Thursday, October 25, 2007

Market hits record $1.156B
Dollar volume blows by 2006 with four months remaining
By Tom Ross
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steamboat Springs — One quarter remains in the 2007 business year, and the Steamboat Springs real estate market has already surpassed last year’s record $1.12 billion in transactions. The new record was accomplished with only 54 percent of the unit volume, or transactions, needed to set the old standard.

Bruce Carta of Land Title Guarantee Co. compiled statistics from Routt County records and reported that as of Aug. 31, the county has already seen $1.156 billion in transactions this year.
Every month of 2007, save February, has seen transactions rise above $100 million. If sales in the final four months of the year were to match the corresponding quarter in 2006, the 2007 total would exceed $1.5 billion.
Pam Vanatta of Prudential Steamboat Realty expects the trend to continue through the end of the year and beyond.
“We feel the last quarter of 2007 will remain strong in comparison to the last quarter of 2006,” Vanatta said.
David Baldinger Jr. of Steam­boat Village Brokers said historically low inventory is fueling the rise in prices here.
“When there are more buyers than sellers, prices go up in big increments,” Baldinger Jr. said. “You get an unprecedented price every time. In my opinion, this trend will probably continue in terms of dollar volume. But the number of transactions will continue to go down (for two or three years), especially in terms of mountain condominiums.”
Steamboat’s new record dollar volume was achieved with 1,869 transactions, compared to the 12-month total of 3,477 needed in 2006 to reach $1.12 billion.
Big sales near Ski Area

The statistics compiled by Carta show that the “mountain area” at the base of Steamboat Ski Area has contributed 46 percent of the dollar volume in the market year-to-date. However, it’s worth remembering that the $534.5 million generated by the mountain area in the first eight months includes some very large transactions, which are very different than smaller purchases, such as one family purchasing a vacation condominium. Interpreting the significance of Starwood’s purchase of the Sheraton Steamboat for $57 million, or Cafritz Investment’s purchase of Thunderhead Lodge and Ski Time Square for $53.9 million, for example, is tricky. And pieces of institutional deals sometimes aren’t recorded for months or even years.
Of the $1.15 billion in transactions, residential units account for $685.57 million.
Low price, fast sale

The current statistics show 148 sales of homes priced at $1 million or more this year. Yet, across Routt County, homes priced between $200,000 and $500,000 account for much of the unit volume. Home sales priced between $200,000 and $300,000 total 208 through August, and anot-her 299 priced between $300,000 and $500,000 have sold. They represent 25 percent of the residential market this year.

“Average sales prices are higher, and as a consequence, properties under $500,000 are selling quickly,” Vicky Hanna of Prudential Steam-boat Realty said.
Forty-three homes priced in the $300,000 to $500,000 range sold in August alone, for an aggregate value of $17.7 million.
Baldinger Jr. said the Steamboat market has been relatively immune to the turmoil in the national home lending markets.
“The sub-prime (mortgage) crisis doesn’t have much effect on us,” he said. “There have been very few transactions that haven’t closed because of a financing issue.”
Baldinger Jr. said even at the lower end of the Steam-boat market, people buying $400,000 and $500,000 homes are either comfortably purchasing a second home or are local homeowners using equity in their homes to trade up.
Banking on the ‘Boat
Baldinger Jr. is confident he perception of Steamboat as an attractive place to invest is influenced by all of the activity here, from Intrawest’s purchase of the ski area in March and subsequent capital improvements, to major developments announced at the mountain and the number of construction cranes changing downtown’s modest skyline.
As accountants advise baby boomers to use their inheritances to diversify in real estate, Steamboat, with its track record of growth in prices over the long term, looks like a good bet compared to depressed markets in other parts of the country, he said. They even get the bonus of a desirable vacation destination along with an investment that outperforms the stock market.
Although August totaled $152.6 million in transactions, it felt moderate compared to the $176 million in July, Hanna said, and that’s not all bad.
“Nothing indicates a market that is not healthy and ongoing,” Hanna said. “If there is a slight measure of reserve in the market, it is good news to see a moderating market.”
Housing market soars in Hayden
By Tom Ross
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steamboat Springs — The raw statistics for home sales in the Hayden area during August are startling.
Records on file at the Routt County Courthouse show that the average transaction price for a dwelling in Hayden and the surrounding area last month was $463,538, up nearly 180 percent from August 2006 — when the average price was $166,590.
Realtors say without interpretation, the data may be misleading.
“The Hayden market has seen a significant increase. However, some of those involve homes on larger tracts of land that skew the average sales price,” Pam Vanatta of Prudential Steamboat Realty said. Her company maintains an office in Hayden.
Roger Johnson is a developer creating new housing subdivisions in Hayden with completed homes costing as low as $250,000 in The Lake Village. It’s the first phase of The Villages at Hayden. Johnson said a couple of distinct trends are pushing housing prices upward.
He said escalating land prices and a shift from older products to substantial numbers of new homes coming on the market are shifting perceptions of the Hayden market.
“What I think is happening in Hayden, first, is that the land values have gone up fairly drastically,” Johnson said.
Lots at the Lake Village are advertised at prices as low as $65,000, but the cost of lots in Steamboat will exert pressure on lots in Hayden, Johnson said.
Among his company’s projects is Hidden Springs Ranch, which offers 5-acre lots in the $295,000 range. The first two homes at Hidden Springs are just being built. However, there are signs that within two or three years, there will be a number of expensive homes there.
“We only have a couple of rooftops up, but we’re seeing houses based on construction loans approved for $900,000 and even up to $1 million,” he said. “The high end will start to pull up values.”
The other trend that creates an impression of drastically escalating home prices in Hayden, Johnson said, is a shift from older products to brand-new product.
After going for years with a trickle of older homes being listed and turning over at fairly low absorption rates, brand-new houses built at today’s higher construction costs are coming on the market. They are contributing to substantial year-over-year jumps in the average sale price of homes.
Steamboat prices at modest end of ski-town real estate tape measure
By Tom Ross

