Townhomes always have offered a happy medium between the comforts of single-family homes and the convenience of low-maintenance apartments or condominiums.
Developers increasingly are taking that combination to the next level by building large, luxury units that cost just as much, if not more than, high-end single-family homes.
And although some buyers may balk at the idea of paying more than $1 million for a townhome, Steamboat Springs real estate figures show developers are filling a niche.
One of five units in the Elk Horn at Steamboat townhome project off of Ski Trail Lane sold in November for $2.28 million -- a record sale price for a townhome in Steamboat Springs, said Doug Labor, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors.
Lee Findell, a listing broker with Colorado Group Realty, confirmed two units totaling about 11,000 square feet recently went under contract at The Porches high-end townhome project off of Mount Werner road. The purchase price is not available because the deal has not closed, however, full-ownership units in Phase 2 of The Porches range between about $1.4 million and $1.7 million each, Findell said.
The buyer intends to have the units customized into one large second residence.
Overall, townhome sales and median prices have increased gradually in the past four years. In 2004, 192 townhomes have sold at a median price of $316,500, compared with 2000, when 106 townhomes sold at a median price of $298,575, Labor said.
He attributed much of the popularity of townhomes, which comprise about 16 percent of total Multiple Listing Service sales so far this year, to convenience and the scarcity of building sites in Steamboat.
"There aren't many single-family home sites in the base area that are for sale under $500,000," Labor said. "These newer townhome developments are providing size and quality that people are looking for in single-family homes with none of the maintenance and upkeep concerns."
Although an inventory of older and more moderately priced units is helping to keep the median prices down, the majority of townhomes sold has shifted from the $100,000 to $200,000 range to the $200,000 to $300,000 range, Labor said.
Although the sales of two-bedroom units outpaced sales of four-bedroom townhomes several years ago, sales of the two- and four-bedroom units are about equal now. Buyers also are opting for nicer units with personal touches and high end finishes, he said.
The high-end niche is one that has been waiting to be filled, said Stephan Baden, a broker at RE/MAX Steamboat who is co-listing Elk Horn units with Ken Gold, also of RE/MAX.
"There's always been people that did not buy in Steamboat because they could not find a nice enough product," Baden said.
Baden, who also is a partner in the Elk Horn project, said developers designed the townhomes for single-family homebuyers looking for property near the ski slopes. Elk Horn is located under the gondola.
"We knew there was a demand for a very upscale ski-in and ski-out property," he said.
The units, which average about 4,200 square feet, each have an elevator and hot tub as well as commercial-grade appliances and high quality finishes. Developers have contracts on four of the five units.
"For $2.2 million and $2.3 million units, we were definitely encouraged by the rate of sales," Baden said.
At The Porches, amenities, such as a 7,000-square foot clubhouse with outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, fire pit, television, lounge and gym, as well as the neighborhood layout have been attractive to buyers, Findell said.
Buyers also appreciate the ability to work with builders to customize units.
"There's just such a wide range of needs out there," he said. "People just like the fact that they can work with the builder for what suits their needs."
The project is in Phase 3, and four units are available. The development eventually will have 42 full-ownership units. Fourteen of those are under contract, and interest in the project has been good, Findell said.
"It's been extremely high," he said. "We've had steady walk-in traffic even throughout the slower seasons in October and November. In general, the response has been very positive from people who are not necessarily looking in that price range but liked the quality of the project and felt it was a nice addition to Steamboat."
The same might be true of the EagleRidge townhomes at the top of Eagle Ridge drive, about 250 yards from the gondola building. Twenty-two units are under construction in the project, which eventually will have 49 total units. About 37 have sold since 2002, and about 50 percent of those sales took place this year, said listing broker Mike Buckley of Yampa River Realty, who expects the project will sell out by the end of the ski season.
The units, which range between 2,400 and 2,800 square feet, have high-end finishes and average about $300 per square foot. Although considered high-end, the prices are lower than property in other resorts, Buckley said.
"I'm seeing a lot of people moving out of the Summit County area," Buckley said. "They like the Steamboat lifestyle ... and our prices are great -- a third of what they are over there."
Most buyers of EagleRidge townhomes purchased them as second residences. Because most have single-family homes as their primary residences, they are looking for low-maintenance vacation properties.
"These people want to be able to leave and have the place looked after," he said. "They don't want to come here and mow lawns."
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com