Steamboat Springs A company that says it revolutionized the business of timeshares has opened an office in Steamboat.
Private Retreats is a members-only club offering fractional ownership and unlimited access to 26 vacation homes and houseboats from the ski slopes of Telluride to the beaches of Cabo San Lucas to the golf courses of St. Andrews.
The one-person office that opened at Ski Time Square in December is intended to attract both Steamboat visitors and locals to the club.
"In Steamboat, the ski clientele and summer clientele fit our demographic," Steamboat salesperson Mona Kochaver said. "People that can afford skiing on big ski vacations, the transportation costs and rent homes can often times fit into our demographics. It is a good place to have an office."
Members join the invitation-only club for a one-time, $195,000 investment and $6,750 in annual dues. In exchange, they get unlimited access to the company's 26 vacation homes, which would fetch about $1,500 a night on the rental market, Kochaver said.
Members and their guests stay at the homes for $150 a night, which includes the use of a local host, personal chef, ski passes and greens fees for the member and spouse, the use of spas, and housekeeping.
It is an alternative for people who are looking to purchase a second home, but wary of being tied to one place and the headaches of owning a home away from home.
Private Retreats has three townhomes in Steamboat, all in Timberline Lodge in Trappeur's Crossing. Two of the townhomes are four-bedroom, two-bath units; the other is a two-bedroom, two-bath unit. With the house comes the club's personal resort host, who can cook and set up spa or golf times.
Private Retreats also has homes in other ski resorts such as Telluride, Beaver Creek, Jackson Hole, Wyo., Park City, Utah, and Stowe, Vt.
The company's headquarters is in Southport, Conn., and sales offices have just opened in Telluride, Jackson, Vail and Park City in the last few months.
"We have other plans in the future for other clubs," Kochaver said.
Company founder Rob McGrath's idea for Private Retreats came after developing high-end, fractional ownership, luxury homes in Telluride, Jackson Hole and Scottsdale. He surveyed close to 2,000 people, who had decided not to become owners in one of his fractional developments in Telluride.
What he found, Kochaver said, was that people did not want to be restricted to one place and have to deal with a difficult exchange program of timeshares or the hassles of having to maintain or eventually sell a piece of real estate.
"What they did want, they wanted beautiful, high-end luxury homes, to go whenever they wanted and to go to different places," Kochaver said.
From there, the idea of Private Retreats was born. Kochaver said the company purposely underutilizes its homes to ensure its availability to the club members. When the club reaches its maximum capacity of 400 members, plans are to have 60 to 80 homes.
The club currently is more than half sold, with 225 members.
Kochaver said the club keeps its promise of virtually guaranteed availability by limiting the memberships both geographically and demographically.
Membership has been allocated to 33 distinct regions around the country to help the club predict and manage demand.
Private Retreats operates on the assumptions that members in the West Coast tend to travel to Hawaii, Mexico and Arizona, members in the East Coast travel to Europe, the Caribbean and Florida, members from the Midwest travel in the winter, and members from the Southwest travel in the summer.
"We have studied the way people vacation. We have a lot of information and a lot of historical data," Kochaver said.
The club also has limited the number of members with school-aged children to 33 percent, which helps manage the amount of use during peak holidays.
Members are largely in their early 50s, Kochaver said. Fifty of the club's members are from Colorado and one lives in Steamboat.
Kochaver said that because it has 26 locations from Europe to the Caribbean to the Rocky Mountains, the club has a 365-day season compared to a single resort location where the high season is six to seven months.
Kochaver said if a member cannot be accommodated in the club's own home, Private Retreats could trade for a room of equal or greater value in that resort.
Although members have an unlimited access to the homes, stays are limited to two weeks at one time. However, Kochaver said, if another member has not requested to use that house after the first two weeks, the member using it can add a third or fourth week.
Another benefit, Kochaver said, is the membership is fully refundable. After 18 months, members can resign the membership and receive their original membership fee.
"There is no risk associated with it," Kochaver said.
Kochaver comes from six years of real estate work in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where she was a sales representative at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, Club Palmilla and Villa LaEstancia. Before her stay in Mexico, she spent 20 years in Aspen where she sold real estate and purchased and operated American Mortgage Capital.