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The average price of a condominium here in the first half of 2007 was a relatively modest $379,000 when compared to $791,000 in Park City, Utah; and $955,000 in Vail. That trend may change within two years when condo projects under construction begin to close on sale contracts.

Steamboat Springs — The average price of a single-family home in Steamboat Springs has increased 30 percent in two-and-a-half years. However, that average price — $813,000 — is less than in several other mountain resort communities.
Figures maintained by the Rocky Mountain Real Estate Alliance confirm that Steamboat is one of only a handful of destination ski towns where you can still aspire to purchase a single-family home for less than $1 million.
Through the first two quarters of 2007, Park City, Utah; Vail; Whistler, B.C.; and Teton County — home of Jackson, Wyo. — all posted average sale prices for single family homes of between $1 and $2 million. The markets bracketing Steamboat are Sun Valley, Idaho at $860,000 and Summit County at $753,983.
The gap between Park City’s $1.1 million average and Steamboat suggests Steamboat’s market can still continue to grow, Steamboat Realtor Doug Labor said. As a community, Park City evokes Steamboat in many ways, only on a larger scale.
The percentage gap between average condo prices in Steamboat — $379,000 — and other mountains towns is even greater. The average Park City condo this year cost $791,000 and the figure in Vail was $955,000.

Labor, of Buyers Resource Real Estate, said monitoring sales trends in other ski towns could give real estate professionals and their clients a perspective on the local market.
“Steamboat is not enclosed in a bubble,” Labor said. “Many of the demand factors impacting our market are consistent with other Rocky Mountain resort communities. Baby boomers want a piece of the Rockies.”
The average price of a single-family home in Summit County may be lower than in Steamboat, but the rate of escalation is steeper. Just two years ago, the average price of a single-family home in Summit County was $504,000. At the mid point of 2007, it has increased by 50 percent.
Summit County is distinctly different from Steamboat in that it has a half-dozen well-established and distinct markets, including Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco and Breckenridge, plus the ski villages at Keystone and Copper Mountain.
Labor’s colleague at Buyer’s Resource Real Estate in Frisco, Chris Eby, said Summit County is also significantly different than Steamboat because its communities are more tightly closed in by public lands, a factor that limits growth.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth the past 30 to 35 years, and now we’re focusing on buildout,” Eby said. “Most municipalities have very defined parameters, and we’re marching steadily toward” the time when there is no more undeveloped land available.
Summit County is also influenced by the proximity of Vail and its average single-family home price this year of $1.4 million.
“If you’ve been to Vail recently, you’ve noticed some amazing tear-down activity,” Eby said. “Summit County tends to have a more working-class orientation than Vail. People who can’t afford to buy in Vail come to Summit County. We like that.”
It should come as no surprise that, by far, the highest average single-family home prices in the Colorado mountains this year are in Aspen, at $5.38 million.
But the numbers are surprising even the Aspen real estate community, according to the Aspen Times. Realtors there say they didn’t expect the current upward spiral would be sustained as long as it has. In 2005, Aspen’s average price was $2.58 million.
A trend that might surprise real estate watchers in the Yampa Valley is the profound influence escalating prices in Aspen are having in the “mid-valley” section of the sprawling Roaring Fork Valley. It’s a market that stretches from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and even as far west as Silt.
The Aspen Times reported that through the second quarter of 2007, the average single-family price in the “Basalt zone” (including El Jebel) has risen 22 percent since just 2006, from $669,404 to $723,000. The residential sales volume in Basalt jumped 55 percent in that same year, from $56.23 million to $87.5 million.
Labor says his preferred measuring stick is neither dollar volume nor average single-family sale price.
“One big sale could skew dollar volume,” he said. “I place more importance on the number of transactions as an indicator of market health.”
While the growth curve for transaction volume flattened in Telluride, Sun Valley and Park City in the first half of the year, the same track grew in Whistler, Steamboat and Vail.
Steamboat six-month transaction volume was 913 compared to 693 for the same period in 2006 and 748 in 2005.
Vail grew from 1,254 last year to 1,317 this year. Park City, perhaps riding out the end of a 2002 Olympic wave, declined from 1,464 in 2006 to 1,166 this year.
Sales hit $36.14 million in building lot reservations at site
By Tom Ross
Sunday, September 9, 2007

