With the tease of early spring in the warm air, four of Park City’s prominent and knowledgeable realtors gathered for Western Home Journal’s semi-annual real estate round table in the cheerful pastel great room of an updated Old Town home listed by Brigid Flint and Michelle Eastman at 124 Daly Avenue.
Participants Brigid Flint, Matthew Magnotta, Steve Chin, and Michelle Eastman joined Western Home Journal’s Thatcher Marsted and moderator Ann Zimmerman around the table while Tim Brown photographed the session. The participants began by saying the year when they first skied in Park City and introducing themselves.
Brigid Flint: I first skied here in 2000, and I moved to Park City in 2003. I had been working summers as a river and mountain bike guide throughout Utah and Colorado, and I fell in love with Park City’s summers. Contrary to what a lot of other people say, I actually came for the summers and stayed for the winters. I find real estate similar in many ways to guiding, as essentially I am guiding people through a home purchase. My first focus area was Old Town, where I continue to have listings, and I have been working with Michelle Eastman since 2009. We are affiliated with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty.
Matt Magnotta: I skied here in 2010 after moving from North Lake Tahoe, where I had worked for ten years in luxury golf and ski community real estate and management. I relocated to Park City with my family to be the sales and marketing manager for the Waldorf Astoria Park City at the Canyons with Talisker Realty. The wonderful people here and active Park City lifestyle cemented my love for the area. I am now with Summit Sotheby’s.
Steve Chin: I came to Park City to ski in 1972. I was working as a CPA for Kenneth Leventhal & Co., a national accounting firm with the Park City Ski Resort as a client. I found the tax season interfered with skiing, and I took a tax season off in 1975, moved to Park City, and never returned. I am with Chin, MacQuoid, Fleming, Harris Luxury Resort Real Estate, affiliated with Prudential Real Estate, which is also the listing agent for the Stein Eriksen Residences.
Michelle Eastman: Attracted by the beautiful summers, mountain biking, and fly-fishing, I came to Park City from Dallas in 1999, where I had worked as a registered nurse. I skied for the first time in Utah in 1997 at Snowbird Resort. Brigid and I have been working together since 2009, and we are with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty.
Ann Zimmerman: Let’s start with this question. How would you characterize today’s greater Park City real estate market?
Magnotta: It is a very healthy and, I would even say, happy market. Both buyers and sellers are enjoying great values in all segments of Park City’s very diverse market. Of course, inventory is very thin in some areas, but that is healthy for everyone except maybe those who are still waiting to buy.
Chin: There has been a gradual increase in the market. While inventory has been low, there is new construction and new development underway. The challenge to new inventory is the funding requirement in the capital markets.
Eastman: Within certain specifications, the inventory is low. I would say for luxury, high-end homes priced over two million dollars there is good inventory. For those looking for a primary residence priced below one million dollars, inventory is very low. Deer Valley and Main Street are appreciating.
Flint: In the last few years, developments on the outskirts of Park City have been quiet, but we are now seeing more activity in areas like High Star Ranch in Kamas, for example. As Park City prices increase, there is movement again in the market outside of Park City limits. Lot sales are improving, as well.
Eastman: Many empty nesters are looking for single-level homes with three-car garages, and for them, there is no product. I don’t think the developers have anticipated this demand. They want storage for their active lifestyles, and they cannot find three-car garages.
Zimmerman: To follow up on your comments, is it safe to say the concerns about lack of inventory expressed by last fall’s real estate round table are somewhat abated?
Magnotta: I agree that the number of listings seems tight, but I don’t think that is the real problem. Almost every area in our MLS has at least a few great homes. The challenge in my mind is still the price versus value relationship. It has been a while since we have seen significant movement in real estate values, and some buyers still don’t see the prices going up. I think our challenge is momentum. We are on our way up, and we just need time and a couple of sellers making a profit to heal the wounds.
Chin: If you take a macro view, the growth of the stock market and the magnitude of bonuses for executives have resulted in more concentrated wealth at the upper end. We are seeing more activity from these buyers, and they want something that is newer and more mountain contemporary in style. That’s the product that is in current demand.
Magnotta: Yes, relevant designs in the right location will always sell. I don’t anticipate less demand anytime soon, so someone who finds what they want should buy now. Why wait?
Zimmerman: What are the differences in the demographics of buyers?
Magnotta: Many buyers 65 and older are wary; they still have mental scars from the recession. Concern about the market falling again and the caution it generates can become a huge barrier.
Eastman: There is definitely a demographic change with the number of people between 40 and 50 with kids at home and an active lifestyle entering the market. At least one is still a wage earner, and Park City is a good place to raise a family and to commute for work.
Magnotta: I think the younger buyers are attracted to Park City because there is so much recreational diversity here versus other resort towns—not just skiing. Plus, it is closer to California. Los Angeles and San Francisco both have a healthy base of the young and wealthy.
