Recent Real Estate Transactions: Snowshow
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 9, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I just got this e-mail from the Snowshoe Discovery Center:

Quote:

Dear John,

On Saturday, March 5th, Snowshoe Mountain was blanketed with over 15 inches of new snow and in just four hours, the Snowshoe Real Estate Team SOLD OUT the resort's newest offering - Expedition Station. All 100 homes were sold, breaking all previous sales and revenue records.

Following the great success, Snowshoe released Soaring Eagle Lodge - a mountain lodge that is redefining mountain living and the entire Top of the World neighborhood. Only a privileged few will have the opportunity to own in Phase I and the selection event is scheduled for later this spring. Now is the time to get involved.

Contact me today to secure your Limited Priority Reservation at 888-489-1943 or click here to learn more.

All the best,

Snowshoe Discovery Center



kwillg6
March 9, 2005
Member since 01/18/2005
2,020 posts
John, good point. It's just as wacky in the valley, and at Deep Creek Lake. People all want a little piece of paradice right now and are willing to pay almost amything for it.
tommo
March 10, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
I really wonder about some of the Shoes real estate claims. In this case, for instance, were those actual sales or just "reservations." In general, you can reserve a place preconstruction for just a few thousand and it's usually fully refundable.

The market at the Shoe, CV and Deep Creek are actually quite different, imho. CV is still relatively inexpensive, with nice condo's and even houses well under 250K. Several places, Deerfield and Black Bear, for example were well under 100 per sq ft. until just the last month or so. Simply put, you couldn't even begin to build new for that. Granted, there a few higher priced options in TL, but overall things are very moderate.

Deep Creek, on the other hand, has many very expensive properties. However, they also tend to be very, very well done with tremendous architecture and high end finishes. Plus, in many cases, you have year round outdoor activites, including skiing, golf, whitewater boating, swimming, lake activites, etc... The prices are high by mid-atlantic standards, but if you were to compare similar structures in other areas, e.g. Lake Tahoe, parts of CO or ID, Park City, etc... the prices are within range. Any way you look at it, the high end homes being built around DCL are magnificant structures (and quite a few have been featured in TV shows and publications as examples of fine home building.)

Snowshoe, on the other hand, is inexplicable to me. The prices for the Intrawest properties are very high, in the range of 300 per sq ft and up, for generally smallish condos. The fees are substantial as well, and the recreation is limited to the downhill ski area and the Raven Golf course. Granted, the skiing is the best in the mid atlantic region, but the summer activities are pretty limited. Also, access is an issue, at least from the high income areas of the DC suburbs. Maybe it comes down to individual tastes, but the financial model of much of the SS real estate seems shaky to me. And I think much can be learned by looking at resale values at all three places. At CV and Deep Creek, quality properties have appriciated nicely. At SS, many of the units, esp. the Studios, seem to just sit on the market without much interest. Ironically, it's the older units, e.g. TOTW, PowderRidge that sell very quickly while the Intrawest built properties languish. Take a look at Sprucerealty for examples....
snowcone
March 10, 2005
Member since 09/27/2002
589 posts
Tommo:

Interesting.

I agree that the Interwest properties are outrageously priced. We looked into buying last year but made the final decision this season, not to purchase at SS. Interwest has initiated a lot of changes that are directed at saving/making money: Basin lifts open hour later, Silver Creek closes 1 hour earlier, private lessons have gone from $175 for a half day to $250, season opening/closing dates dictated by corporate not by conditions on the ground. I am also apprehensive over the fact that they are spreading park elements on a number of runs at Silver Creek; the last bastion of the sane. I fear that Silver Creek may be headed toward the idea of a 'Mountain Creek' south.