The site plan for Barn Village at Steamboat shows three distinct neighborhoods based on the size of building lots and types of homes. Duplex lots along Fish Creek were in high demand and sold at prices from $995,000 to $1.15 million

Buyers got in line Aug. 31 to reserve new building sites in the figurative shadow of the historic More Barn and put refundable deposits down on more than $36 million in real estate.
Within three hours, 51 of the 54 building lots in the first release of Barn Village at Steamboat were spoken for. The remaining three were reserved in a 10-minute span the next morning. The most expensive of the building sites were duplex lots that topped out at $1.15 million.
By the time the Labor Day weekend was over, 75 percent of the lots had backup reservations in place, and a dozen lots had two backups.

Barn Village at Steamboat comprises a total of 62 home sites on 40 acres to the east of the historic More Barn. The developers, Bob Comes, Jim Kelley and Eric McAfee, held back eight lots from the initial reservation process.
The iconic barn will be conserved and incorporated into a 4-acre city park fronting Pine Grove Road.

The subdivision approval allows primarily three types of housing. There are 12 duplex lots, 34 small lots for single-family homes in a neo-traditional neighborhood with back-loaded garages, and larger lots for larger single-family homes. The broader site also envisions two multi-family buildings, which were not a part of the reservation process. One will be used by the developers to meet their affordable housing requirements. Yampa Valley Medical Center has secured the right to develop a multi-family building on the south edge of the subdivision where it could provide transitional employee housing for new hires.

Eastman did some tentative arithmetic on the smaller lots in the neo-traditional neighborhood based on maximum lot coverage and building heights in the applicable “resort neighborhood” zone district. He concluded that buyers could easily build homes of several thousand square feet. Building height restrictions would allow homes to be 2.5 stories tall, he said.
Comes said he and his partners held back eight larger single-family lots in the eastern end of the subdivision where it borders the neighborhood along Robert E. Lee Lane and Memphis Belle Court. He said the reason was twofold. First, they will wait to let the value of the building lots mature in Steamboat’s rising real estate market.
Second, they want to take time to consider going forward with developing homes on the eight lots themselves.
The four larger lots that were reserved last week began at 0.32 acres and increased to 0.58 acres in size. The smallest was priced at $695,000, and the most expensive was priced at $735,000.
Taking shape
Aspens at Walton Creek in pre-construction sales
Tom Ross (Contact)
Sunday, October 7, 2007

Steamboat Springs — The Aspens at Walton Creek townhomes are under construction, and the first potential resale is already on the market. The $668,000 asking price could set a new “low end” for residential housing at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
The three-bedroom townhome is listed by Heather Ruggiero of Old Town Realty. At 1,521 square feet, a $668,000 price is the equivalent of $439 per square feet.
The three-level townhomes (including a raised basement) are manufactured structures with pitched gabled roofs. The developers’ specifications promise high-end finishes with marble slab counter tops, maple cabinetry, hardwood floors, slate entries and 9-foot-tall tongue and groove ceilings. The exteriors are clad in cedar siding.
“Right now, as far as new construction, it’s difficult to find anything like it,” for the price, Ruggiero said. “It’s close to the Yampa River Core Trail, it’s on the bus route, and it’s only a few blocks from the mountain.”
The Aspens at Walton Creek, when completed, will include 24 three-bedroom units.
The six units in the first two buildings are under contract. Sales consultant Shawn Donnelly said there are five units still to be released this year. They include three townhomes with three bedrooms, three and a half baths, a single one-bedroom deed-restricted unit and one handicap accessible unit.
Two more buildings are set to be released in February 2008, followed by two more in March of next year.
Donnelly is coordinating the in-house pre-construction sales process. Her contact information, along with floor plans, can be accessed at
Ruggiero pointed out that the townhomes offer a single-car garage and 3.5 baths.
Ruggiero’s colleague at Old Town Realty, Loui Antonucci, said the scarcity of undeveloped land and high construction costs resulting from high wages are contributing to the cost of entry-level resort housing.
“In this kind of market, the entry-level product goes up in price disproportionately to more expensive homes on a percentage basis,” Antonucci said. “Right now, there is no condo on the mountain at this price.”
Antonucci cited the long track record of the nearby Whistler townhomes as a case study. Originally built in the 1980s, those two-bedroom, one-bath units once sold for less than $50,000. Antonucci would know — he lived in one.
As recently as two years ago, they could be purchased for prices between $125,000 and $140,000, he said. Nine months ago, original Whistler Village units sold for about $240,000. This fall, asking prices are bumping $330,000.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

