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File Photo: For years, ski resorts have worked on diversifying their attractions to bring in more people by adding all kinds of non-ski amenities (AP)
File Photo: For years, ski resorts have worked on diversifying their attractions to bring in more people by adding all kinds of non-ski amenities (AP)
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Home sales surge in resort towns even as Covid looms large over ski season

People fleeing big cities amid the pandemic are swarming mountain towns in search of more space and the great outdoors

Rob Turner is a big skier. But it wasn’t skiing that pushed him to make an all-cash, $1.3 million offer on a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, penthouse condo with ski-run views in Park City, Utah, in August.

The impetus to buy this summer was the town’s quality of life—a welcome respite from his home in San Francisco, where the pandemic and recent wildfires have made it unpleasant to go outside. Mr. Turner isn’t the least bit worried that coronavirus-related restrictions will limit skiing in Park City this year.

“It’s a ski mountain, but it’s also a beautiful place," says Mr. Turner, 45, a wealth management adviser. “There are other things to do there."

For years, ski resorts have worked on diversifying their attractions to bring in more people by adding all kinds of non-ski amenities. The test is this coming season, when some might not even be able to open their skiing operations. The early results are looking good, as home sales and prices have soared despite the uncertainty.

“This was the busiest summer selling season ever," says Ben Fisher, a broker with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City. The high end there has been particularly strong, with sales of single-family homes over $2 million up 50% between March and August 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Park City MLS. One house sold for all cash and $350,000 over its $15 million list price just a few days after it went on the market.

In Colorado, Telluride saw the dollar volume of home sales increase 54% through the month of August compared with a year earlier, with $125 million in sales in August alone—a one-month record, according to George Harvey, broker and owner with The Harvey Team. Aspen recorded 65 single-family home sales through August this year, up from 50 for the same period in 2019, while the dollar value of the sales is up by 49%, according to Sotheby’s International Realty. Since March 1, 46 houses over $10 million have sold and 24 are under contract.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The high end is flying off the shelf," says David Viehman, a broker with Engel & Völkers in Jackson Hole, where the total number of sales over $3 million is up 55% over a year earlier and there have been 21 sales over $10 million compared with five sales in that bracket in 2019, a 320% increase.

Skiing was initially the reason Keith Seigerman started looking for a second home in Aspen three years ago, but the pandemic played a role in why he finally closed on a four-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot home on 3 acres, 7 miles from the center of town, for $2 million this summer. He likes that Aspen is hard to get to, with limited direct flights, and that it has a remote feel. He also appreciates how strictly the town has been enforcing social-distancing rules, a feat he feels is easier there because of the small size of the community. “It’s tucked away, quiet, peaceful and safe," says the 61-year-old contractor from Southampton, N.Y.

“Covid accelerated our decision," says Carter Westfall, who, with his wife, Kate West, bought a three-bedroom, 2,550-square-foot house in Wilson, Wyo., near the Jackson Hole ski area, for $1.75 million in August. The couple had been thinking about relocating from Oakland, Calif., ever since Mr. Westfall started a freeride snowboard competition tour with Travis Rice, a renowned Jackson professional snowboarder. But Mr. Westfall and Ms. West, a creative producer for The North Face, probably would have waited another year to buy if they hadn’t noticed that Covid-19 pandemic was increasing demand for houses there, pushing prices higher. At the same time, they worried people wanting to leave the Bay Area because of the city’s limits during the coronavirus crisis would lower the price they could get for their house in Oakland, which they have since sold. Mr. Westfall is aware there will be changes at the Jackson Hole ski resort this year, but says they are there for the long haul.

People fleeing cities in search of homes with more of a connection to the outdoors are driving much of the demand, real-estate agents say. What started as requests for long-term rentals in April accelerated into sales starting in June, says Kristen Barber, a broker with Stein Eriksen Realty in Park City.

This summer, Michelle and Roland Weedon bought a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot condo at the Pendry Residences, a residential community still under construction in Park City. The Weedons, who live in Huntington Beach, Calif., where he owns a mortgage company and she is a real-estate consultant, already own a 6,000-square-foot house in Park City that they built three years ago and which is valued at around $5 million. But they thought lots of people would want to get away to wide open spaces and bought the condo as an investment. They are also eager to use the condo’s on-site amenities, including the pool and bar, spa, fitness center, ski concierge and slope-side parking. “People are looking to get out," says Mr. Weedon.

After the pandemic hit, Claire Nathel second-guessed her decision to buy a 4,000-square-foot penthouse in Deer Valley, Utah, for around $3.5 million. She and her husband, Ira Nathel, had put down a deposit in January but started to falter in May. “We felt like it wasn’t the right time, with people losing jobs," says Ms. Nathel, 48, who owns a wholesale produce company in the Bronx. She also felt uncertain about how the pandemic would affect travel and skiing. But she went ahead with the purchase because the closed-in feeling she had in New York made her grateful for a space to go. She and her husband hope to spend a couple of months a year in Utah when their home is finished.

Gary Feldman, a broker with the Gary Feldman Group at Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s, says one difference he noticed this summer was that buyers didn’t care as much how close they were to the ski mountains. He sold his own three-bedroom, four-bathroom, glass-and-wood house along the Roaring Fork River near Snowmass for $4.8 million and is moving about 7 miles away to Basalt, where he says buyers are now “coming from everywhere."

Keith Orr, who bought Mr. Feldman’s house, also saw the pandemic as an opportunity: It made it easier to sell his 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom ski condo in the center of Aspen. Mr. Orr, 58, a car salesman from Dallas and Texarkana, said it took 10 days to sell the condo for $5.3 million—he paid $3.2 million for it seven years ago. He said there were dozens of showings scheduled for his condo after two days on the market. “I’ve never experienced such a thing," he says.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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