Almost-Winter 2012 Newsletter

Greetings from Wintergreen!

Snow Making Improvement
Below the Eagles Swoop Ski Slope is the site of THE NEW TANK and these pictures I took this past week and thought you might enjoy seeing the new 5 million gallon water tank being completed for the up-coming ski season. It is expected to go on line in mid-December. It is a bit larger than our existing tank next to it. As Hank Thiess, the G.M. of Wintergreen Resort mentioned a few weeks ago in a meeting, “this tank is a game changer.” The water will be chilled and thus the water hitting the snow guns will make snow more efficiently. Rather than the current 4000 gal. per minute pumping capability, imagine 8000 GPM.

New Tank From the Inside

Tank Nearing Completion

Tank From Rental Area

Tank From Rental Area

The new fan snow guns and EVO snow guns will put snow on the ground faster and cover more area when Mother Nature decides she is going to bless us with a cold atmosphere. More slopes will open more quickly enticing more folks to come to ski. In addition to man-made snow, being an old farmer, I watch the animals and nature for evidence of what may be coming and what I am seeing points to what could be a long overdue cold snowy winter and for an exceptional Christmas ski week. Hurricane Sandy has already dumped about 6 inches on the mountain and there is still evidence of our first snowfall.

THINK SNOW.

Key Issues Update
The elections are finally over and no one will miss those wonderful political ads every 10 seconds or the constant phone calls, however the results of this election will have a bearing on real estate.

With the Fed’s Quantitative Easing in process, the word on Wall Street and on the news as we approach 2013 is “Fiscal Cliff.” Tune into any evening news on radio or TV and it seems it is the topic of most financial discussions. As we head into 2013, tax cuts for individuals and various tax breaks for businesses are due to expire, taxes pertaining to President Obama’s health care law will begin.

I have attached information which bears reading and is scanned and safe to open. It is The 3.8% Tax Real Estate Scenarios from National Associations of Realtors. Spending cuts enacted by Congress as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will go into effect the end of the year and long-term jobless benefits will expire. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if all of these items occur, it could take an estimated $600 billion out of the U.S. economy in 2013, potentially pushing the nation into a recession. I am hoping the President and his administration and the Congressional politicians will come to their senses and do the right thing for our nation however bitter the medicine for all of us.

What this means for home interest rates is that it spells market uncertainty, which we witnessed by the stock market dropping significantly last week. It typically results in investment dollars moving from Stocks into Bonds-thereby improving home loan rates which are tied to Mortgage Bonds. As I have mentioned, continued concerns over the debt crisis in Europe and more riots in Greece will likely keep investors in the safe haven of our Bond markets, which will benefit home loan rates. Interest rates will remain low and I believe money will flow into hard assets like real estate, if we encounter inflation which I believe will result from forthcoming government fiscal policies. Long term mortgage rates will rise at some point but inflation will increase real estate values. It is a great time to add real estate to investment portfolios or buy a 2nd home or retirement home if you have considered doing so.  Rates and prices remain low and there is good selection.  We are in interesting times.

 

Real Estate Sales Increasing

Real Estate sales have improved considerably since my last newsletter. Sales and activity are up well over the past couple of years. We have seen a return of a measured confidence in the market and it is based on the financial stability that the Justice Organization has brought to Wintergreen. I would not go as far as to say that prices have increased but well priced real estate is selling. Price value increases are still a ways off but that will come after some of the standing inventory has been absorbed and we see further evidence of the investment largesse of Mr. Justice. If you want to see the current market offerings and pending sales, click here.

New Membership Program
Finally, the new membership programs being offered seem acceptable to many owners and long term it appears to be a good value. If one amortizes the initiation dues over the next five to ten years, and considers the added benefits of being associated with the Greenbrier and Glade Springs in addition to the improved facilities and amenities planned within Wintergreen, then joining is worth serious consideration.

Our best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season. Please visit Wintergreen if you can, and don’t forget to drop by when you do.

Contributed by Tim Merrick

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Important Wintergreen Update From Tim Merrick

Greetings from Wintergreen

My newsletters are intended to be limited to quarterly updates per year but the following news is so important that I wanted everyone to know what we have recently learned. Many of you may already have this information, especially those attending yesterday’s special meeting. Others may not be aware of everything which follows so perhaps this special newsletter email is justified.

