From left to right: Panelists, including Brett Williams from Lake Tahoe, Ray Longmuir from Whistler, BC, Diana Mathias from Vail, Jill Sassi-Neison of
From left to right: Panelists, including Brett Williams from Lake Tahoe, Ray Longmuir from Whistler, BC, Diana Mathias from Vail, Jill Sassi-Neison of Jackson Hole, Jim Figge from Sun Valley, and Mark Seltenrich of Park City from resort areas in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, California and Whistler in British Columbia talk about the increase in property median prices across the board. Alexandria Gonzalez/Park Record.
The Western Mountain Resort Alliance (WMRA) held its annual meeting at the Jim Santy Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 6, and according to the panelists, their real estate markets are on the upswing.

The panel was comprised of trustees for the WMRA, including Mark Seltenrich of Park City, Diana Mathias from Vail, Brett Williams from Lake Tahoe, Ray Longmuir from Whistler, BC and Jim Figge from Sun Valley.

"Things are going in the right direction," Seltenrich said. "Our real estate markets have recovered, but everybody was kind of heading in that direction, so it was no surprise."

The WMRA was founded in 1996 after former Park City Board of Realtors president Dennis Hanley - moderator of the panel - realized after talking to other boards of Realtors all over the country, Park City had more in common with other destination resort areas than with other cities in Utah.

What began as the Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance branched out to also include Whistler in British Columbia and ski towns in California's Sierra Mountains. The alliance gathers once a year to talk about their different area markets and things that are going on in their communities that might affect the other resort towns.

Seltenrich of Prudential Real Estate said holding these annual meetings benefits Realtors by knowing how other resort town markets are doing. He said most people that come here to visit have also visited some, if not all, of the other areas in the alliance.

"Sometimes buyers are trying to decide, 'If I want to buy a second home, where do I want to do that? What is an advantage of one area over another?'" Seltenrich said. "If you can speak intelligently about the other areas, then you can address those types of questions."

He added that last year's national averages in property median prices experienced anywhere from a 9 to 13 percent increase. Several resorts saw that kind of double-digit increase, like Tahoe, which experienced a 20 percent increase.

While Park City only saw a 7 percent increase, below the national average, Seltenrich said that is because prices for homes in Park City are much higher than the national median price.

"It is easier to go from $200,000 to $220,000. That is a $20,000 price bump as well as a 10 percent increase," Seltenrich said. "If we start at $700,000, we would have to increase [the sale price] to $770,000, a $70,000 increase, to experience a 10 percent increase."

He attributed Tahoe's double-digit increase to the fact that their prices were more depressed than other resort areas in the WMRA, and they have "more lower-end, affordable properties" for sale.

Jackson Hole also did well, which Seltenrich said is due to the fact that they have a small area and real estate market. Ninety-four percent of the county Jackson Hole is located in is federal land, so only 6 percent of the entire county can be developed. That causes prices to be higher, since inventory is scarce.

Seltenrich said he is optimistic that WMRA resort area real estate markets in 2014 will continue to be strong and may actually continue to increase by the way of price by the end of the year.

Vail used to be the "big boy on the block," he said, but Vail and Park City have now traded places as far as number of transactions and total dollar volume. Seltenrich said he believes Park City will continue to fare well compared to the other resorts, but no matter which area people live in, they are all great towns.

"Miles Rademan likes to say, 'If you're lucky enough to live in Park City, you're lucky enough,'" he said. "I say, 'If you're lucky enough to live in any of these destination resort towns, then you're lucky enough.' Every resident of all these different resort towns has a good life."

For more information about the WMRA, visit www.westernmountainresortalliance.com.

Western Mountain Resort Alliance (WMRA) Median *Property Prices:

  • Park City: $415,000
  • Whistler, BC: $640,000
  • Sun Valley: $302,500
  • Vail: $415,000
  • Lake Tahoe: $233,000

    *Property, as measured by the WMRA, includes all residential properties: houses, town homes and condominiums.

    *Reporting areas in each town are different. Park City's numbers include Heber, Kamas, Coalville and Wanship.