We have found that for the same prices as Interwest is charging for condos at Snowshoe, we can get a similar unit or better at Park City or Lake Tahoe. We don't want a 'vanity' condo we want a -ski- condo .. and if you are -really- going to ski in the US, the only option is to go west.
Murphy
March 10, 2005
Member since 09/13/2004
618 posts
I believe the majority of the condos at Snowshoe are rented. Property there is seen more as an investment than a "trophy home". And they rent quite well, 12 months a year, making them a pretty good investment. I read on this board that the average owner who purchased just 5 years ago can completely cover their morgage with the rental income. That's a pretty good deal.

As a vacation home, you're probably right, the offerings at Snowshoe don't seem very reasonable. Too little square footage for too much money.
DWW
March 10, 2005
Member since 03/11/2004
144 posts
Yes - Rentals are the key. But there still appears to be a pretty large group of folks from DC who don't care about price tag. Actually, I am told that Snowshoe's condo prices are in line with DC residential real estate prices in general.
JR
March 10, 2005
Member since 01/1/2003
276 posts
I've noticed all the cost cut issues with Snowshoe too, one of which isn't snowmaking thank goodness. I can understand opening/closing lifts a little earlier if the customers aren't really utilizing them but closing Flying Eagle mid week is a joke and would further push me to Timberline for a powder day.

Turning Silver Creek into a big terrain park would be neat if they pulled it off subtly like they are claiming. They say they're puttin the features to the sides of trails so that cruisers can still cruise. If that was done well without significantly hindering your average cruising skier I think it would be a great option to cruise down the intermediates and link turns with hits and so on making the replay value of those trails much better for boarders. The problem is that too many beginner rail/jump riders will sit around them above or below and ruin a continuous line that an experienced rider could make down the trail.
tommo
March 10, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
Quote:

And they rent quite well, 12 months a year, making them a pretty good investment. I read on this board that the average owner who purchased just 5 years ago can completely cover their morgage with the rental income.





I'm very skeptical of a break even claim. The costs are way too high relative to the rental income. I think if you bought one of the older units for under a 100K a few years back, you may break even, otherwise it's very unlikely.

Using rough numbers, if you have a 200K mortgage (figure a 240K unit), your P&I would be around $1100 per month. Add in Condo fees, electric, cable, maintenance, insurance and telephone and you're looking at 1600 to 1700 per month minimum. This comes out to be about 20,000 per year on a cash flow basis. To break even, this requires over 29K per year in gross rental income, which is about $575 per week. Every week. I would venture that the gross income for most of the 2 bedroom and smaller units is more like 14K per year, max. That means about $1000 per month negative cash flow. If sales are strong and the unit is appreciating well, that may be OK, but it's still a significant amount for most of the purchasers. And it's not like you can even take that loss against income for tax purposes. Rather, the losses grow until you sell (if you can find a buyer), when they count against income, but it's still a huge loss.

If you bought a lower priced unit quite a few years ago, the principal changes to this are a lower mortgage payment and much better appriciation. But the other costs are fixed. More importantly, the recurring costs for a 3 bedroom or larger place are very close to the same as the recurrenting costs for studio or 1 bedroom, but rental income is considerably better for the larger unit. Hence, the number of small units on the market.

I agree that the best "ski area" values are out generally out west, if only because of the quality of the skiing. But even then the numbers are generally better with larger, single units than with condos. I think that bears out the trend at DCL and CV (and Park City and Frisco and Tahoe)towards ever larger, more expensive trophy homes.
MadMonk
March 10, 2005
Member since 12/27/2004
235 posts
Six years ago when my family bought into Summit we looked at every condoplex up there. We figured putting 20% and financing the rest. At that time Summit, Snowcrest, and perhaps Leatherbark were the only ones that were cash-flow positive before taxes (most of the others turned into a wash to slightly positive after using the proper deductions).

The 12 month claim is a stretch though the summer months are becoming more regular. One problem there though is the Harley week. You can't rent to that group w/out damage. It's not they are violently destructive, but many bring parts (or even entire bikes) into the units to work on and in the process track oil and grease all over. Just a pain in the rear to replace carpet every year.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 10, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Quote:

Yes - Rentals are the key. But there still appears to be a pretty large group of folks from DC who don't care about price tag. Actually, I am told that Snowshoe's condo prices are in line with DC residential real estate prices in general.