Eastman: A high number of new arrivals are choosing Park City over Aspen because they can live here with more anonymity in a more laid-back environment.
Flint: The quality of schools here is a draw for families; they are the best in the state. There is also a strong year-round community. Many families who buy a second home eventually opt to live in it as their primary residence.
Chin: Do you think this shift to primary residences can be attributed to the advance of technology?
Zimmerman: The seven ski resorts in Summit County and Salt Lake County just announced Wasatch One, a shared intent to link the resorts in a manner similar to those in the Alps via private land. If that does become realized, what would be the impact to the Park City market?
Magnotta: I think it will happen in a shorter time frame than people think. The concept makes sense on many levels if you can minimize impact to the environment. I project that Wasatch One will grow demand on the Park City market because Park City offers benefits to the whole family. There is convenience, shopping, activities for all generations…why wouldn’t someone seek out Park City to live with easy ski access to the Cottonwood Canyons?
Chin: This concept has been under discussion for 20 plus years. While I would like to think it would happen quickly, there are many implications that remain to be discussed and to be resolved, especially environmental and financial. It is a phenomenon that is a game changer. I am still struggling to recognize all that is involved in reaching agreement given the distinctions between the seven resorts and what the ramifications will be. It’s exciting.
Magnotta: Park City has not been marketed as an international destination; One Wasatch will change that.
Chin: The funding for promoting Utah as a ski destination nationally and internationally has been historically very low in comparison to other areas like Colorado. I would like to see more promotion.
Zimmerman: Is there a shift in attraction to the three Park City ski areas? Has the Vail operation of the Canyons made a difference?
Eastman: There are definitely more people skiing the Canyons. Vail’s Epic Season Pass has brought in a number of people from the other resort areas that Vail serves.
Flint: The Canyons has great momentum. The number of user days has increased significantly the past few years and they are putting in the infrastructure to handle the crowds.
Magnotta: Adding Vail Resorts and the Epic Pass have had a big impact. Already, it has had an effect on the offerings of the other operators, including Deer Valley and Park City. They stepped up in the first year to remain competitive, and season pass holders have already seen benefits.
Zimmerman: We’ve spoken about the market segments a bit, but could you expand upon the difference in demand for segments like luxury single family with or without ski access, condominiums, and the luxury hotel condominiums?
Eastman: Larger homes, say 10,000-square-feet or greater, are sitting on the market longer even with ski access, while there is strong demand for a high-quality 4,000 to 6,000 square-foot home with or without ski access. I believe the issue is the effort to maintain a 10,000-square-foot home.
Thatcher Marsted: Is there also an element of environmental consciousness because of the resource demand of a larger home?
Eastman: Yes, that plays a role, as well, especially with younger clients.
Magnotta: Today’s buyers are extremely active, and they are outside playing all day and not hunkering down inside. Larger homes have less appeal. The outdoors activities are what draw them here.
Flint: Good outdoor living space has strong appeal. Because Park City has such comfortable temperatures almost year round, homes that incorporate this expand their livable area.
Marsted: Park City has beautiful evenings with no bugs.
Chin: Summers are incredible, and now firepits, heaters, and great designs for sheltered spaces combine to extend the season when the outdoors may be enjoyed.
Zimmerman: Two new Park City developments are opening: the Stein Eriksen Residences and the Enclave. What are the reactions from buyers? To whom are they appealing?
Magnotta: The design elements of the Stein Eriksen Residences are what people are looking for, and they appeal to all ages. Both sites are extraordinary, and the designs are relevant with the contemporary look and great indoor/outdoor space.
Eastman: The Stein Eriksen Residences have ski-in/ski-out and excellent access to the public trail system. That’s a big plus. The Enclave offers a different, but equally appealing location because it is set in the trees. The Enclave has access to excellent private trails.
Magnotta: Plus, easy trail access attracts all buyers.
Chin: The cleaner lines of mountain contemporary touches like the mitered-corner glass of the Stein residences truly appeal to people.
Eastman: Organic modern: that’s what I call it with the use of natural materials.
Chin: I like that, Michelle—very descriptive.
Zimmerman: And the Enclave?
Magnotta: They are selling well. It’s not ski-in/ski-out, but still it is in a great central location with great views and trail access.
Zimmerman: What is the probability of new residential development?
Eastman: New mixed use is a possibility at Quinn’s Junction and Silver Creek, near Promontory. There are current discussions.
Zimmerman: Where can young buyers with less than a million dollars to spend find a good property?
Eastman: Pinebrook, Jeremy Ranch, or Snyderville.
Magnotta: And, anywhere if the buyer is willing to remodel.
Zimmerman: You are saying the market is good for those willing to remodel?
Magnotta: Yes, I see remodels and teardowns as a major part of our future. With our limited land around the three resorts, we will see buyers doing some really cool stuff with what is currently available.
Zimmerman: How about condominiums?
