The Lodge, First Tracks at Wildhorse define mid-level ski condo niche |

The Lodge, First Tracks at Wildhorse define mid-level ski condo niche

Of the original 47 modest condominiums in First Tracks at Wildhorse Meadows, a dozen remain, and the lending bank has introduced another schedule of price cuts intended to sell out the project. It was originally built in 2009 to meet the city's affordable housing requirements but is of high-enough quality to have found vacation buyers with new expectations.

Tom Ross

— Among the most self-evident trends in the Steamboat Springs real estate market this summer has been the downward arc of prices and, as a result, transaction amounts that reflect lower prices per square foot and are often significantly below either their last sale price or their valuation for 2011 taxes.

Property tax valuations, of course, are not the same thing as the appraisals conducted for banks. The former are designed and required by state laws to lag the market. However, they are based upon comparables and provide a benchmark as well as a heads up for local governments trying to prepare for the possibility of declining budgets in future years.

And there have been some notable exceptions to the trends this summer. On Aug. 19, two very different condominiums less than a mile apart at the base of Steamboat Ski Area sold for $299 and $297 per square foot, respectively.

A 1,288-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath condominium at The Lodge sold for $385,000 compared to its 2003 selling price of $270,000.

The condominium is 30 years old, but the homeowners association takes exceptional care of the buildings. And its location on Village Drive, within easy walking distance of the gondola, gives it a strong rental history.

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Many owners at The Lodge have enjoyed their condominiums for a long period of time and have sufficient equity to make a comfortable move in 2011. One unit at The Lodge that sold for $183,900 in 1997 sold for $299,000 in May. Another two-bedroom unit that sold for $285,000 in 2005 as the market began to climb, sold for $268,000 in July.

Coincidentally, a much newer and smaller one-bedroom condominium in First Tracks at Wildhorse Meadows also sold Aug. 19 for $297 per square foot — $199,000. Built in 2009, this was an original developer sale. And although the selling price was higher than its valuation for 2011 taxes of $190,670, listing agent Kerry Shea said the sale price reflects a new round of discounted prices.

"We've had 33 sales at First Tracks and with this one we're down to just one remaining one-bedroom unit," Shea said. "And we have two more sales pending within the next two to six weeks. There's now the push from the development partner and the bank to say, 'Let's move forward and get (the construction loan) closed.'"

Of the original 47 units, an even dozen now remain to be sold. In addition to the last one-bedroom condo, three studios and eight two-bedroom units remain.

The push to wind up the construction loan in a difficult borrowing market for resort condominiums has been facilitated by portfolio lending from Net Life Home Loans, including mortgages of 15 and 30 years at interest rates of plus or minus 5 percent, Shea said.

Earlier sales on one-bedroom units at First Tracks had been in the range of $215,000 to $235,000. Now, the two-bedroom units are priced at $299,000.

Recent sales at First Tracks include another one-bedroom condo that sold for $199,000 on Aug. 12, and one that sold for $213,000 in June.

First Tracks is an anomaly of sorts in the Steamboat market. The two-building project was built as a requirement of the city of Steamboat Springs to provide affordable housing to go with the luxury units next door at Trailhead Lodge, which is scheduled for a foreclosure sale Sept. 7.

Development management entity Resort Ventures West, which Shea works for, was absolved from the affordability restrictions in the wake of the real estate downturn after only a few buyers could qualify for the units and the entry-level market came back to meet prices at First Tracks.

Finish trim levels at First Tracks are modest, but the condo owners have access to amenities at Trailhead Lodge, including a people-mover gondola that delivers them to the ski base, and proximity to city parks and tennis facilities.

Although several owners at First Tracks are original affordable buyers, and some owners reserve the units for their sole use, most are in the nightly rental pool.

"I think the sales at First Tracks reflect a change in the psychology of buyers and (their perceptions) of what makes a fiscally responsible purchase," Shea said. "We have location and amenities and there are wonderful families who visit here two to three weekends in the summer. It's turned out to fit the residential master plan for the project, with lifestyle users."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email