Sales of expensive homes active in Vail | VailDaily.com

Sales of expensive homes active in Vail

VAIL — Even in a town full of big real estate deals, there are some that are eyebrow-raising. Several of those deals have closed in the past few months.

What may be the most expensive home sale in Vail's history closed earlier this month, when a buyer paid $23 million for a ski-in, ski-out home on Rockledge Road. Another record-setter — for its neighborhood — was a $17.5 million home sale on Forest Road, near Lionshead. Perhaps more remarkable was the fall sale of a home along the Vail golf course. That deal was for $14.69 million.

Those sales led the way in a very good final third of 2016 and the first two weeks of this year.

For that period, the county saw 38 home sales of $3 million or more. The total value, or dollar volume, of those sales was $227 million.

“There are enough special properties out there to keep the momentum going.”Jim FlaumSlifer Smith & Frampton managing broker

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For the final third of 2015 — plus the first two weeks of 2016 — there were almost as many sales — 34. But the dollar volume was $171 million.

'Upward trend'

What's driving these high-dollar sales?

Ron Byrne, founder of the real estate company that bears his name, has been in the high-dollar real estate business in Vail for a very long time. He called the recent sales a "very good upward trend."

As in all supply-and-demand markets, the main driver of the recent sales is scarcity.

"Land in that (slopeside) area is incredibly rare," Byrne said. "There are only a couple of vacant pieces of land, so people are usually buying a house and tearing it down."

When that happens, prices shoot up rapidly.

Byrne said it's not unusual for a buyer to pay $8 million or more for an existing home, then put another $15 million into either completely renovating or replacing the original structure.

But why now?

Byrne and others said there's a degree of certainty in the U.S. economy in the wake of the 2016 election.

"Once the election process finished, people said 'I'm going to live my life,'" Byrne said. He calls it, "return on enjoyment."

Tye Stockton, of LIV Sotheby's International Realty, has a Forest Road listing under contract right now, and over the years has sold a number of homes in the exclusive areas of Vail and Beaver Creek.

Stockton said in his experience, the people who buy expensive real estate at times act as a group.

"It's like they all get the same secret, coded message," he said.

There are other factors at work, of course.

Stockton said there are fewer high-dollar condos available in Vail these days, which helps fuel demand for single-family homes and duplexes.

What condos there are tend to move quickly. The buyer of the Rockledge Road home — who hasn't been named — put his condo on the market soon after that purchase. Stockton is the listing agent for that condo and said that property went under contract within two weeks for $6 million.

The people buying those homes share something besides wealth, Stockton said.

"They're viewing places like Vail, Aspen and Telluride as a safe haven, a flight to quality places," Stockton said.

One of Stockton's clients made his purchase decision in the wake of turmoil in some of the nation's biggest cities.

Places like Vail are where buyers can have a "worry-free experience," Stockton said.

Donna Caynoski, of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, was the broker of record on the Rockledge Road sale. Caynoski said big sales can also help create trends.

"Some people could have been prompted by the (Rockledge) sale," Caynoski said. "They're saying, 'maybe I'd better step forward.'"

Taking time to buy

Those decisions can take some time. The Rockledge home was on the market a full two years before it sold. But it was also fully renovated recently and was ready to move in.

Brokers say those "turn-key" properties are by far the most popular. Buyers don't really want to buy a place, then take a year or two before the renovation or reconstruction is finished.

That's one of the reasons Beaver Creek's high-end market is still somewhat behind Vail's market. Stockton said a number of the slopeside homes in Beaver Creek were built in the 1980s or 1990s and need extensive renovation to create a turn-key home for a buyer today.

'Opportunity'

But, Caynoski said, homes that need renovation can be a great opportunity. There are those opportunities in the Cascade Village area in Vail, as well as Beaver Creek, Arrowhead and Cordillera. For those homes, brokers working that end of the market already have the phone numbers of architects, designers and builders in their phones.

"Building costs are getting very expensive," Caynoski said. "That means there's opportunity … you can't rebuild something for what you can buy it for."

The Vail Valley sees only a relative handful of very expensive home sales every year. But Jim Flaum, managing partner of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, said he expects a number of expensive homes to come on the market every year.

"There are enough special properties out there to keep the momentum going," Flaum said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

By the (large) numbers

There have been a number of very big real estate sales in Vail recently. Here are the top four:

• 107 Rockledge Road: $23 million.

• 756 Forest Road: $17.5 million

• 1183 Cabin Circle: $14.69 million.

• 182 West Meadow Drive: $13.5 million.