Four of the area’s top realtors gathered in Deer Crest for Western Home Journal’s first Park City Real Estate Roundtable. They discussed a market of neighborhood variations, sparse available lots, an increasingly vibrant Old Town, and they say, buy—Park City is a great place to live and more and more people are discovering it!
By Ann Zimmerman / Photos Scot Zimmerman Photography
For Western Home Journal’s first Park City Real Estate Roundtable, we were seeking a bird’s-eye view of conditions, and the Resorts West Ski Dream Home in Deer Crest was a perfect place to enjoy all the views. Perched on the top of a hill in a luxurious setting of curving woodwork, spacious rooms, and unmatched views, we took the opportunity to enjoy a catered lunch and four of Park City’s most knowledgeable realtors shared their insights as they engaged in a lively conversation of where the market stands now and the directions it may be heading.
Tom Peek, Associate Broker at Prudential Utah Real Estate, Mark Sletten, Branch Broker & Senior Partner at Prudential Utah Real Estate, Shane Herbert, Realtor at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, and Jeff Spencer, Principal Broker at Resorts West Real Estate and President of the Park City Board of REALTORS (our host) gathered around the round table and signaled they were ready to talk to Western Home Journal’s Dan Willett, Thatcher Marsted, and Ann Zimmerman about the state of local real estate. Our questions centered on Park City rather than the greater Wasatch Back; we saved that discussion for a later time. Since all the parties were acquainted, we waived extended introductions and dove into a lively discussion.
AZ: Where is the Park City Market now, and what are the conditions as far as demand and inventory?
Tom Peek: Park City is comprised of sector markets: Old Town, condominiums, and luxury homes. It’s a very diverse market and conditions vary by sector.
Mark Sletten: The sectors, or micro markets, may differ from the overall statistics; for example condos are up across Park City and condos in lower Deer Valley are down. You have to be very careful of the micro markets when interpreting statistics.
Shane Herbert: Yes, even the ski-in/ski-out market segments are different. Deer Crest has been up over sales at the Colony to date this year, and buyers should understand these variations.
Jeff Spencer: The available inventory from 2008 is down by forty-seven percent. Since January of this year, we have been very busy, but there is diversity. We have been highly successful with executive homes and Old Town. We are also seeing a diversity of clients; there are more families moving in.
AZ: Is there anything holding back the market??
Peek: Some areas are critically low in available product, and we are seeing multiple offers and competition among buyers. The inventory is so low that it is slowing the overall market, but again there is variation by geography and price.
Sletten: Scarcity is so low that presales are even back in vogue, like the presales by the Jordanelle.
Herbert: There are reservations for projects to be built like the Enclave at Sun Canyon and those at the Jordanelle, but the new built product doesn’t exist.
Sletten: I agree, there are lots at the Enclave and Jordanelle for example, but if someone is looking for something brand new with easy access, there is not much available. Many people looking for a home are still working full-time, and they don’t want an older, dated home, and they want easy access.
There is a tough line: there is little demand for older dated homes, and few people really want to upgrade before they move in. People are stepping into the market with a lot of cash and the demand is for something that’s new or already upgraded.
Peek: The barriers are a lack of inventory, and we are lacking new construction.
Herbert: The new homes are custom-built rather than built on developer spec, so they are already committed to a buyer. There is a need for new spec construction.
Sletten: Yes, for example, I understand there are five to-be-built homes at the Colony, but three of those are already sold.
Herbert: Many homes on the market need a substantial amount of updating. They were built in the 1990’s in desirable areas like Park Meadows, but that isn’t what people are looking for. They want turnkey, ready to move in.
Peek: That’s right. There is limited availability: on one end of the spectrum, new construction can be a three-year proposition, and on the other end, 20–30-year-old properties in great locations may need extensive remodeling. There is very little in-between.
Herbert: Yes, and with new construction that isn’t the instant gratification that buyers want, and construction costs remained fairly high despite the downturn.
Spencer: There is currently a very strong demand for homes under $600,000 and very little inventory from which to choose. A home in this range comes on the market and can be under contract within days.
AZ: You have touched on this, but what is the availability for lots?
Sletten: For Triple A lots in terms of location, you are looking at teardown or remodeling as the better alternative.
Herbert: Any vacant land in Old Town and Park Meadows has largely been sold. There are cash offers for prime building lots in town as soon as they come on the market.
Sletten: The price for well-located building lots is up thirty percent, but now there is virtually no inventory.
Spencer: I find that people want the good stuff; it has got to have a view.
Peek: At this point, it’s more infill lots. As you know, open space and the Mountain Trails Foundation is my thing, and Park City continues to buy open space. The other side of this coin, however, is land committed to open space reduces the number of lots available for sale.
Herbert: The number of new developments is limited.
Sletten: There is a significant amount of open space in the Deer Valley Master Plan, and open space, as desirable as it is, limits future development.
Herbert: Possibly some new lots will open up north of Silver Lake and on the Huntsman Deer Valley property, but that is years out and approvals will need to be obtained.
Peek: The Silver Lake area will benefit from the Deer Valley Gondola that is being discussed; it would run from upper Deer Valley to Main Street.
Sletten: The new Deer Valley gondola and Ski Link tying into the Canyons will certainly change things and make for a richer Park City experience similar to that of areas in the Alps.
AZ: If the Ski Link is approved, what do you see as the ramifications to real estate?
Herbert: It certainly changes the dynamics of who is the first person up on the mountain for first tracks!