No way. In some neighborhoods in DC, real estate is approaching $500 a square foot--that's a long way from $300 a square foot.
tommo
March 10, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
Congratulations on your family's great foresight. There were some GREAT buys, in retrospect, back around the time Intrawest arrived. Quite a few of the pre-intrawest developments, such as Leatherbark, Powderhorn, totw, etc... were indeed terrific values. Even with the price appreciation, they seem to sell quickly and many are true slopeside units. Wish I had could've bought several .

And I very much like and respect what Intrawest has done for the Shoe. As RogerZ observed, Lower Shays is the only New England caliber black diamond south of NY - I completely agree and I like to go to the Shoe because it's the only place that you can get that "real skiing" feel in our area. But the real estate approach that Intrawest is pushing increasingly concerns me. There's seems to be an awful lot of folks with VERY pricey small condos that aren't selling well, while, at the same time, Intrawest keeps building more and more. It would be devastating to the Shoe if foreclosures were to rapidly spike to high levels. Of couse, that could create some opportunities for vultures and bottom feeders. ...
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 10, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Quote:

I really wonder about some of the Shoes real estate claims.




I called Snowshoe to check on these sales and they were actual sales, not reservations.

Also, Snowshoe claims that lift operation hours depend on usage and not money concerns. The Silver Creek hours of operation have not changed since 1997 according to Snowshoe.

Finally, Snowshoe made more snow this year than any other year of its history, and its skier visit numbers suggest that this will be a record breaking year in terms of attendance. In short, calling Snowshoe cheap is a "cheap shot." What other resort will haul in extra air compressors if necessary to make extra snow during warm periods. Only Snowshoe. This is one of the best run resorts in the Mid-Atlantic.

DWW
March 10, 2005
Member since 03/11/2004
144 posts
Our experience with a studio at Rimfire Lodge has been quite good. Gross annual revenues over $20,000 for the past three years on 180-200 days per year. Better than most 1 bedrooms at Rimfire, which are doing $15-$23,000. A lot depends on location (top floor western view), rating (gold) and features (vaulted ceiling). I think the studios (not junior studios) rent pretty well because of price point. However, I would not say we are breaking even yet on a cash flow basis - but very close (with 20% down on $150,000). I could probably get there if I consider tax benefits and the time we spend there and get no revenue (a couple weeks per year). The older complexes probably do just fine - especially if the owners/associations have upgraded. The newest ones, like Allegheny and Seneca, I think will struggle on a cash flow basis because of the cost and condo fees. The secondary market for newer condos is not great - but has improved quite a bit over the last year. This is really the ultimate key - secondary market values and liquidity. Real estate is still a long term investment despite some of the insanity going on.
tommo
March 10, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
Wow!! Those are really good numbers... over 20K gross and 180 nights suggests a much stronger summer market than I estimated. As you mentioned, if you can get close to break even, that's quite good in the vacation rental market and suggests a good long term investment.

Johnfmh - I did not in anyway mean to imply that Intrawest is cheap or that their operation of the resort is anything less than stellar. They have clearly made huge capital investments and management of the things they can control is beyond reproach. What they have done from a snowsports perspective as well as the golf course and committments to driving summer season business is absolutely first rate. Clearly it is working, too, as evidenced by a 200 night (!!!) occupancy rate.

It'll be interesting to see how things play out there over the next few years, that's for sure. Based on the actual sales they reported to you, looks like the market is very, very strong. Market price doesn't lie...
DWW
March 10, 2005
Member since 03/11/2004
144 posts
I don't want to suggest that everybody gets 200 days rented a year. There is quite a large standard deviation even within Rimfire itself. We benefit from quite a few people requesting western view specifically, and based on our guest register, quite a few repeat folks requesting our unit. Location, unit type, gold rating, and a few extras in the units make a big difference.
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