Sunday, January 30, 2005

Are Second Homes in Colorado Under-counted?

In October, I wrote a cover story for High Country News about the boom in second homes in key resort towns in the Rocky Mountains. The percentage of homes in Northwest Colorado that turned out to be second homes was stunningly high -- over half of all residences, in several counties.

But the U.S. Census may have missed a lot of them. So says the Summit Daily News in an article about Breckenridge, Frisco and nearby towns. The actual second-home figure in Summit County is more like 67 percent.

The message for communities with large numbers of part-time residents is clear: get 'em counted, or else your local government planners won't be able to calculate taxes, transportation or affordable housing needs correctly.


Friday, January 28, 2005

Montana Debates Higher 2d Home Taxes

Montana, land of big skies and small taxes, is pondering property tax changes that will impact the state's growing number of second-home owners.

One proposal now before legislators: out-of-state homeowners would pay a 20 percent surcharge on their Montana property taxes to help pay for fire protection.

Also proposed: constitutional amendment to help 65-and-over primary residents. It would to freeze valuation for property taxes of the principal home owned by such a person.

Lawmakers from the Flathead Valley are behind the second move. They're looking to protect long-time homeowners there who have seen their home and land values skyrocket because out-of-state residents are building costly luxury homes in their area.

Is this part of a backlash against vacation homes? I'll keep you posted.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

California, Here They (Still) Come

Big state. High taxes. Huge prices. What's not to like? Second home buyers continue to snap up getaways in California.

Report just out from California Association of Realtors says "15.7 percent of all homebuyers bought a home in 2004 either for investment purposes or as a second home. This includes 10.7 percent who acquired a home as an investment or rental property and 5.0 percent who bought a vacation or second home. "

The figure just three years ago was 9.8 percent. If you've got an eye on a place, sounds like you might as well buy it now, or someone else will.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Oregon at Epicenter of Second Home Growth

Second homes are big business these days in Bend, OR, and the town, both a winter ski favorite and a summer haven, is trying to keep growth in perspective.

Brian Shetterly, the city’s principal long-range planner,told an Oregon paper that "one-third of our current population did not live here even five years ago,” and he agrees that more folks are on their way.

Still, Bend is hard at work on figuring out the optimum areas where new homes can be built while preserving the town's lovely natural environment. “If we do it right, we’ll be able to accommodate" growth "without diminishing the unique character of this place that continues to attract so many people,” the Bend planner said. “It starts with an awareness that these trends exist, and an outlook that sees opportunity in them.”

Are you a part-time or full-time resident or real estate agent in Bend? I'd love to hear a first-hand report from you.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

You Can Afford Getaway home, Sez Ohio Expert

So much of what I see in magazines and newspapers dwells on high-six-figure swanky condos or seven-figure McMansions. But second homes in your vicinity might be more affordable than you think. If you're in Columbus, Ohio, why think Florida? How about Hocking Hills, or someplace near Snow Trails ski resort instead?

Real estate expert Harley Rouda Jr. of Columbus, Ohio says that with the change in tax laws and easier mortgage policies, you don't have to fork over your 401(k) to buy a weekend getaway.

Rouda's key advice:

First, how's your financial situation? Low mortgage interest rates can put a second home within your reach.

Next, ask yourself what type of property you want and where. "Vacation homes don't necessarily have to be in resort locations. They're found in every state and region, with seaside, lakeshore and mountainside locales being predictably most popular. Ohio is home to the Lake Erie islands, numerous inland lakes and popular ski resorts."

Then, inspect the areas that interest you to see if they are "good fits for long-term leisure." Rouda notes that weekend places tend to be smaller and less costly than a primary residence, but beach houses, cottages and cabins are becoming equipped with many of the same amenities we enjoy in our everyday homes.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Timeshares: Do's and Don'ts

Timeshares ain't what they used to be -- they're better. A whopping 85 percent of 3-million U.S. owners are satisfied with their purchases, according to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).

Here are smart buying tips from the Wall Street Journal's Julie Bennett:

Do accept free vacations at resort destinations -- the fastest way to learn about an area -- but leave checkbook and credit cards home so you don't make an impulse buy that you'll be sorry about later.

Visit the resort area you like during the season you prefer.