The big news is simply: The owner members of W.P.I. voted yesterday to accept the merger with the Justice Companies of West Virginia. Wintergreen will be sold at the end of this month.

This was the memo to resort staff on yesterday’s vote:

“Hantzmon Wiebel, LLP, the independent certified public accounting firm serving as the Inspector of Election, have canvassed the votes and makes this Preliminary Report:

  • Proposal #1, To Adopt the Plan of Merger:  1,219 votes for, 21 votes against.  The Proposal passes.
  • Proposal #2, To Amend and Restate the Articles of Incorporation of the Company:  1,219 votes for, 21 votes against.  The Proposal passes.
  • Proposal #3, To Terminate the Declaration Subjecting Resort Properties at Wintergreen, Nelson and Augusta Counties, Virginia, to Terms, Conditions and Easements, Make November 26, 1994: 1,217 votes for, 23 votes against.  The Proposal passes.

As the result of the successful passing of all three proposals, the Justice Merger plan is allowed to proceed to closing.  Please remember that these are preliminary results.  The final certified results will be announced via email and posted to the Members’ website in the near future.

From Hank Thiess, the G.M. of Wintergreen: “Once the transaction closes, we will officially be owned and controlled by the Justice organization. In the event of a successful merger, we will no longer be a member-owned organization.  However, the current members of WPI will continue to enjoy their membership status, discounts, facility access and other entitlements through November 30, 2013.  To that end, our duties and responsibilities toward the members will not change, and we should continue to strive to continually deliver the best possible experience for the members after closing.”

A great debt is owed to the Justice Family from West Virginia. Their timing and commitment to Wintergreen was critical. It is said there were five other investor groups who expressed an interest in buying the resort but none had the commitment or vision of the Justice Family to the continuation of Wintergreen as a premier mountain resort community.  At WREC, we are delighted and very excited and we are looking forward to working with the new owner. As I said in the last newsletter, if you have not witnessed the transformation that Jim Justice has created at the famous Greenbrier, you should visit. . It is only two hours from Wintergreen, so it would behoove you to see the transformation first-hand. The Greenbrier Classic (www.greenbrierclassic.com) starts in two weeks and I think tickets are still available, although you may have to pick them up at WILL CALL booth at this late date. It is a great PGA tournament with all the top golf pros, and will be nationally televised

Mr. Justice certainly has the financial ability and the commitment and the panache to create another “5-STAR resort at Wintergreen”. What is going to happen, no one can say at this point, it is too early; but Justice spent a great deal of money to acquire the failing famous West Virginia hotel and then supported it for many months, losing a tremendous amount of money before he got it turned around. Since his acquisition, he has created a fierce loyalty among his employees and he is just as loyal to them and he has invested millions more to restore the grandeur of “America’s Resort”.  What does this mean for Wintergreen? It was mentioned that the first investment will be a water tower, so we are ready with adequate and cooler water for snow making this ski season. The goal is to get our resort on firm financial footing as quickly as possible as one would expect. Major and logical investments could follow but what the order of investments will be, it is too early to tell. However, communication in the future will be far more forthcoming and will go to all owners. The membership structure will probably change but to what form, I don’t think anyone knows at this point, but having met Mr. Justice a while back and spoken with friends who know him well, I believe it will be fair and equitable. He understands the long standing commitments of the equity members and the importance of the inclusion of the non-members, as well as local and surrounding residents and neighbors. I have been asked many other questions. For example, how will Wintergreen be incorporated with The Resort at Glade Springs www.gladesprings.com and the Greenbrier. www.greenbrier.com? I am sure the management folks in West Virginia are giving this a great deal of thought and any association with these spectacular communities can only be advantageous to every owner at Wintergreen.

Here is the today’s press release in the area papers:

Wintergreen owners OK sale to Jim Justice

Jim Justice Attends Wintergreen Meeting

Credit: NATE DELESLINE III/THE DAILY PROGRESS

Jim Justice attended Sunday’s meeting of Wintergreen Partners Inc.
Published: June 24, 2012

WINTERGREEN — Members of Wintergreen Partners Inc. on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal to accept an agreement that will allow the owners of the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia to acquire Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County.