Flint: The condo hotel market hasn’t recovered as quickly other sectors such as single-family homes. I believe the difficulty and additional expense of financing these properties is largely responsible. The other portion of the condominium market is pretty good.
Chin: We are seeing buyers appreciating the branded condo hotel market.
Magnotta: I think the branded condo hotel market will improve with more international buyers because these buyers have confidence in branded products.
Chin: Certainly as there is less product on the market, all the segments will improve. New developments are up against the Dodd-Frank requirements for capital marketing, and financing new development continues to be difficult.
Magnotta: That can be healthy, as only the best developers with the most relevant products will get financing.
Eastman: Condos sell to second homebuyers, and many go into the rental management pool.
Magnotta: For many, condos are a transitional property. People who commit to Park City eventually move into a bigger home.
Eastman: I would like to ask you about the appeal of golf to buyers. It seems to me that golf amenities are less attractive now than they once were, especially to the younger buyers.
Magnotta: I would agree, since golf takes time, and this is an issue for the non-retiree with young children. However, even retirees are interested in more activities than just golf, such as the arts, yoga, water sports, etc.
Eastman: I would say that it is definitely true. Buyers are looking for more diverse activities than in the past.
Flint: Yes, even in the golf communities there is a lot of interest in on-mountain activities. They enjoy hiking and biking the Park City trails.
Magnotta: That is another major appeal of Park City. The trails here are more usable than many other resort towns with fewer steep grades. Sure, some are very challenging, but there is a choice for difficult or easy.
Chin: Didn’t Park City’s trails recently receive a high national ranking?
Flint: Yes, The International Mountain Biking Association rated Park City the first-ever gold-level ride center based on a number of criteria, including diversity and number of miles of trails.
Eastman: Park City’s appeal lies in the year-round recreation like fly-fishing, and hiking and mountain biking the trails in addition to winter sports.
Chin: I would be interested in your top five reasons for why people come to Park City and buy property. I will start by mentioning the proximity to a major airport. What are your thoughts?
Flint: The champagne powder. It is the best snow on earth, and I have skied all around the world.
Eastman: The clean air. People with respiratory ailments worsened by the air in the Salt Lake Valley are starting to move up here.
Magnotta: I think there is an appealing, grounded, real quality about Park City because it organically grew out of a history of mining and industry and wasn’t contrived by developers, like some other resort areas. This feeling and the real architectural elements draw in artists. I am so pleased the history has been retained.
Eastman: This is a rich cultural area. Somewhere, every night there is live music, and the Sundance Film Festival offers a wonderful experience. Also, there is a non-pretentious culture where you can be who you want to be and be anonymous. It’s friendly here.
Flint: We are drawing from other ski towns like Vail and Aspen because of value—we cost less than there—and because of accessibility.
Magnotta: With the arts, culture, and trails, we are becoming more appealing to the next generation. They demand much more than just skiing and golf.
Chin: Considering all resort towns, few have as great a base of primary residences, excellent schools, and, as I mentioned previously, a strong arts emphasis. Of course, number one is Park City’s proximity to a to a major airport—within a 35 minute drive.
Flint: The athletic programs and Olympic training also set us apart. The Olympics are a real possibility for children growing up here.
Eastman: It’s a healthy, healthy lifestyle.
Zimmerman: What’s the outlook for the future?
Chin: I expect more scarcity and higher costs. Timing is to buy sooner than later. Construction costs are much higher than before the downturn: building material costs are up, and even the price of building permits is up. The labor force is limited, and looking at the past 14 to 18 months of hard costs, sticks, stone, and labor have seen increases from 21–41 percent. There is scarcity in available property, the cost of money will be going up, and we will see a market correction. The good news is that compared to other resorts, we have great markets for labor because of Park City’s proximity to more affordable areas like Heber City, Kamas, and Salt Lake.
Magnotta: The outlying areas remain reasonable for development, and they are still convenient. I think they will be very successful in the long term.
Eastman: This area is appealing to Salt Lake and Utah Valley buyers. More will move up from the valleys, and that will benefit the outlying areas.
Magnotta: Remodels and ski-in/ski-out will hold appeal.
Eastman: Old Town will be a blowout. Living on Main will be the next big thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if prices reach and exceed $1,200 per square foot.
Magnotta: The new Kimball Arts Center will upgrade the experience of living on Main Street. Our Main Street is a unique and special experience unmatched in ski country.
Eastman: With the arrival of the planned higher-end retail and the mall renovation completion next spring, there will be a change of character.
Chin: Yes, and the Deer Valley chairlift planned for Main Street will be a major plus. Again, more change downtown. Matt, what are you seeing at the Canyons?
Magnotta: The golf course is opening this year, as well as the new Cloud Nine restaurant. I think by the next real estate round table, we’ll already be looking back at the changes and improvements to Main Street and Canyons. It is happening that fast.