If you are interested in a hot spot, buy the best unit you can find during prime season, in a high-demand area. For instance: love Costa Del Sol? Buy Florida -- It will make swapping easier.

Be aware of extra costs. Examples: annual maintenance fees (they average $385, but some owners fees are $1,000 or more).... special assessments (new roof, new appliances etc.)

Don't forget membership in clubs that arrange exchanges. They run about $85 a year, and trades require payments of an additional $150, if you can get them.

Check out TUG -- that's the valuable Timeshare Users Group.

Got your own tips? Post 'em here.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Maine Defeats Plan to Raise Second-Home Taxes

A plan to tax second homes at a higher rate was resoundingly defeated in the Maine legislature yesterday. But the body did vote to reform property taxes in general.

According to news reports, the new legislation will boost the state's share of school funding over four years and impose spending caps on all layers of government. It also will expand two tax breaks that exempt a portion of each home from taxation and help Mainers pay their property taxes.

The higher tax on second homes had worried some legislators who felt that Mainers could be hurt if they owned camps or cottages.

"I can't support somebody's taxes going up on a hunting camp," said one representative.

Under an example used to illustrate the plan, a second-home, camp or cottage valued at $400,000, in a community with a $20 tax rate, would pay $9,000 in taxes, or an additional $1,000 more than a person whose primary residence was valued at $400,000.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Lake Tahoe Report: Northstar's New Village

I've just returned from the Lake Tahoe region, having been there for the snowstorm that brought about 10 feet of snow to such California ski areas at Northstar.

But snow always comes along in winter. What doesn't come along every day is a new cluster of homes. Despite the storm, I could see at the base of the gondola that East West Partners' dramatic new "Village at Northstar" is well under construction.

The second phase of real estate offerings will be launched March 19, but to be in the hunt for any of the 92 condos you need a reservation by the end of February. East West has now sold out residences in the first phase. So if you're interested in a lovely spot in a major four-season resort area, take a look at this Village and call (800) 217-7554 to make a reservation.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bellingham & Whatcom -- Buy Before It's Too Late?

What's Whatcom? It's a county in the northwest corner of Washington that you should know about if you love being near both ocean and mountains. Bellingham is the center and has a lovely small-city feel about it. In a story I did for AARP Magazine in 2003, Bellingham was rated second among "places to reinvent your life" for the boomer generation.

There's a lot of second-home looking, building and buying in the region, although the Bellingham Herald can't say exactly how much. According to a recent article, many visitors now are "buying land and homes years before they plan to stop working."

Newcomers "visit and decide to buy before prices rise even higher than they are now," said one real estate agent. He sold nine homes last year to future retirees, including people from Chicago, Maryland and California.

Many visitors "worry about being priced out of the market if they wait," said another agent. Click here for the full story.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Vacation Home and Timeshare Tax Tips

Are you aware of the tax benefits you can take advantage of when you own a second home? Here are a few guidelines, courtesy of

For a second property to qualify for the home mortgage interest deduction, the taxpayer must use the additional home for personal purposes during the year.

Suppose you've got a second home you rent out all year; you never use it yourself.

Sorry -- no fun, no tax break. The property wouldn't qualify as a second home for the purpose of the home mortgage interest deduction.

However...Many taxpayers have second properties that are part personal and part rental. In this scenario, they are more likely to qualify for the tax break. The catch is that the IRS requires their personal use to exceed 14 days or 10 percent of the time it was rented, whichever time length is greater.

Consider the case of a timeshare unit. The IRS might count it as a second home instead of as a rental property if....

you are on the books to use the property for four weeks. But you use it three weeks and rent it out the fourth week. In this case, the timeshare qualifies as a second home. The time it is used for personal purposes exceeds the 14-day minimum. The 21 days is also more than 10 percent of 28 days.

Here's the equation: For every 10 days you rent a property, the IRS expects you to use it for personal purposes for one day.

Of course, don't take my word or's word. But do ask your CPA about claiming any deductions to which you are entitled.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Digs of the Rich & Famous: Matthews, Welch, J-Lo

'Hardball' host hits Nantucket says It reported that Chris Matthews and his TV anchor wife, Kathleen, just bought a place for $4.35 million on the island.

