In a buyer’s market, Vail homeowner Dean Macfarlan is buying |

In a buyer’s market, Vail homeowner Dean Macfarlan is buying

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Everyone knows it’s a buyer’s market for just about everything these days. Vail homeowner Dean Macfarlan is a buyer.

Macfarlan, of Dallas, is the managing partner of Macfarlan Capital Partners, a private equity company that’s been operating since the 1980s. Macfarlan recently launched Terramesa Resort Properties, and that company has been buying resorts.

“We’ve been looking for distressed properties,” Macfarlan said. “A lot of resort operators are looking to move on right now.”

So far, Terramesa has added resorts in Texas, New Hampshire and North Carolina to its portfolio. But Macfarlan said the company’s also looking in the west, in Arizona, Colorado and California.

When looking for attractive property, Macfarlan, thinks, at least in part, about the way Vail used to be. His family has owned the Bell Tower building in Vail since 1980, and the Macfarlans are frequent visitors to the valley.

But Vail today has only one of the two big things Terramesa is looking for ” one of which is a quick drive to a city.

“I think over the next three to five years, having resorts people can drive to will be a big deal,” Macfarlan said. “Rentals will be big, too.”

Macfarlan said Terramesa is looking for more than just skiing, golf or boating, although all the company’s resorts have at least one of those. But the resorts an also accommodate people interested in cycling or other “active lifestyle” pursuits.

What Vail doesn’t have any more is property aimed at the people Terramesa is seeking.

“We’re looking to build resorts at a price point people can get into,” Macfarlan said. In general, that means real estate priced at a point to appeal to working families that are doing well, generally between $400,000 and $4 million. The company’s slogan is “Our family, making memories for your family.”

But nobody’s buying anything now. Why does Macfarlan think he’ll succeed?

The secret, he said, is taking a long view. Macfarlan said his crystal ball doesn’t work any better than anyone else’s, but said he expects the national economy to be well and truly rolling again by 2012 or so.

“But most people go, ‘are you nuts?'” he acknowledged. “And we may be.”

But Macfarlan Capital Partners has always paddled against the flow.

“Our funds are always structured to take advantage of contrarian investments,” Macfarlan said. “We raised capital and bought Resolution Trust Corporation properties in the 1980s.”

The resort business these days is different than the market for property held by failed savings and loan banks, though, and Macfarlan has a different idea for them.

Terramesa’s business plan is aimed toward selling lots, then keeping control of the clubs.

It’s a big job, but “We like solving complex problems,” Macfarlan said. “And there are a lot of problems out there.”

Still, if job growth can recover in the next few quarters, Macfarlan believes that will drive people to invest in Terramesa’s resorts.

“Job losses could delay our projections,” he said. “But there’s a lot of opportunity for an investor right now. But you’ve got to have a trusted partner for it.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

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