Saturday, January 12, 2008

High-country rentals featuring gourmet kitchens and "postcard views" give property owners and rich vacationers what they want

William Porter writes:

The long slog through the holiday season is upon us, and between the day job, gift shopping and party planning, you're probably thinking: A few days at a mountain house would be a swell break from the madness.

Lucky you. Aspen Red Mountain Estate, set in the nation's glitziest ski town, offers relief. Amenities? Seven bedrooms and baths, gourmet kitchen, Jacuzzi, theater system, fully equipped exercise room. All ensconced in a gorgeous 12,000-square-foot chalet.

The rental price for all this luxury? Eh, let's just say that if you want to spend a night there, Junior better start collecting pop bottles to pay for his freshman year of college. Holiday rates for the house are $20,000 a night, $200,000 for the month. Or you can opt for the cheaper off-season rate of $15,000 a night.

Welcome to the growing business of high-end, high-country rental properties, where sprawling houses owned by the gazillionaire next door are rented to other gazillionaires. Clients range from oil sheiks in Dubai to the Hollywood celebrity du jour.

While it's a year-round enterprise, the December holidays are the boom season.

The super-rich flock to Colorado in winter. And wherever they roost — Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, Telluride, Steamboat Springs — there are homeowners and real-estate brokers poised to make sure they don't wind up in a stable.

Heidi Houston is a major player in the business.

Houston is president of Houston & Gorog and Five Star Destinations, which deal in luxury vacation rentals in Aspen and Snowmass. "We rent homes from a low-end value of $3.5 million up to $40 million," she said. Yes, there's a correlation between a house's value and the rent it commands.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Britney Roils Cherry Creek

Susan Greene writes:

Far be it from Denver to kick a diva when she's down.

But rumbling that Britney Spears may be moving to Cherry Creek North has brought angst to would-be neighbors.

"Guys crawling over the tops of cars to get a picture of her never-ending train wreck? That wouldn't fly with the residents," says Ed Thomas, a former councilman who now edits the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle.

The Post's Bill Husted reports that Spears and her boyfriend have deposited $2 million for a house in the tony neighborhood. Her plans remain unclear since her police standoff last week managed to bump even the Iowa caucuses down in the headlines.

Meantime, Cherry Creekers are squawking as if someone had hung a "Highlands Ranch" sign on the street corner.

Their concerns center not only on the bad chi they say Spears would bring to the neighborhood. They're also freaked about the paparazzi they fear would block streets and ignore stop signs. You know, the same folks who pursued Princess Diana into that tunnel.

"That spectacle day after day would undermine the quiet undertones we enjoy here," says Gennifer Hobbs, who moved to Milwaukee Street to escape Manhattan.

Until the '50s, the area was mostly farmland bordered by the city dump where Cherry Creek Shopping Center now stands. When it started booming in the '90s, Thomas fielded calls from people who had scraped off bungalows to build postmodern condos, only to demand that lots next door be saved as open space.

Existing-home market held its own in '07

From the Denver Post:

Denver's existing-home market held up fairly well last year compared with 2006, and experts are predicting this year will be similar.

The number of home sales that closed last year was down less than 1 percent to 49,789 compared with 2006, according to data released Tuesday. The number of homes put under contract was down 0.1 percent to 61,663. Not all homes that are put under contract wind up closing, and, in many cases, deals fell through because buyers could not get financing or couldn't sell their existing homes.

Median prices for single-family homes dipped 1.96 percent to $245,000. Condos didn't fare as well, with prices dropping 4.46 percent to $150,000.

"With the condo market, I think it has a lot to do with home owners association dues," said Mike Cox, a broker with Re/Max Professionals Inc. "That's not a number that's figured into the purchase, but it affects the buyer when it comes to their monthly payment. When things get tougher, people go to a need-based mentality. They need the bathroom and the bedroom, but the swimming pool doesn't carry a whole lot of value."

