cattle, and more could go up during a war time period which would make owning a functioning and producing ranch even more valuable over time.
  3. The wealthy who can continue to afford their homes through a volatile war time period will hold them and weather the storm, but those with second, third, or fourth properties that are financed or rely on luxury rental income in order to operate and pay the mortgage, are more likely to come to market and change hands, resulting in an influx of new supply of inventory. Those owners who work in industries negatively impacted by war will also likely have to move money around and sell.
  4. Similar to during COVID times, Aspen could be considered a safe haven during war time for the ultra-wealthy globally, and those living in major cities, and so demand for housing in the valley could spike and increase as people try to flee their hometowns for safer and more rural outdoor focused locations around the world. Alternatively, lack of resources and an economic hit to the valley could drive more people to leave as industries like design, travel, tourism, etc. get hit hard.
  5. Demand for affordable housing, survival cabins, and rural huts across the valley could increase for many reasons. Not just as a safe haven for dwellers, but also if the United States chooses to train more troops in Colorado again, similar to the 10th Mountain Division in WWII, for harsh winter combat conditions in locations such as Alaska, Antartica, or Russia. 
  6. Interest rates and inflation typically increase in times of war. Even though the United States is already facing a high inflationary period, we could see hyper inflation across the country as the United States continues to print money to fuel war time efforts and the result could be astronomical rates and continued or almost impossible affordability challenges. This would only be made better by two things: either inventory levels increasing significantly as people offload their properties, or the war ending and an increase in post war building. Either way, the government would need to monitor the behavior of the housing market during war time, and change policies quickly to fix problems and change incentives as quickly as possible (which, as we know in modern day times, can be difficult.)
  7. Wartime could affect Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley real estate positively or negatively, however, we estimate that there would be a huge post war construction and renovation / remodel boom similar to that which occurred after WWII which would create more supply and inventory afterwards. This post-war era may mirror post-WWII times in Aspen, when many buildings across town had fallen into a state of disrepair from decades of snowy weather and abandonment, and needed to be revitalized. 


Predicting the exact impact of war on Aspen's real estate market is fraught with uncertainties. The town's unique characteristics may buffer it against some of the more severe consequences seen in typical urban settings. However, as with all investments during volatile times, the real estate market in Aspen during a war would be anything but predictable, reflecting the complex interplay of local attributes and global events. The key takeaway for potential investors and residents is to remain vigilant and adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances both locally and globally. 

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