Western US Resort Real Estate Reality

In January, I attended a gathering of the Western Mountain Resort Alliance (WMRA) – held right here in little old Crested Butte. The WMRA is a industry organization of real estate people from the Western U.S. resort communities including Grand County (Winter Park), Whistler, Park City, Steamboat Springs, Summit County, Sun Valley, Telluride, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe, Crested Butte and McCall Idaho.

The question on everyone’s mind? Have we bottomed out? Is it truly the best time to buy real estate again?

After hearing these resort’s real estate realities, it could be argued that we are indeed at the bottom and now is the best time in years to buy up that Colorado ski home or resort property.

From 2006 to 2009, western U.S. mountain resorts saw an across-the-board, 65% decline in real estate transactions. This marks an unprecedented decline in sales for vacation homes and ski resort real estate – it’s never been this dramatic or devastating to the economies in these resort towns.

Everyone knows the last few years have been tough for real estate. For western U.S. ski resorts, 2009 was the worst year in over two decades.

Stories of blood-bath market conditions were plentiful at the meeting but the bloodiest tale came out of Vail.

The broker from Vail was candid and the numbers were stunning. In 2006, Vail was the epitome of the nationwide real estate boom…uh…I mean…bubble. Real estate sales volume broke $2.3 billion and sky-high construction cranes were popping up everywhere in the Vail Valley. New subdivisions, slopeside developments and major renovations were underway and the real estate was flying off the shelf. By 2007, more sales records were broken and volume reached an incredible $2.94 billion! In 2008, the market was still cranking along hitting $2.2 billion more in sales.

Then the bubble burst in 2009. Real estate sales volume in Vail plunged to $800 million – almost a 70% decline in activity. Doesn’t seem all that bad for a ski resort town…after all $800 million is still $800 million.  But, when you’ve been riding billion dollar waves and the wave becomes a little ripple the coral reef below is going to hurt.

Vail took the worst beating but in Steamboat Springs, the market tanked a year earlier. After realizing almost $1 billion in sales in 2007, sales dropped to just over $268 million in 2009. In Telluride, they reached $500 million in sales in 2006 and again in 2007. The wheels fell off in 2008 and by 2009 sales amounted to less than $170 million. Same story from Jackson Hole: $800 million in sales in 2007 and last year they did $230 million.

With such devastating declines in sales and dramatic drops in prices (read my last newsletter), it sure looks like western U.S. ski resort real estate has hit bottom.

View 2009 WMRA Resort Statistics Here (PDF)

March 2010 Events in Crested Butte:

March 6: Super Tour (22.5K) – Crested Butte Nordic Center
March 6-7: Rippin Chix Steeps Camp with Alison Gannett, Crested Butte Mountain Resort
March 9-10: Aspen Sante Fe Ballet Presented by Crested Butte Center for the Arts
March 12-13: Banff Film Festival, Crested Butte Center for the Arts
March 13: 12-Hour Nordic Race, Crested Butte Nordic Center
March 13: Big Air on Elk, Crested Butte
March 13: 33rd Annual Red Lady Salvation Ball Presented by High Country Citizen’s Alliance
March 18-20: 14th Annual U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships, CBMR
March 19: 9th Annual Crested Butte Land Trust Adventure Auction & Dinner, Mt. CB
March 20: Progressive Bonfire Dinner (on Nordic skis or snowshoes), Town Ranch
March 21: Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race, CBMR
March 25: ArtWalk Evening, Studios & Galleries in Downtown & Mt. Crested Butte
March 26-27: Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, Backcountry Ski Race from CB to Aspen   
March 27: First-Ever Skitown Breakdown Featuring Yonder Mountain String Band, CBMR

Channing Boucher

Broker Associate
Benson Sotheby’s International Realty

Local Knowledge Global Reach

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