The former boss of GE (parent company of MSNBC, where Hairball, er, Hardball appears) is trying again to unload his Connecticut digs. Wall Street Journal reports he has raised the asking price on his Fairfield manse to $10.2 million, "even though the house went unsold for three months at $8.75 million."

Finally, is J-Lo Buying High?

Superstar couple Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony may be finalizing their penthouse purchase at the ICON building in Miami--or maybe they aren't.

A marketing exec for developers of the wave-shaped tower in South Beach is quoted by as saying:

"There hasn't, to our knowledge, been an actual sale yet,' said Sara Kallus, for The Related Group of Florida. "Evidently, they've come to look at it. I don't know where the rumor started."

With its Philippe Starck-designed interiors, ICON has "rich & famous" written all over it. The building officially opened in December 2004, and its 289 residences have all sold, Kallus said.

Lopez and Anthony, who married in June, were said to be paying $9.9 million for the spread, which includes a private pool and 6,000 square feet of balcony.

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Nevada Town Becoming "Second Home Mecca"

Never heard of Minden, NV? Neither had I until it showed up on the EscapeHomes list of emerging second home locales (Click on my December archives, right and go to 12/23/04.)

But we've all heard of Lake Tahoe and Reno. Minden is close to those fast-growing places. US News & World Report recently cited Minden as among the more affordable places for second homes in the booming West. The Record-Courier - News tells why, and what's available in the second home market.


Friday, January 14, 2005

Wyoming: Soon to Boom

The latest US Census tally predicts an upsurge in the population of the Rocky Mountain West, Southwest and South, according to this Denver Post story.

Among the places expected to grow the most: two large states with great scenery, lots of empty space and room for development -- Wyoming and New Mexico.

In both states, the recent upsurge in oil and gas drilling has created a demand for more fulltime housing. That's what planners are focusing on, but they need to consider a scenario that will see a boom in second homes as well -- in such places as Wyoming's Teton County (already a huge second-home mecca), and New Mexico's Santa Fe, Taos, Silver City and Mesilla.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Southern Utah Ski Property: Investment Potential

Am I focused on second homes in the Rocky Mountain states? You bet. All indications are that this is where the greatest potential for growth (and profits, if you are an investor) lies. For example, here's news about an entire ski resort for sale in southern Utah, a key destination for retiring Californians who are cashing out in their home state and putting down roots in the interior.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Westin Hotel-Condo Next Up at Mammoth

Ski behemoth Intrawest is about to break ground on a brand-new 230-unit condo-hotel at California's Mammoth Mountain, according to

The property will be part of the Westin brand under a franchise agreement with New York-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. A $140-million endeavor, an Intrawest source tells, the project is scheduled to get under way this spring and be complete 24 months later.

If the report is correct, the Westin Monache will be "the first full-service luxury property in the region and the flagship property of the Village at Mammoth. The Village is the mixed-use core of Intrawest's Project Sierra, a 10-year, billion-dollar mountain resort covering 250 acres at the base of the Mammoth Mountain, one of the most visited ski areas in the U.S."

As notes, Last year at this time, Intrawest has just sold out the final release of homes in Grand Sierra Lodge, the third phase of the Village at Mammoth. Fifty-two one-, two- and three-bedroom resort condominiums were sold at prices ranging from $380,000 to more than $1.3 million. Grand Sierra Lodge is billed as a "combination of full-ownership vacation real estate with the features and amenities of a luxury resort" where owners can place their property into an established rental arrangement.

The difference between the Westin Monache and Grand Sierra Lodge, according to the report, is in the size of the rooms. With larger units, Grand Sierra Lodge is more of a condominium development being operated like a hotel while the Westin Monache will look and feel more like a traditional hotel.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Cost of Place-holder in Vail: $100,000

Major renovations are going on in the storied, wealthy Colorado ski town of Vail. And just a measly $100,000 deposit guarantees a second home near the snow.

With a new sales center in Lionshead Village - sister of the upscale Vail Village - the ski company asked potential buyers to put up $100,000 to join a lottery for condos priced from $1.3 million to more than $9 million.

According to spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga, Vail Resorts has received "573 reservations for 63 of 67 available condominiums in The Arrabelle at Vail Square."

Commenting on the success, Adam Aron, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts said, "There is nothing but smiles at Vail Resorts today. I don't know whether we've been more excited in the past two weeks about the abundance of fresh snow that has fallen on the slopes of our five world-class ski resorts or the abundance of Arrabelle reservations that has arrived on our realtors' desks."

