The Developers of Wildhorse Meadows recently received the sign they were seeking.
It was a $16 million sign.
During an eight-week period this fall, Resort Ventures West sold 32 of the 41 single-family building lots that make up the first phase of the development near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. The selling price of the lots ranged from $475,000 to $600,000.
"They sold more dollar volume and more lots than any development I'm aware of in the history of this market," David Baldinger Jr. of Steamboat Village Brokers said.
The developers confirmed the sales volume exceeded expectations.
"It was a wonderfully successful launch," Brent Pearson said. "Typically, you shoot for 65 percent. This is a real positive indicator on our project and obviously, on Steamboat."
Pearson is vice president of Resort Ventures West, based in Steamboat Springs. The other partners in the firm are Whitney Ward and president David Hill.
Wildhorse Meadows, when complete, would offer two hotels, condominiums and townhomes linked to the ski base by a people mover gondola. Construction of roads necessary for the single-family neighborhood is under way.
Pearson, a former executive with ski village developer Intrawest, said he was encouraged by the fact that among the 32 purchasers, there were 27 unique buyers.
"We were hoping to see a variety of individuals taking part," Pearson said. "More than half of them are planning on building and moving their families in. That's important because they are people who are trying to make Wildhorse their dream and will become stakeholders in the community."
The remaining nine single-family building lots have been withdrawn form the market. Pearson said he and his colleagues might assess whether to bring them back at a higher price in the spring.
Pearson said he believes the home lots at Wildhorse appealed to buyers looking for the "simple and uncomplicated life," that results from being close to the base area, and that quality differentiated his project from other high-end building lots on the market.
Baldinger made a similar observation. He said a significant number of the clients he brought to the sales process were longtime locals. He said people are attracted to the fact that from a home in Wildhorse, they could walk to the Strings in the Mountains music tent, the movie theater and fine dining. The close proximity of the Yampa River Core Trail means people can ride a bicycle from home to shopping and downtown without encountering hills.
Baldinger, whose company was among three "preferred brokers" whose clients got first crack at the lots, said probably the single-most important factor in the dramatic sales at Wildhorse was the scarcity of similar product.
"Steamboat simply does not have single-family lots that offer ski-in, ski-out access, or are a short walk from a lift," he said. "There are simply no more lots and this is the only opportunity to be in a planned residential community, close to the base of the ski area."
He wasn't implying that Wildhorse offers ski-in, ski-out lots. However, a gondola planned to deliver residents to the base of the Steamboat gondola offers the closest thing for single-family homeowners, he said. Plus, the handful of actual ski-in, ski-out single-family lots are in the $1 million to $2 million range. Baldinger Jr. said Resort Ventures was very astute in pricing the lots so that they represented a fair value in the Steamboat market.
The fact that the balance of Wildhorse's 50-plus acres of townhomes and hotels have been approved by the city inspires confidence, he added. It allows the purchasers of the lots to reliably predict what will be built next door to their homes, he said.
Resort Ventures West intends to deliver buildable lots to its buyers in June or early July. During the winter, the company intends to continue pursuing development permits for the second phase at Wildhorse, which includes a 90-unit condominium hotel and community buildings. Marketing efforts for the condominium hotel will take place simultaneously with the permitting process.
Pearson said the development team will undertake construction of phase two on its own but is already speaking with independent developers about tackling a boutique hotel which is part of the overall plan.
The sale of 32 half-million dollar lots in a finite time span adds significant equity in Wildhorse for Resort Ventures West, but Pearson said a positive sales trend was not a prerequisite for pushing on to phase two.
"It reaffirms our judgment and it definitely creates momentum for the next side (of the project)," Pearson said. "It gives us encouragement to proceed, but the equity is not a requirement."
Pearson said financing for the infrastructure necessary for the single-family neighborhood - as well as roads throughout the project, the gondola and the condominium hotel - is already in place.
Resort Ventures West sold the single-family lots in a multi-tiered controlled process. The company has its own sales arm, but about 85 percent of the sales were co-brokered with Steamboat real estate agencies, Pearson said.
Clients with a trio of "preferred brokers" were given first crack at the lots, he said. The preferred brokers included High Mountain Sotheby's International Realty, Steamboat Village Brokers and Prudential Steamboat Realty. All had advised Resort Ventures West for almost three years, Pearson said.
After the first week of sales, all other brokers were invited to participate. After the second tier of buyers was allowed to purchase lots, buyers who registered late were given an opportunity to buy lots. Finally, people who had already purchased lots were given the opportunity to buy a second lot.
The future homes at Wildhorse Meadows are limited in size to 3,600 square feet, Pearson said.
Baldinger predicted they would be of exceptional quality.
"These are people for whom the size of the house is not the most important thing," he said. "I think the finish qualities will be at the highest level we've seen."