Tim Merrick’s Spring 2014 Newsletter

March Madness is upon us and as I write Virginia is going to Madison Square Garden to the SWEET 16. Congratulations to a great coach and a great team. Keep your fingers crossed. UVA could win it all.

We are again skiing into the first week of April. Even though there was an outstanding ski season this year, sales in the first quarter of 2014 were fair but far short of outstanding. There were only 12 houses sold on the mountain with prices ranging from $215,000 for a 1500 sq.ft. house to a large 5000 plus sq.ft. house on Devils Knob Loop for $1,300,000. A large spread. Condo sales on the mountain totaled 16 for the first quarter with prices ranging from $65,000 for an efficiency condo in Timbers to $399,000 for a large 4 bedroom condo in High Ridge Place. Currently, there are over 100 condos listed and prices are still adjusting. For the first three months, there were 11 lot sales on the mountain ranging from $94,000 for a golf front lot on the Devils Knob course to $29,500 for an interior lot in Laurel Springs. Stoney Creek has 3 home sales pending from $229,000 to almost $700,000. 5 lots have sold this year in Stoney Creek ranging from a bargain $35,000 to $90,000 and a couple more are pending. There are almost 100 houses on the market on the mountain and many of the older homes are overpriced. Until these prices adjust to the realities of the market, these listing will continue to stagnate and clog the market with overpriced inventory, and thus negatively affect liquidity. Buyers are looking for real value and have plenty of selection. Homes and condos which are effectively priced and in great shape are getting shown and are getting offers. It is our job as Realtors to teach our clients how to sell their homes, not just throw a listing into MLS or on web search engines in hopes someone buys it.

Any Realtor  can put a house ON the market; but the most effective Realtors put a listing IN the market. My job is to make a listing one of the top five a buyer wants to see. There are OPPORTUNITY HOMES AND CONDOS, where they are priced at market or below and move in ready and the home inspection has been done by the seller and inspection deficiencies corrected; DEAL HOMES AND CONDOS, maybe these need some fixing up or have been on the market a long time and are now priced below market; and then there is EVERYTHING ELSE, which statistically is about 50% of the market. They are ON the market but not IN the market. The difference is effective pricing. There are three ways to develop price: 1. Compare a subject property to a home which has sold and use that selling cost per square foot as measure of where the property should be valued. 2. A CMA (comparative market analysis) where a subject property is compared to what else is for sale in a neighborhood. 3. The absorption rate which gives the seller the odds of selling the house. The absorption rate is based on demographics and economic factors.  We have a duty to inform our buyers on how to purchase a home or condo and to that end I am doing some new things. Among new ideas, I am finishing a new manual on HOW TO BUY and SELL AT WINTERGREEN AND SURROUNDING AREAS to send to prospects and owners. I hope it will stimulate buyers as we go into the spring market. The other big question in a recovering market is: “Where are the buyers?”  I have started advertising a list of buyers who are looking for specific properties in hopes the Internet and other brokers will take  notice. Most real estate companies advertise their listings in an effort to stimulate the market. Why not advertise their buyers?  Our real estate team at Wintergreen Real Estate has the buyers and we are going to start advertising that fact. Historically, we have sold more real estate than all the other companies working in the area combined. ($1,400,000,000 over the years) and our agents have over 250 years of combined experience and all our folks work full time. We get results for our sellers.

 The other big question in the market is what the Justice Group plans to do with the resort. Everyone is aware that his company quietly listed it with the national and international commercial real group, Jones Lang LaSalle www.jll.com. It came as a complete surprise to the area real estate companies and the resort management. At this point no one knows who is going to buy Wintergreen or what is going to happen or when. Whoever will buy it, will buy all of it and then, make continued substantial investments to improve the facilities and amenities and that will boost resort income and property sales. It is easy to understand the appeal not only to the Jim Justice Company but also to a future owner. It would be almost impossible today to put together a 13,000 acre planned community surrounded on three sides by the George Washington National Forest and within three hours’ drive from three high demographic, almost recession proof major metropolitan markets. The land acquisition, the governmental approvals, the capital investment, environmental challenges, etc. would make it almost prohibitive to create another Wintergreen but yet; this has been accomplished by all of us who have been here since the beginning. The facilities and amenities at Wintergreen are complete. It is a highly respected, environmentally sensitive developed 40 year old community. It has thousands of supportive owners who have both primary and secondary homes here. It has a great ski facility and a multi-faceted resort operation.  It is now producing profits from operations both last year and this year. The Justice investments in snow making have created some of the best ski conditions in history. The Justice Companies have said they will continue to support Wintergreen both financially and corporately while they look for a suitable buyer who will be a good steward for our philosophies and goals as a community. The major capital investments already begun will continue whether by Justice or the new owners.  I am optimistic about the future. Wintergreen will only get better. Finally, in regard to real estate sales, I do not think the current uncertainty of the resort has adversely affect sales, because our buyers continue to see value and opportunity at Wintergreen, regardless of who owns it. In addition, there is much happening in Northern Nelson County and along Route 151 and Charlottesville and Wintergreen is a big part of it. It will only get better.

 Finally, a little recipe someone sent me and it is excellent for those quick dinners or subs during the March Madness Basketball play-offs. Enjoy. It is really quite good and easy to create.

Mama’s Authentic Italian Meatballs

Gather up your family for a hearty meal with authentic Italian meatballs. You can serve them immediately with a traditional Italian Salad featuring iceberg wedges and a creamy sauce, or save them for pasta, sandwiches and snacks. Delicious and great for a feast with the whole famiglia!  
 
Makes about 35 meatballs.
*    3/4 pound ground pork
*    3/4 pound ground veal
*    3/4 pound ground beef
*    1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
*    3/4 cup dry Italian-style breadcrumbs
*    4 large eggs
*    1/4 cup chopped garlic
*    2 teaspoons salt
In a large bowl combine ground meat, Romano cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, garlic, and salt. Mix well. Scoop out meat with a teaspoon and shape meatballs so they are about golf ball size. Set aside to rest for 1 hour, then simmer in your favorite sauce for about 45 minutes until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or until one meatball chopped apart looks evenly brown-colored on the inside. Serve with your favorite garlic bread or garlic knots, and the Italian Salad below!  
 
Italian Salad (serves four)
*    Pancetta, 1 pack
*    1 head iceberg lettuce
Dressing:
*    2/3 cup buttermilk
*    1/2 cup sour cream
*    1 garlic clove, minced
*    Gorgonzola cheese (4 or 5 slices for dressing, and some small chunks for topping)
Chop Pancetta into small cubes and cook as you would bacon, sautéing in a pan for approximately 5 to 7 minutes, until crispy. In the meantime, prepare the dressing. Assemble the buttermilk, sour cream, and garlic and Gorgonzola cheese in a small bowl and whisk together. When the Pancetta is ready, remove the chunks and place them on paper towels to soak up the fat. Slice the iceberg lettuce into quarter wedges, and pour the creamy, tangy dressing over. Top with the Pancetta chunks and more Gorgonzola chunks, as desired.

Have a great spring and we are getting a late spring snow once again; perhaps this weekend, Spring will finally arrive.
 
 All the best,

 Tim

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