For Wintergreen, Jim Justice has agreed to pay $2.5 million in member consideration, along with $14 million due at closing, making the total deal worth $16.5 million.

The leadership of WPI announced the deal, subject to member approval, last month. Justice bought the Greenbrier in 2009.

Wintergreen Resort retained Hantzmon Wiebel, a public accounting firm, to conduct the voting process. According to unofficial results emailed to The Daily Progress by Dion Hayes, Wintergreen’s attorney, 1,219 voted in favor of the merger plan and 21 against.

Speaking after the meeting but before the votes were in, Hayes hailed the proposal as a positive turn for the resort.

“I think it’s a fantastic result for Wintergreen and a fantastic result for Nelson County, and it’s good for the economy of Central Virginia,” Hayes said.

Hayes reported that the members also voted in favor of two rider clauses regarding the acquisition — amending WPI’s articles of incorporation and terminating a clause that required all owners of residential properties in Wintergreen to be members of WPI.

WPI dates back to 1984, when former Wintergreen president L.F. Payne, who eventually went on to serve in Congress, asked the resort’s then-2,800 owners and some investors to buy initial memberships in the newly created company, which was legally run similar to a country club.

On Sunday afternoon, members met for about two hours in two large meeting rooms that were filled to capacity. By 1:30, a half-hour before the meeting was set to begin, the main meeting room, the Skyline Pavilion, was full and members were redirected to a ballroom in the Mountain Inn, where the group watched the proceedings by video.

However, some members, apparently satisfied with everything they heard, began to trickle out of the meeting rooms by 3:30 p.m.

Kathy Gunner and her husband, Lee Gunner, also departed before the meeting officially adjourned, but stayed to hear Justice speak and take questions.

“I think it’s bittersweet,” Kathy Gunner said of the change in ownership. “We have been [property] owners, and we have an investment here and we know the board personally. But I think after hearing [Justice], it’s clear that he’s going to make this a sustainable resort that we’ll all continue to enjoy and be very proud of.”

“Everything looks good,” said another man who left early but declined to give his name.

“We’re just thrilled that [Justice is] going to buy Wintergreen,” Judy Winnenberg said after the meeting. Her husband, John Winnenberg, agreed. “I think he’ll do a good job here,” he said.

This year, Wintergreen faced a series of unexpected setbacks that put the resort’s long-term operations and stability in jeopardy. They included significant ski revenue shortfalls due to an unseasonably warm winter; a now settled state tax dispute over a conservation easement; and Bank of America’s decision to cancel Wintergreen’s $3 million line of credit. The resort also laid off about a dozen staffers.

Under Justice’s tenure, the Greenbrier also faced similar challenges, including the layoff last winter of about 100 employees to help offset a $13 million loss during the first quarter of 2011. However, business observes say Justice likely saved the long struggling Greenbrier from certain bankruptcy.

Located in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., about two hours from Charlottesville, the Greenbrier has 700 guestrooms, a spa, a 103,000-square-foot casino and a golf course that’s hosted a PGA tournament under Justice’s tenure.

Also speaking after the members-only meeting but before the votes were tallied; Justice said the feedback from the group made it clear that everyone at Wintergreen cares about their neighborhood, their community and the mountain.

Justice also said he hoped that an overwhelming majority of people will support the deal, a wish that ultimately came to fruition.

“I don’t want the vote to be close,” he said. “In fact, I wouldn’t want to be the winner at the buzzer … The only way this place is going to survive is with my best efforts, along with the support and best efforts of all those that have a vested interest here.”

Justice said one of the first things he’d like to pursue is an expansion of Wintergreen’s snowmaking capacity. The resort relies on manmade snow for nearly all of its outdoor winter attractions.

More snowmaking capacity, Justice explained, would allow the resort to have a longer ski season and in turn, likely boost revenues.

Told that many of the people departing from the meeting were smiling and seemed to be at ease, Justice also smiled and expressed optimism that with everyone’s support, good things are ahead for Wintergreen.

“The test of time will be if they have those same smiles on their faces a year from today,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

Finally, a quick word about the real estate markets.

