Agent moves high-end condos |

Agent moves high-end condos

Private hot tub patio unlocks ground-floor sales at Bear Lodge

— Given the economic climate, Michael Hurley, representing Australian developer Rod Forrester, of Aria Colorado, is pretty happy to say that Bear Lodge and neighboring Emerald Lodge accounted for nine luxury condominium sales between $1 million and $1.5 million in the first 11 months of 2009.

According to research confirmed by Bruce Carta, of Land Title Guarantee Co., that number represents about 40 percent of the condo market in that price niche before One Steamboat Place and Edgemont set off a flurry of sales in December.

"Outside of One Steamboat Place, Wildhorse and Edgemont, (Hurley) sold more than anyone else," Realtor Jon Wade, of Colorado Group Realty, said. "Through the recession, Bear Lodge, Emerald Lodge and Eagle Ridge townhomes were the best at holding their value."

Wade said he brought the buyers to two Bear Lodge sales last year and expects to put another under contract soon, with another serious buyer closing in.

Hurley put a new condominium at Bear Lodge under contract last week. That would represent sales of 23 of the 30 vacation homes in the project, which is the sixth phase of the original Trappeur's Crossing development.

Bear Lodge is highly visible with its large covered entrance at Village Drive and Medicine Springs Drive, about 300 yards from the base of the ski area.

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Hurley said that although it's just outside the designated area, the city Planning Department required that the lodge conform to the ski base area design guidelines, resulting in the use of extensive stone and timbers on the exterior and an investment in a more varied roof line.

"We were happy to do so, and it has really served us well," Hurley said.

One of the selling points for Bear Lodge and Emerald Lodge, a little farther east on Medicine Springs, is that they offer large condominiums built to competitive finish levels at lower prices than the new ski-in/ski-out properties down the road.

Three- and four-bedroom units at Bear Lodge are 1,700 to 1,900 square feet and sell for about $650 a square foot.

"They offer a very good value for the money, in my opinion," said Pete Wither, Wade's colleague at Colorado Group. "People really like that they have a heated, secure underground parking area."

Wither has brought several buyers to Bear Lodge.

Of the nine buyers last year, Hurley said, four paid cash for their million-dollar-plus condominiums. Six were developer-owned units at Bear Lodge, and three were resales at Emerald Lodge, which was completed in 2007. The Bear Lodge sales ranged from $1.017 million to $1.395 million, according to information gleaned by Carta from records at the Routt County Courthouse. The three Emerald Lodge resales were for more than $1 million.

Part of the sales success at Emerald and Bear, Hurley said, can be attributed to a strategic decision he and Forrester made to invest in $50,000 enclosed patios on the ground-floor units.

Prospective buyers tend to regard ground-floor units as less desirable than condominiums on the upper floor, where the views of the ski area are grand and vaulted ceilings can be accommodated, Hurley said.

At Emerald and Bear, he said, they built ground-level patios that enclosed fireplaces, barbecue grills and private eight-person hot tubs within stone walls. By installing snowmelt systems under the paving stones on the patio, they effectively extended the living space of the condominium.

But more important, he said, they succeeded in differentiating the ground-level units from everything else in the development.

"The enclosed patios cement the emotional connection people make before they buy," Hurley said.

The developers closed on three ground-floor units in Bear in 2009 and at the same time hastened the date when they began to turn a profit on the overall building by selling condominiums that might have been the last to sell without the addition of the private patios.

Hurley said the property management company ResortQuest already is telling him that vacation renters are booking return trips and asking for the patio units.

ResortQuest figures, albeit based on just one year of rental history (May 1, 2008, through April 30, 2009), show that three-bedroom condos at Bear Lodge with the patio can show net annual income before operating expenses of $25,545 compared with $16,140 for the same floor plan on the second floor lacking the patio. The units without the patios have total operating expenses of $13,388 compared with $14,083 for the patio units, but the latter yield better cash flow.

"Once people rent those condos, they come back to the same unit because you've got the fireplace, and the hot tub is private," Wither said. "It's a really good sales tool."

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail

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