After an epic crash in 2008, the market for ski-homes is finally getting a lift.
Rising stocks, an improving economy and a rush of buying before the 2013 tax hikes have helped drive a surge in sales and prices for mountain homes in the West. While the snow this year has been relatively light in some resorts, vacation-home buyers are drifting back into the market after a four-year drought.
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In Sun Valley, Idaho, the number of units sold in December and January is up 51 percent over the previous year, according to data compiled by Coldwell Banker. In Colorado, unit sales in Vail are up 29 percent and median prices are up 36 percent in Steamboat. California's main ski region around Tahoe has seen units sold increase 18 percent, while sales volume in Park City, Utah is up 15 percent.
Real-estate agents say the strength is now cutting across almost all resorts and all prices ranges, though the lower-priced homes (good values) and very high-priced, one-of-a-kind homes are in the highest demand.
In Aspen, Colo., the most exclusive of the ski resort markets, inventory is falling and homes are selling more quickly. According to Coldwell Banker, homes listed for $10 million are staying on the market half as long as they were a year ago.
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Todd Conklin, the Sun Valley-based CEO of Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties, said he recently had a listing that attracted 10 bidders in just three days.
"It's amazing," he said. "I don't even remember getting that in 2007 or before the downturn," he said.
He said that homes priced at under $1 million and the multi-million-dollar trophy homes are doing best. He said the middle of the market – homes at $1 million or $2 million – remain a bit softer.
While stocks have helped, Conklin said overall confidence has also improved among buyers. He said he expects the strength to continue as stocks move higher and some investors take money off the table.
"I think we'll see in the next six to 12 months you might see some investors taking their gains and putting that money into real-estate," he said.
He said that the big concern now is having enough homes to sell.
"Inventory in some places is at 20-year lows," he said. "I mean you look at Aspen and they have may 2.2 months of inventory. It's insane."