The Feds decision to extend Operation Twist and their lowered forecasts for our economic growth partly came from disappointing economic reports we’ve witnessed recently. The housing market continues to muddle along the bottom with numbers showing only modest improvement on a national level. Housing Starts were a bit below expectations. Building Permits (a sign of future construction) surged 8%. And, sales were up nationally last month according to the evening radio reports. We are also seeing more new construction at Wintergreen than we have seen in the past several months and the real estate market seems more active now than it was earlier this spring. I believe our buyers are starting to understand the positive impact of the Justice acquisition and how it could affect property values at Wintergreen and the surrounding areas in the future. Home loan mortgage rates continue to benefit from the drama in Europe and the weak economic reports here at home, as investors continue to see our Bonds (including Mortgage Bonds, to which home loan rates are tied) as a safe haven for their money. Home mortgage rates are not going to be affected much through the rest of this election year. Interest rates are still the lowest we have seen in our lifetime and the selection and prices of property at Wintergreen and in the areas around Charlottesville are good and have not been affected yet by the tremendous investment of the new buyout. Let me know if you are looking for refinancing sources and I will put you in touch with my contacts in the industry. As I have mentioned before, now is the best time to recommend to a friend or family member to buy a place at Wintergreen or in the surrounding counties.

I trust you and your family will have a great summer and drop me a note or feel free to call if you have questions. This is all the news I have at this point but I will keep you posted on new developments. Come visit and stop by the mountain office when you are up. Look for the Big Black Bear.

All the best,

Tim

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XRay Vision Helps You Find the Perfect Wintergreen Home

Want to see what’s available? Point your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone and see.

We have teamed with a virtual reality company, Layar, to offer you a way to see what’s for sale close by. Start Layar, select the Wintergreen layer, and you will see listings appear in your camera viewfinder as you move your tablet or phone in their direction. Complicated? No! Look below.

From the parking lot at the Cliffs, we pointed our iPad at the buildings, and the listings (large circles) appeared as we panned the tablet, along with a description of each listing and a small picture.

Condos For Sale at the Cliffs

Select One and Get a Brief Description

You set the range (from 0.1 mile to 1 mile). Listings within range will appear as you pan your camera in their direction. Select a short range to scope out a condo building, and a longer range for a neighborhood. The properties display as circles on the camera background. The larger the circle, the closer the property. Select a circle by touching it, and the property description will appear. Select the description and a map will appear guiding you from where you are to the property.

Note this use to see what’s for sale in a condo building. You could also use it anywhere, Drive to an area you like, then pan your camera to see what houses in that area are for sale. Just like virtual real estate signs.

Outside our valley office, we pointed our iPad at the Club Highlands area of Stoney Creek. We then selected a property and got directions. See below.

Properties For Sale in the Direction of Club Highlands

Touch to Get Directions from Your Location

Since there are no signs allowed in the Wintergreen Resort, this gives you an easy way to locate and see properties. See something you like? Touch to send us a message or call us at (434) 325-0500 and we will be happy to discuss or show the property.

This is just another example of how we are uniquely applying technology to make it easier–and more enjoyable–for you to find that perfect Wintergreen home. No other realtor in this area of Virginia can offer you this convenience.

The Layar application is available at no charge for the iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. You need access to the Internet for it to work, either via wireless or a cellular network. Go to the App Store (Apple) or the Android Market (Android).

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Cowardly Cownapping Condemned–Recoverer to Receive Reward

From Nelson County Life, April 16,2012

Nellysford
Nelson County, Virginia

Help Us Find Nelly May

Early Monday morning we found a rather suspicious note in a jar on the front porch of NCL Headquarters here in Nelson County. We are obviously very concerned for the safe return of Nelly May. She’s the famous cow you see each season at The Nelson Farmers Market Coop in Nellysford. Though smarter than the average bovine, we fear she may be out of her league.

Here’s the ransom note left on our porch. We have published it verbatim:

We have taken the cow you call “Nelly May” to protest the failure of recognizing bears in the area. Bears were in the valley long before cows ever were. Yet they are the ones getting all the attention at the market and in the news, and what are they even good for?

How many cow role models do you see in the U.S.? One. That darn Chick-Fil-A cow. And he can’t even spell. Now think of all the bears. There’s Smokey, Yogi, Winnie, Paddington, and even the Bernstein Bears. All teaching valuable life lessons.

We want equal rights and equal media attention. We are the high profile celebrities in these parts. Our infrequent appearances are much more exciting than any old cow.