West of Steamboat - Brown Property
The 540 acre Brown property (which was owned by longtime local residents Steve and Mary Brown) was sold on March 19th to Steamboat 700 LLC, for $24.6 million. This property has long been seen as the catalyst for the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan. Steamboat 700 LLC project manager Danny Mulcahy said that the new owners will work with the community to provide a neighborhood development that will include rental, attainable and market rate housing. He also thought that it would be at least two years before any housing is built. When fully completed, the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan envisions between 1,100 and 2,600 homes.

Wildhorse Meadows- Trailhead Lodge
On March 20th, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved a 86 unit condominium building in the master planned Wildhorse Meadows project on the mountain. Construction will begin on the 173,000 square foot building this summer.

Trappeur’s Crossing- Phase 6
On March 20, the Steamboat Springs City Council approved the final phase planned for the Trappeur’s Crossing development. Phase 6 will be a 34 unit condominium building on the mountain. This 88,000 square foot building will include four affordable on-site deed restricted units.

Steamboat Ski Area is SOLD - March 2nd, 2007
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. employees went to work this morning for a new owner — one that has the deep pockets never possessed by American Skiing Co.
Intrawest finalized its $265 million purchase of the Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday, and Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond was quick to note what his new bosses bring to the table.
“I think it will be the same kind of operations,” Diamond said. “That’s the good news, but the added good news is we’re going to have more resources across the board, and one of those resources is financial.”
Fortress Investments acquir­ed Intrawest last year for $2.8 billion, giving Intrawest access to a new source of capital. Many look at what Intrawest has done at its other resorts and see it as a sign that the company will invest significantly in both the ski area and the base area, something ASC was unable to do because of its crippling debt.

Diamond, mentioned some of the improvements that already are part of the ski area’s master plan, including re-grading of the beginner terrain at the base of the mountain and building a six-passenger lift from the base area to Thunderhead.

Intrawest has “been around a long time, we’ve been successful a long time, and none of us got here by being either cavalier or frivolous with the kind of investments we are going to make,” Barry said. “You will see that we will be very careful, and one of my personal concerns is managing the level of expectation from within the community because there are probably some people in Steamboat that are expecting the Wells Fargo truck to pull up with the bags and bags of money, but it’s important to make the right decision at the right time for the future of the resort.”
Barry said one of the most valuable assets Intrawest has purchased is the existing Ski Corp. management team and staff.
“We think the way Doug Allen and his team maintain lifts here is probably the best in the world,” Barry said. “The air program is unique and extremely successful.”
Barry also reiterated a point made by previous Intrawest officials — that they did not purchase Steamboat Ski Area for the redevelopment opportunities. Intrawest, Barry said, is interested in Steamboat’s ski business.

Thursday’s deal between Intrawest and American Skiing Co. brings an end to ASC’s 10-year run as the resort’s owner. Included in the sale are the resort and all resort-owned operations, all of Steamboat’s resort-owned real estate assets, the commercial core of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and the company’s interest in the Walton Pond Apartments complex.

With the Steamboat purchase, Intrawest now has interests in 11 North American ski resorts. It owns Copper Mountain and manages Winter Park, which is owned by the city and county of Denver. Barry, who started working for Intrawest in 1991 as director of marketing and sales for Tremblant, oversees the U.S. operations.

Fortress Investments became a publicly traded company Feb. 9. It was the first U.S. hedge fund and private equity firm to go public. The price of the stock doubled on the day of the initial public offering, going from $18.50 to $35 a share. The IPO on the New York Stock Exchange raised about $635 million and gave stockholders an 8.6 percent stake in the company. Fortress is a profitable company, collecting about $255 million in management fees in 2006. In total, the company manages about $30 billion in investments. Shares of Fortress (FIG) were down 3.65 percent Thursday, closing at $29.07.