Sletten: The upper portions of the Colony in particular will gain the most; it will be very easy access.
Spencer: It enriches the ski experience to be able to ski the Cottonwood resorts from Park City.
Peek: The Ski Link will be an exciting addition, but it is not that necessary. We already have accessibility to a great deal of terrain. I think overall transportation accessibility is key to why people are attracted to Park City. The airport is close, and it is easy and fast to get here.
TM: Yes, let’s talk about the ease of transportation and how it plays into the real estate market?
Herbert: You can fly in and be home to ski before lunchtime…
Spencer: Where else has as easy access as we do here?
Sletten: The two airports—one private in Heber City and the other the SLC International Airport—make it very easy.
Herbert: The accessibility makes Park City a competitive location for any Rocky Mountain buyer, or really globally.
Spencer: With time on a plane plus twenty-five minutes to drive to your home, there is still a lot of time to enjoy yourself for a weekend trip.
Peek: For clients considering some of the Colorado resort areas, they are discouraged because there are many instances when planes can’t land. We don’t have that problem here.
Herbert: Poor transportation is definitely a barrier for people in other markets. I often find that one person in the couple is attracted to a home in Park City because of easy accessibility, and the other is drawn to value—more house for the money.
AZ: Who are the buyers? Are you seeing repeat buyers?
Sletten: Certainly there are repeat buyers, like someone who buys a condo and finds they are spending more and more time here. It’s a cliché that people come for skiing and end up staying for our beautiful summers, but very true.
Herbert: I am seeing families locating here where one person has a full-time job elsewhere and commutes back on the weekend. Couples recognize it is a great community for raising kids and make adjustments.
Spencer: Another factor are the number of new businesses moving to Utah. People are moving their businesses here and buying homes.
Peek: I am also seeing people locating here from out of the country, and especially from Mexico, South America, Asia, and Australia. Park City is becoming more of a world destination.
Herbert: I would add clients from Southeast Asia to this list. The international buyers who are buying in Park City are looking at the top end of the market and they want custom home amenities, but they don’t want to wait for construction. Again, we are short on that kind of new construction.
Peek: These buyers, too, have the ability once they find a luxury product, to move on it right away.
Privacy is also a consideration for a certain number of the new buyers, and a gated community such as the Colony appeals to them.
Spencer: We have our share of elite clients and celebrities, and many choose the gated communities. They like Park City because they don’t get hounded and can travel under the radar.
DW: Was there a spin-off effect on the market from hosting the 2002 Olympics?
Spencer: The Olympics were a stamp of approval, like a big billboard that put us on the map for many who didn’t know Park City existed. We expected more interest in the market, but it didn’t happen initially.
Peek: Yes, we saw the bounce, but about two years afterward. There was concern on the part of buyers that we were overexposed, and hence, overpriced.
Herbert: This community benefitted from the 2002 Olympics’ infrastructure such as the Olympic Park ski jump and bobsled course, and the improvements to the I-15 freeway between here and the airport. The infrastructure upgrades have been very beneficial.
AZ: What is happening with Old Town Park City? I heard a home just sold there for over $1,000 per square-foot?
Peek: Yes, I am very familiar with that sale. We also recently closed on another one in that same range.
Herbert: Old Town is becoming urban hip, and there are big plans for rehabilitation and revitalization. There will be a substantial addition of new urban residential.
Sletten: For Old Town, the market “franchise value” is like no other area in Park City.
Herbert: Old Town has great products. Park City has small homes and condos and large homes, but very few in-between. The Old Town homes represent that in-between size. It’s the quality of lifestyle many are looking for; one can walk to the lifts, shopping, or transit.
Peek: Part of the charm of Old Town is the National Historic District designation. There are restrictions associated with remodels and redevelopment, and this, in turn, makes the great properties scarce and hence more valuable. Knowing how to build in Old Town is a challenge, but the results are very unique and charming.
Herbert: People are attracted to its charm. I think Old Town will be one of the best market segments in the next five years. For transplants with young kids, it is a “white picket fence” neighborhood that supports an outdoor lifestyle.
Sletten: People are definitely attracted to its walkability and the interesting variations between homes.
AZ: Is it a friendly community for newcomers?
Peek: People used to just come here to ski, and now there are so many things to do and organizations that support these activities—like the Mountain Trails Foundation, which I’m involved with. Non-profits are the backbone of the community, and they are eager to be a launching place to involve the skills and energies of new full-time and part-time residents. If there is a willingness to get involved, people will have immediate friends with the same interests.
Spencer: It is very friendly. People who love it here support the non-profits, and engaging in a non-profit is a great way to meet very fine people.
Herbert: Definitely. It is an inclusive community and easy to make friends.
AZ: What is your best advice for a buyer looking at the Park City market today?
Peek: Once again we are at the beginning of a sellers’ market. Buy now! The market is racing ahead of the buyer, and buyers are having trouble keeping up.
Herbert: My advice is that with our width and depth of product, everyone can find what they want.
Sletten: We are spoiled here; everything is five minutes away. People will be surprised at how convenient our lifestyle is.
Spencer: We have homes right on the mountain with ski-in/ski-out access and expansive views. Homes like these are rare in other areas. There aren’t many places one can step from the ski room door on and off the ski slope. Buyers may also lease a slope-side luxury home and get the experience firsthand before they buy.
Herbert: The snowmaking here is superb. We had a low-snow year last year, yet no one complained and the skiing was consistently great. It’s a great place.