Arrabelle will be an anchor of Vail Square, which is now called Lionshead. It will be a hotel-condo run by RockResorts, which is owned by Vail Resorts.

"This is the most important project for this community and this company," said Jack Hunn, vice president of Vail Resorts Development Co., the real estate development wing of the resort company, told the newspaper. "This is the one that really changes the perspective of Lionshead for the better."

Potential buyers have registered for their top three choices of 67 luxury condos that will soon emerge as part of a $200 million hotel anchoring a new village plan for the long- neglected Lionshead.


Monday, January 10, 2005

More Western Property News: Durango

Matt Skinner at Durango Mountain Resort in southern Colorado tells us the first model unit condo is open in a new development near the delightful, four-seasons resort and college town of Durango.

After several years of planning and development, Durango Mountain Resort’s new Tacoma Village has become a reality, according to Matt. Located directly across from the main entrance, the BlackBear Townhomes are the first project in Tacoma Village, the first of the resort’s new east villages to open a model.

The townhomes feature Colorado mountain style architecture and are priced reasonably, by Colorado's soaring standards -- from $385,000 to $575,000.

Said Cathy Craig, managing broker at Durango Mountain Realty. “Interest has been phenomenal to this point, as these new townhomes may well be the best value real estate investment at any mountain resort in the west.” Six of the first twelve units are already under contract, with reservations on four more.

Arrange a tour of the BlackBear model by calling Durango Mountain Realty at 970.385.2198 or 800.693.2399, or get a sneak peek online.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Colorado Mountain Home Sales Sizzle in '04

According to the Denver Post, second-home sales soared at Colorado's leading mountain resorts last year.

That's no surprise. What is a surprise is that high-end sales drove the buying frenzy, and that houses, condos and land in platinum places like Aspen are appreciating at 20 percent a year.

Try matching that in the stock market.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Why Stop At Two? How About A Third Home?

If you believe the Wall Street Journal (and I think it's one of the two greatest daily papers in the U.S.) more and more wealthy Americans are investing in Third Homes.

In this article, published today, the WSJ says many people are buying a third home for investment purposes, but still others are empty-nesters who like to rotate their lifestyle.

Think about it. Your own places in a city,on a beach, in the mountains. Or, suburb, metropolis, countryside.

After all, why not enjoy your money?


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Santa Delivers Grandmothers' Houses at Tamarack

Here's a happy ending to an earlier story. In my Dec. 17 post, I wrote about the woes of owners at the new Tamarack Resort in Idaho, whose condos were not ready by Christmas Day.

Tamarack now reports that Santa finally visited dozens of families during New Year's Week. The resort turned over the keys to 33 resort-built cottages and chalets.

According to a resort press release, new chalet owner Steve Romano said: “The feeling of community is really taking hold at Tamarack. It was a great way for my family to spend Christmas with other families in the cottages and chalets, parents and children all skiing together in great conditions – all out there enjoying the snow.”


Monday, January 03, 2005

Hot in Northern Bershires: Timeshares, Condos

I just returned from a short visit with family in Williamstown, MA -- that's "North County" Berkshires in local parlance.

Lots of folks seem to be dropping by the Vacation Village office on Route 7 north of Lanesboro. "Vacation Village in the Berkshires" (that's the full name) is a new timeshare development at nearby Jiminy Peak, the restyled and stylish ski/play/real estate area in nearby Hancock.

In Williamstown itself, locals are looking forward to the loft condos to be created in the coming years out of an old factory on Water Street. They'll be within walking distance of Williams College, the now-being-built new Williamstown Playhouse, and other attractions.

North County is far less developed than such mainstream tourist areas as South County's Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington. But Jiminy and Williamstown are still only 3 hours drive from NYC, 2 1/2 hours from Boston.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

Timeshare Rentals May Be No-Nos in Some Luxury Home communities

That's the word from an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Apparently it has nothing to do with bad impressions made by any ultra-wealthy serial vacationers who belong to such clubs as those run by Abercrombie & Kent and Exclusive Resorts. (For a small fortune, you can hop from fantasy islands to mountain chalets.)

It's a matter of town regulations.

Have any of you run into this before? Please let me know.

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