Our stipulations are as follows:

We want bird feeders back – Why punish the birds with malnourishment? They never did anything to you.

No more locks on the dumpsters – You don’t see cow proof dumpsters anywhere, do you?

We want “Bear Crossing” signs posted – Everyone always thinks about the deer, but what about us? Don’t we deserve the right to cross the road safely?

Take down the “Do not feed the bear” signs – Why single us out like that? Do you think we don’t see what’s going on? Just because smell is our principle sense doesn’t mean we can’t see and read the signs you post about us.

Give us what we’re asking for and only then will you see your precious Nelly May again.
Signed,
The Bear Brigade

If you have any information that will help us save Nelly May from these unruly bears, please call (434) 361-0545 or email Tim Hess at Wintergreen Real Estate. We are offering a reward for information information leading to the return of our poor Nelly May.

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Tim Merrick’s Winter 2011-12 Newsletter

Happy New Year

This winter news letter brings a combination of good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news and you already know what it is….SKI SEASON. We are off to a poor start due to the warm weather and there is “no foolin’ Mother Nature” when one needs cold weather to make snow. The Crocus plants think spring is here. Hit 70° last week. Good days for winter golf but unfortunately most of the annual income generated for the resort is during the ski season and losing the normal ski crowds of Christmas week and perhaps even the upcoming Martin Luther King weekend upcoming will have an adverse financial impact. I am guessing that in addition to the 5 slopes currently open and the two cross trails that the Highlands Slope should be open this weekend for MLK and then it may turn and stay cold and we could have a decent recovery. It is still going to be a difficult year for W.P.I.

On a brighter side, the Tough Mudder event held this fall was a great success. The Wintergreen Police, WPOA , Tough Mudder organizers, and the WPI resort personnel did an outstanding job of managing crowds of about 35,000 over the weekend. I heard that there were 9000 participants on Saturday and about 7000 on Sunday and then associated friends and families to witness the event. Whether it comes back next year no one knows at this point. It generated about $250,000 for the resort in that one fall weekend.

In regard to real estate, we are seeing improvement.  Sales were stronger than anticipated this past year. However, there are still more sellers than buyers in our market. A mortgage broker colleague offered the following observation in an email yesterday, “The bad news out of Europe helped balance out the good Jobs news here at home…allowing Bonds and home loan rates to recover from their initial negative reaction to the Labor Department’s report. The Euro is continuing to be weighed down by rising concern on member countries’ ability to get their deficits in order and their debt in manageable position. The bottom line is that the problems in the Eurozone are vast, complicated, and without easy solutions, so it will take a very long time for clear resolution. And during times of global uncertainty, money will flow into the relative safe haven of the US Dollar and US Bonds – including Mortgage Bonds, which home loan rates are tied to. This means that home loan rates should continue in their sideways trend and remain near historic lows, making now a great time to purchase or refinance a home.”

One of my friends who has a spectacular home on the mountain also sent me the following email last week which I found interesting and shared with my office colleagues and want to share with you as well. Some of the videos embedded in the email are interesting, others are just a rehash of what you already know. While housing, like politics, is local; looking at national trends is important because there is a lot of money sitting on the sidelines waiting for the bottom and the perfect time to invest and the people who invest at Wintergreen follow the advice and information mentioned below…..

After several years, I think we are there.

Tim,

You may know that I worked for a private equity firm in NYC for five years, (before he became CIO for a Fortune 100 company).   It was long enough to learn not to bet against the “smart money” that run these firms.    They get the big turns right very often.  For example, they were running towards Treasuries and away from housing in late 2007, well before the market turned nasty.   In any event, it appears the hedge funds and private equity folks are now investing in housing, convinced that a bottom has been reached and there is money to be made.    I know all real estate is local, especially vacation property, but it would be helpful to have some macro trends in our favor for a change.   Anyway, in case you had not seen it, here is the article I read today:

Big Funds Build Case for Housing

By GREGORY ZUCKERMAN

Big money is starting to wager on housing.

Hedge funds run by Caxton Associates LP, SAC Capital Advisors LP, Avenue Capital and Blackstone Group LP have been buying housing-related investments, betting on a rebound. And formerly bearish research firm Zelman & Associates now predicts a housing pickup, as does Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Other investors seem to be making the same bet. Shares of home builders are up 30% since the end of the third quarter, as measured by the Dow Jones index tracking those shares, topping a nearly 10.5% gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Reuters

A worker lays shingles as construction continues on a residential home in Carlsbad, Calif., Sept. 19. 2011.

