Biggest issues facing mountain resort communities: attaining condo loans, attracting new summer events to area |

Biggest issues facing mountain resort communities: attaining condo loans, attracting new summer events to area

Matthew Renda

KINGS BEACH, Calif. – There is a saying in the real estate industry that goes: “Every place is unique, but some are more unique than others.”

A panel discussion featuring members of the Western Mountain Resort Alliance revealed that seemingly separate resort areas from Vail to Tahoe to Park City – while abounding in unique concerns – share much in common.

One of the major issues facing most mountain resort communities, experts agreed, is a lack of available bank financing for condominiums.

“It’s really difficult to get loans for condos right now,” said Jim Figge, from the Sawtooth Board of Realtors based in Sun Valley, Idaho. “We’ve had a lot of discussion about how to stimulate the market.”

Rodney Allen, of Exclusive Mountain Retreats Real Estate in Summit County, Colo., said loans for vacant land plots are also difficult to attain.

The six-member panel further agreed that hosting music festivals is a great way to attract visitors during the shoulder seasons – a term that describes the period between the winter ski season and summer when other sports, such as biking or white water rafting, attract resort-goers.

Mark Seltenrich, from Park City, Utah, said farmer’s markets, art walks and culinary events also help bolster visits, which in turn generate interest in an area’s real estate.

“Really, you need better weather,” he said. “It’s tough to convince people who live where it’s nice in the summer to leave and come up to the mountains and freeze.”

For the Lake Tahoe Basin, it’s a bit different, as geotourists are attracted to the many recreational opportunities afforded by the lake, including kayaking, water skiing and sailing, said Brett Williams, broker and president of Agate Bay Realty in Carnelian Bay, Calif.

In a move to stimulate the economy, local business owners are attempting to lure the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race – the largest in the United States – to the shores of Lake Tahoe.

“The international and national viewership of that race is such that holding the race would mean the region would get the most exposure it has had since the (1960 Squaw Valley) Olympics,” said Williams. “It will help people realize this is an international destination.”

All six representatives said the past ski season was good, but not great, and led to moderate increases in sales volumes for real estate agents.

“Our number of sales rose 23 percent when you compare the first six months of 2010 to the first six months of 2009,” said Ulrich Salzgeber, with Buyer’s Resource out of Steamboat Springs, Colo.

However, Figge said 2009 was so bad for real estate that the first two quarters of 2010 do not represent a quality comparison point.

“Our number of sales was up 97 percent from last year, but that’s like comparing present stats to the abyss,” he said.

Williams said while sales are up, his market is seeing a 15 percent decline in median sales price.

Diana Mathias of Slifer, Smith & Frampton, of Vail, Colo. said real estate prices peaked in 2008 before the housing bubble burst, and Representatives from Park City and other Colorado locations concurred.

For Sun Valley and Lake Tahoe, the peak came in 2005, according to Williams and Figge, respectively.

While the panel shared similar concerns, there were some marked differences among the six resorts.

Representatives from Vail, Steamboat Springs and Sun Valley have invested heavily in local airports to offset the relatively remote locations and improve access to their resorts.

Park City, which is 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, actually serves a primary residence for the majority of property owners – far different from the Lake Tahoe area, where second-home ownership for people from the San Francisco Bay Area constitutes the majority of property owners.

Vail, with its 13 full-size golf courses, includes golf as a major component of its business model, while Lake Tahoe and Breckenridge consider it an amenity, but not a principal attraction.

Summit County has a surplus of workforce housing, while Lake Tahoe residents need to spend $270,000 on average for a decent single family house.

Notwithstanding the differences, all members of the panel agreed the housing bust which took place in 2008 and carried over to 2009 has run its course and positive signs for resort real estate continue to emerge.

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