The number of homes on the market in December was up 0.3 percent to 24,603, compared with the same month a year ago, but was down 9.3 percent from November.

Denver Condos

From the Rocky Mountain News:

The average price of a previously owned single-family home in the Denver area fell 2 percent last year, apparently the first time the area has seen a year- over-year decline.

The median price also suffered the first year-over-year decline.

The year-over-year price slump started with condos in 2006 and spread to single-family homes last year, as record foreclosures and tightening credit continued to squeeze the market.

"Yes, pricing is down on residential," said Gary Bauer, one of several people to complete a report on Tuesday based on Metrolist data. "But if you look at the tremendous numbers of foreclosures, the tightening credit and what is happening in other markets with really big problems, I'm very happy."

Denver Condos

Denver: The Denver office market continued to benefit from in-migration and new job growth, which helped to push vacancy rates below 15% market-wide. Downtown vacancies actually are close to single digits with almost 1 million square feet of speculative development under way.


Study: Commercial Real Estate More Than 10 Percent of Colorado's. "National Association of Industrial and Office Properties study: The commercial real estate industry was accountable for more than 10% of Colorado's state economy during 2006... Commercial real estate comprises 10.5% of the state's economy, totaling out to a value of $23.4 billion. The state's three major metropolitan areas -- Denver, the northern Front Range and Colorado Springs -- had nearly 85% of Colorado's existing commercial and multifamily properties, with metro Denver alone representing nearly 58% of existing income-producing square footage." (Commercial Property News, Jan. 8th)

Denver real estate developer indicted

From Denver Business Journal:

A Denver grand jury has handed down an indictment for felony theft against condo developer Erik Osborn. The indictment was released on Monday.

The developer is expected to surrender himself to be booked this week, according to Lynn Kimbrough, Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman.

Joe Morales, chief deputy district attorney in the office's economic crime unit, had no comment Monday about the indictment.

Osborn has been a developer for several years, and is best known as the builder of the 32-story, $140 million One Lincoln Park high-end condo tower under construction in downtown Denver.

In the wake of the indictment, Osborn has stepped down from day-to-day management of One Lincoln Park's development, but will remain an investor in the project, according to a statement by Ed Cerkovnik, president of Breckenridge Holding Co. and newly appointed director of One Lincoln Park. Breckenridge Holding owns the Breckenridge Brewery of metro Denver.

Beck Group cited by OSHA over Landmark floor collapse

From Dallas Business Journal:

The Beck Group has been cited with U.S. Department of Labor worker safety violations following an investigation into a July 5 partial collapse of a concrete floor on a luxury high-rise condominium that injured 13 employees in a suburb of Denver, Colo.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $48,500 in penalties against The Beck Group, a Dallas-based general contractor that also does business as Beck Residential, for nine alleged violations. The violations listed included improper construction of concrete formwork, not protecting employees from trip hazards, not putting rails around elevator and stairwell shafts, not establishing a crosswalk through or around a work zone, and improperly securing a ladder.

OSHA listed all of the citations as "serious" but did not list any of the Beck citations as "willful."

Home Sales Down In Denver

From Denver Business Journal:

Sales of single-family homes and condominiums in metro Denver dipped less than 1 percent in 2007 from the previous year, but median sales prices dropped more, according to data from Metrolist Inc. of Greenwood Village.

For all of 2007, 38,845 single-family homes sold, down 0.93 percent from 39,208 homes sold in '06, according to Metrolist research provided by Re/Max Professionals Inc. Median selling price for houses dipped 1.96 percent to $245,000 last year, from $249,900 in '06.

Metro-area condominium sales decreased 0.83 percent last year to 10,944 from 11,036 in 2006. Median selling prices for condos dropped 4.46 percent to $150,000 from $157,000.

The median selling price is the middle price, or the one between the highest and lowest. It's considered a more accurate price than an average, because it's not skewed by the lowest and highest selling prices.