Resort realtors trade tales of housing boom
May 17, 2006
A surge in real estate prices, a dwindling number of new homes and resort employees struggling to live within city limits it appears Park City’s concerns cross state and country boundaries to the resort communities of Whistler, Jackson Hole and Sun Valley.
Park City realtor and Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance (RMRA) founder Dennis Hanlon perceived this correlation between Rocky Mountain resort towns a decade ago and Thursday held his fourth annual panel for the Park City Board of Realtors, inviting real estate representatives from the resorts in Cananda, Wyoming and Idaho to share their market experience.
"The thing that was good to hear is that there is a resurgence of the high-end market and the common thread between the resorts," he said.
According to panelist and Sun Valley realtor JoAnne Wetherell, Sun Valley has, like Park City, seen a dip in the number of properties sold and a rise in real estate prices.
A 2006 first-quarter chart compiled by RMRA confirms Wetherell’s observation, showing the area sold 180 units for more than $145 million.
"Our board is still small," she admits "We still hover around 375 members," but, the realtors handle ample inventory. In the first quarter, the area had 1,307 listings, RMRA reports, with an average home sale listed at $1,600,097 and an average condominium price at more than $700,000.
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Recently she sold one-fifth of a fractional interest property in Sun Valley for $200,000 for a three-bedroom unit, she reports. As prices continue to rise, Wetherell suspects those looking to own will likely look to options like fractional ownership.
Affordable housing for workers is something Sun Valley grapples with as well, she added, and the city is considering changing zoning and adding incentives for developers to build units for workers instead of paying ‘in lieu of’ fees. The largest challenge, she said, was that most of the land is publicly owned.
For now, workers take hour-long bus rides to get to work, she says, emphasizing "employee housing is one of our biggest problems."
Jackson Hole, in contrast to Sun Vally, is largely comprised of land that is privately owned, noted fellow panelist and Teton Board of Realtors member Jack Delay.
"It’s been an exciting time for Jackson," Delay said. He described the market, and especially the Teton Village area near the resort, as "booming," despite the resort’s decision to replace Jackson Hole’s "aged and venerable" tram by a high-speed chairlift next year.
In 2005, Jackson Hole exceeded $1 billion in real estate transactions for the first time, he reported. Delay declared a resurgence of the high-end real estate market high-end home sales accounted for 56 percent of Jackson Hole area’s total sales volume last year, he said.
Park City’s real estate volume sales may have exceeded Jackson’s at more than $2 billion last year, but, Delay observed Jackson has far less units on the market. According to the RMRA stats for 2005, Jackson Hole realtors sold 757 units, while Park City realtors sold more than 3,900.
RMRA reports the Teton Board of Realtors has 316 listings for the first quarter of this year. Park City for the same period has 1,496. The highest price listed for a single-family home in Jackson is $12.5 million for a 7,000 square foot home on three quarters of an acre.
"I’m jealous of all your apparent inventory," he told Park City realtors.
Jackson Hole apparently has less of a problem finding housing for its seasonal employees. Delay says typically large groups of workers will move in together in the resort’s neighboring town, Jackson.
The challenge for Jackson Hole is the population that wants to live there. As units on the market appreciate "the housing crunch in our area is people who are trying to make a home and put down roots in our community," he explained they have to compete with second homeowners.
Panelist and Whistler realtor Ray Longmuir echoed Delay’s description. Whistler appears to have the employee housing under control, but has yet to find a solution for families in the area. Whistler has managed to house 76 percent of its employees within city limits and plans to maintain that ratio, he said, the city’s 2020 plans feature a goal of housing 75 percent of employees in town.
"Whistler Housing Authority has a lot to do with it. That’s the first thing you do when you get to town put your name on their list," he said, "but we also require every project built to account for the number of employees it will generate."
Whistler has been named a venue for the 2010 Olympics, and has several capital projects in the works, he reported, including an athlete’s village, which the town plans to convert into employee housing after the event. Longmuir calculates the total number of beds will amount to 2,700 once the project is complete.
Longmuir says that Whistler’s real estate sales volume for 2005 was the first increase since 2002. The high-end, single-family market or "chalets" in British Columbia-speak, doubled 2004’s figures in sales, he said.
He quoted the median price for a chalet at $1.2 million, though he recently sold two units below that amount one for $739,000 and another for more than $900,000.
RMRA’s statistics for 2005 list Whistler’s total sales volume at more than $432 million for 514 units.