Homes in one of Steamboat’s premier neighborhoods offer value |

Homes in one of Steamboat’s premier neighborhoods offer value

— The Sanctuary has been the premier address within the city limits of Steamboat Springs for 17 years, and even the Great Recession hasn't changed that.

But what has changed are the prices in one of Steamboat's most exclusive neighborhoods.

"There are homes currently listed from $1.3 million to $4.3 million," said Pam Vanatta, owner/broker at Prudential Steamboat Realty. "You can get homes at a very good price per square foot."

Four years ago, everything was $475 per square foot and up. In 2010, homes in the Sanctuary sold as low as $350 per square foot.

While there were almost no homes for sale in The Sanctuary in 2006, there were 16 listed for sale in late 2010.

The evolving real estate inventory in The Sanctuary is a function of five new phases being brought online matched with changes in the expectations of homeowners in terms of the size of the homes and the standard of luxury in Ski Town USA.

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The Sanctuary was originally the product of a partnership between two former principles in Steamboat Ski Area. Martin Hart's Northwest Colorado Ski Corp. sold the ski area to a Japanese company, Kamori Kanko Ltd., in 1989.

When the two parties entered into negotiations about some of the ancillary holdings of Ski Corp., Hart and Kimihito Kamori agreed to become partners on more than 200 acres of land that wraps in a horseshoe around the back nine of the Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club, straddling Fish Creek.

"I told Mr. Kamori's people I wanted to keep the 222 acres," Hart said in 2006. "They got back to me after a while and said, 'He'll split it with you. He wants to be partners.' I said, 'Tell Mr. Kamori he's a partner!'"

Eight years later, when Kamori sold the ski area to American Skiing Co., Hart negotiated to buy out the share in The Sanctuary that ASC acquired in the purchase.

Hart has since sold out all of the original developer lots and is no longer involved in the development, having turned it over to an active homeowners association.

Although the HOA is open-minded about architectural styles, it is strict about the quality of building materials, a factor that has protected home values, Vanatta said.

A 13-year resident of The Sanctuary, Vanatta can recall when there were no homes in the area and Steamboat Boulevard ended just beyond the bridge over Fish Creek.

"Martin spent a great deal of money developing the roads for filings four and five," she said.

Hart also agreed to build a steel bridge over the creek and an underpass beneath the boulevard specifically so snowcats grooming the Steamboat Ski Touring Center could maintain the quality of the Nordic ski trails there after the subdivision is complete.

Those trails have proven to be a valuable asset to the residents, who enjoy snowshoeing as well as cross-country skiing along the creek where boulders resemble white-capped mushrooms in winter.

"In summer, you can go out the door and hike all the way to Long Lake," Vanatta said.

A buyer's market

The Sanctuary has not been immune to the retrenching local real estate market. Vanatta, who has five lots and six homes there listed for sale, said the lots, which begin at about 0.45 acres, have returned in value to original developer prices.

Lot 1 in Filing 1 sold for $118,500 in 1994. Vanatta purchased a lot from Hart for $425,000. She sold it for $725,000.

"The value of that lot today would be $425,000," she said.

Still, some people are willing to pay top dollar for the best view lots in The Sanctuary. Vanatta sold a lot on Heavenly View for $625,000 this year.

Nearby, in the Boulder Ridge subdivision, Vanatta sold a lot for $775,000 in summer.

"The buyer called me last week and asked me to give him the names of some builders and architects," she said.

Some sellers in The Sanctuary are willing to take a modest loss in order to reinvest the money in what they perceive to be a better opportunity in Steamboat's discounted market, she said.

"I had a seller on Heavenly View who paid $650,000 in 2006 and sold one of the best lots up there for $625,000. So, he was willing to take a $25,000 loss, but he figures he came out ahead on the other investment."

Jon Wade, a broker/owner with Colorado Group Realty, observed that spec homes that still were under development when the market began to wane in late 2008 took a "very big hit" in 2010.

"In 2007, you couldn't get into The Sanctuary for under $2 million," Wade said.

This year, homes have sold in the range of $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

However, many of the grandest homes still are priced substantially higher. Vanatta had an 8,198-square-foot home on Golf View Way listed at $4.4 million, or $536 per square foot. Another Sanctuary home, with stone exterior and walnut flooring, was priced at $2.5 million, or $486 per square foot.

Wade's analysis shows that the average sales price of a Sanctuary home increased significantly from $2.2 million in 2007 to $2.8 million in 2008, before dropping steeply to $1.9 million in 2009 and $1.7 million in 2010.

The average price per square foot peaked at $536 in 2008 and retreated to $364 in 2010, Wade said.

"As much as this is a buyer's market, lots are still a buy-and-hold opportunity because the market can turn around quickly. Once the cream of the crop in homes are gone, building lots will start selling again," Vanatta said.

Throughout 17 years and the sale of 159 golf course lots wrapped around the Fish Creek drainage and the back nine of Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club, the five filings of The Sanctuary show there is a sufficient number of sales of grand homes to reaffirm the intrinsic value of Steamboat's best neighborhood, while the market continues to slowly sort itself out.

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