These stocks rallied during certain periods over the past three years, only to fall again when hopes of a housing rebound proved unfounded. However, home builders haven’t outperformed the broader market by this much in a quarter since the third quarter of 2008.

“We turned bullish on housing. A rebound is coming,” says Andrew Law, chief investment officer at $10 billion hedge-fund firm Caxton. He expects that home prices and construction will rise in 2012.

Related Video

Bulls received ammunition last week when the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes in the U.S. rose 4% in November from October, topping expectations. The inventory of previously owned homes listed for sale fell 5.8% to 2.58 million, the lowest level since May 2005. That came on the heels of data that residential construction surged in November.

“The housing-price bottom is probably in sight,” Goldman said in a December 15 report. Housing prices might decline by 3% next year before beginning a rise, Goldman says. The bank predicts gains of 30% over the following 10 years, not taking inflation into account.

It is too early to declare an end to the housing difficulties that began five years ago and led to trillions of dollars of losses and a global economic downturn. U.S. home prices fell 3.4% this year as of October, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home-price indexes released Tuesday. Inventories could rise next year if banks move more properties through the foreclosure process.

Some investors and market observers aren’t convinced of an imminent turnaround. Still, investors try to anticipate economic trends before they materialize. Even some housing skeptics acknowledge that real estate may no longer be the drag it has been on the economy.

“I’m sold that it’s a bottom,” says James Bianco, who runs Bianco Research, in Chicago. “It’s gone from a negative to a nothing for the economy,” though it may be hard for the U.S. to grow at an impressive clip until housing ramps up, he says.

Related Reading

The bullish stance appears to be a growing view among big-money types. Caxton turned bearish on housing in 2007, but the firm became optimistic over the past three months based on the low number of new homes built in the past few years as household formation rebounded.

Caxton has scored recent profits buying shares of home-related companies, such as home builders. “My sense is companies see a turn and are positioning themselves for a multiyear rebound,” Mr. Law says.

SAC Capital, the $14 billion firm run by Steven Cohen, also has been buying housing shares, anticipating a gradual real-estate recovery, according to a person familiar with the situation.

A $3.5 billion hedge fund run by Blackstone’s GSO Capital, which profited betting against housing as the market tumbled in 2008, began buying stakes in Beazer Homes USA Inc. andPulteGroup Inc. in November, as well as certain housing debt, according to people familiar with the situation. The shift partly resulted from an improving outlook for profits of home builders.

Though GSO hasn’t risked a large chunk of its portfolio on housing, it expects a real-estate rebound to bring significant gains.

“We believe housing is at a turning point, not just because of affordability and improving demographics,” says Darren Richman, a senior managing director at GSO. “The inventory picture has cleared meaningfully. It’s more in balance than it’s been in a long time.”

Earlier this year, Marc Lasry, who runs Avenue, a $12 billion firm that specializes in distressed debt, started buying bonds of home builders, including Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., “as a housing play,” Mr. Lasry says. He was enticed by their low prices. “We were six months too early,” says Mr. Lasry. “But we think housing keeps improving over the next year.”

Behind the investor optimism: Pent-up housing demand, say industry observers. Many younger adults and others have moved in with parents or into apartments. But record-low mortgage rates and improving home affordability could spur them to buy homes over the next year or two. Housing starts have been well under 500,000 a year since the downturn, compared with over 1 million before that.

“Given income and population growth, the longer-term outlook is more optimistic,” Goldman said in its recent report, while noting still-high delinquency rates. “Affordability is at record highs, at least for those who can get financing.”

Ivy Zelman, a longtime real-estate analyst who was bearish about housing before the downturn, has been offering clients a different view lately, predicting that rising rents will push would-be buyers to purchase homes. A housing recovery isn’t “happening as fast as everyone would like,” she says. But there are “a lot of pillars in place to give us some optimism.”

Bulls have been burned over the past few years predicting a rebound, and any improvement would be from a very low base. Housing data is seasonally adjusted and tends to be quite volatile. And much of November’s increase in construction came from apartments, town houses and multifamily developments, a sign of demand for rentals, not home buying.

