A Buyer's Market: Where The Deals Are

Mountain Life

Park City/Deer Valley, Utah
A building boom launched by eternal optimists¿after all, how could an Olympics fail to ignite the real-estate market?¿has finally hit the wall, except for the high-end properties with ski-in, ski-out access. "Sellers have become a lot more realistic," says Dena Fleming, associate broker for Prudential Coleman Real Estate in Park City. "You can pick up a two- or three-bedroom home in Park City¿outside of Old Town¿for around $300,000, and an older condominium, a beater, for about $175,000. Sellers may come down 5 or 10 percent, maybe more, especially if they've had margin calls on their stocks and are motivated to sell." (Information: 800-553-4666.)

The Canyons, Utah
Close to but separate from Park City, The Canyons affords one of the best remaining opportunities for new real estate within walking distance of chair lifts. American Skiing Company is sitting on a pot-full of quarter-shares (close to 250 at the beginning of January) at its Grand Summit Resort Hotel. As incentives, the company was offering spiffs such as gift cards for ski passes and waivers of the 2 percent transfer tax, according to Jenny Ochtera, vice president of sales and marketing. Prices run from $60,000-plus for studios to $500,000-plus for three-bedroom penthouses, for 13 weeks a year. (Information: 888-649-9901.)

Squaw Valley, Calif.
Intrawest, developer of the new Village at Squaw Valley, didn't exactly have a blow-out when it opened its Phase II (22 Station) for pre-sales last May. About one-third of the condominium units (50) were put back on the market on Dec. 10. Most are one- and two-bedroom units (again, the smaller and therefore less popular floor plans) and prices start in the mid- to high $300,000 range. Some speculators are betting that values will escalate once the Village is fully open; in fact, a top-level, three-bedroom unit in Phase I (First Ascent) that originally sold for just under $1 million 18 months ago was back on the market for nearly $2 million as this edition went to press. (Information: 530-584-5730 for the Village, 530-583-1529 for Lawrence Realty.)

South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
"Price points have dropped about 20 percent since 2000, but that was after an unprecedented run-up of 50 percent appreciation in a two-year period," says realtor Deb Howard, who operates her own brokerage. People looking for quality 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot homes, with a great room and a garage, can figure on paying $250,000 to $400,000, she says. Some of the best values right now, she adds, are in Tahoe Keys, an older subdivision where most houses have private docks on a series of manmade waterways that connect to the Lake. (Information: Deb Howard & Company, 530-542-2912.)

Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Billing itself as one of the most tax-friendly states in the U.S. (maybe that's one reason Vice President Dick Cheney has a home there), Wyoming is a hot spot of new projects, both in Jackson Hole and in Teton Village. Bob Graham, owner of Real Estate of Jackson Hole, says listings number "in the hundreds," many of them raw lots. The once-heated market of 8 percent to 14 percent annual appreciation has "slowed down, and there is a window of opportunity," he says. Some prices have dropped 5 to 12 percent. And at Love Ridge, a new luxury condo project within blocks of downtown Jackson (the first such project in years), fully-furnished three-bedroom floor plans, with lock-off units, are being offered for $700,000¿a relative bargain when compared to many other resort areas. (Information: 888-733-6060.)

Big Sky, Mont.
Often called the last frontier of ski resort real estate, Big Sky has an ambitious master plan, and developers are rapidly moving in from California, Utah and Colorado. From Bozeman to Big Sky, new housing and condominium developments tend to reflect more contemmporary views in terms of amenity packages, styling and space allocation. "Developers have learned their lessons from other areas, and buyers are going to get more quality and value here," says Chris Coyle of Prudential Big Sky/Bozeman Real Estate. You can buy a modest, two-bedroom, two-bath condo at Cedar Creek for around $175,000 or a new, upscale cabin at Moonlight Basin Ranch in the $600,000 range, he says. (Information: 406-995-4060.)