“The smartest money in the world has been carried out on stretchers betting on a true recovery for housing,” says Mark Hanson, who runs M. Hanson Advisors, a research firm catering to hedge funds that argues a sustained rebound is several years away.

Mr. Hanson says too few homeowners have enough equity to enable them to sell homes and buy new ones, something that usually drives housing. He also predicts more foreclosures, short sales and defaults, especially among homeowners who recently modified loans. Mr. Hanson argues that household formation won’t grow much unless unemployment keeps dropping, and that mid-to-high-end homes will fall in price next year.

That’s why some investors, such as Whitney Tilson’s hedge fund T2 Partners LLC, remain bears. Skeptics say many people are becoming more comfortable renting, crimping any housing turnaround.

New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley recently said that while home prices “no longer appear overvalued,” it is “unwise to simply assume the market will bottom out at these levels” because expectations of house-declines “can easily be self-fulfilling.” He also noted that access to mortgage credit is constrained.

Still, some investors are betting the bears are too pessimistic.

James Litinsky, who runs JHL Capital Group, a $1.5 billion Chicago-based hedge fund, turned optimistic in the spring when he crunched numbers on household formation and population growth compared with the availability of new and existing homes. He began buying shares of housing-related companies, including Louisiana-Pacific Corp., which makes wood products for homes, as well as home-improvement retailers The Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos., and home builder Lennar Corp.

Mr. Litinsky ramped up his buying in the past few months, becoming the largest holder of Louisiana-Pacific according to securities filings. About 25% of his portfolio is in housing-related stocks, up from virtually no such shares at the beginning of the year, he says.

“We’ve already worked off a chunk of the excess supply and eventually there will be shortages,” says Mr. Litinsky, who adds “it’s been lonely thesis until a couple of weeks ago.”

—Nick Timiraos contributed to this article.

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High-quality Picture of the Week–New Feature

Villages of Stoney Creek on a Winter Morning

Picture of the week for December 24, 2011

If you love Wintergreen as much as we do, you may want to check out the new picture of the week feature on our home page. Each week, we will publish a season-relevant full-page picture taken in or around Wintergreen. If you click on the picture. you will see a high-resolution PDF of the picture, suitable for printing. Take a look. Let us know how you like this new feature.

If you want a previously published picture, send us an email and we will be happy to send it to you.

Webmaster
Wintergreen Real Estate Co.

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Smartphone Browsing Faster and Better

More and more people are using their phones to browse the web. However, browsing on a phone can be awkward—many phones don’t support Flash animations, for example, and large pages can be hard to display. We want your browsing experience to be as pleasant as possible. To that end, we now support automatic smartphone detection, and will both shorten the page and not display Flash animations if your phone browser does not support them.

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Wintergreen Real Estate Adopts QR Codes for Mobile Phones

QR (or Quick Response) codes allow you to go directly to a web site by scanning the code with your smartphone. We are now using these codes in our print advertising and on our yearly calendar. From the print advertising, the code takes you directly to our home page. From the calendar, the code takes you directly to the events for the current month.

We already have text message capability for special events and property listings. Click here to see the text message article. QR codes offer smart phone users yet another convenience.

Quick Response Code for Events Calendar

Quick Response Code for Events Calendar

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New Events Calendar and Web Cam

Want to know what’s planned for the Wintergreen area? Is there snow on the slopes? Answer these questions without leaving our web site. Click on Area Attractions on the home page, and then select either Events Calendar or Live Web Cam.

Diamond Hill Condos and Ridge on 12/15/2011

Diamond Hill Condos and Ridge on 12/15/2011

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Tough Mudders Get 15% Discount on Future Stay

Tough Mudders: While you were at Wintergreen it may have occurred to you to come back again without the hills, mud, water, ropes, walls, electric shocks, and of course, fire.

If so, check out our Offer #49. Present your copy of the Tough Mudder flyer and get 15% off any rental through October 1, 2012, except ski season weekends 12/23-2/26 and holidays and special event weekends.

Good luck on the course this weekend and come back to see us. Click here to see our rental program. Call us at (434) 325-7933 when you’re ready to rent.

Tough Mudders Get 15% Rental Discount

Tough Mudders Get 15% Rental Discount

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