Black Bear Jamboree May 29

Join us for a few hours of down-home mountain-top fun!

We are having a Black Bear Jamboree on Sunday, May 29th from 2-6PM at the WREC Event Site behind the Black Bear Cafe at 131 Blue Ridge Drive in the Wintergreen Resort.

Y’all come! There will be live music by the Misty Strings Band, free hotdogs, burgers, and drinks, and games for the whole family.

This will also be the last weekend to enter our Guess-The-Pennies contest for a free week at Wintergreen. We will announce the winner on May 31, so there is still time to enter and take away a free bear. Call (434) 325-7933 for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reduced Pricing and Special Commission Structure on Villas and Lots in Stone Orchard at Wintergreen!

Stone Orchard at Wintergreen
Located just below the renowned mountain-top resort of Wintergreen in the center of the Stoney Creek community, this exclusive enclave offers a lifetime of peace, privacy, and inspired living in an enchanting valley setting. Stone Orchard features fine custom homes and villas, maintenance-free living, and 360 degree mountain views. Every home site in Stone Orchard is carefully positioned to maximize the views of the mountains and surrounding landscape. Call (800.325.2200) or click here to learn more.

Agents: Take advantage of special commission rates! Call 800.325.2200 to learn more about Stone Orchard.

Stone Orchard Plat

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Merrick’s Spring Newsletter

I was having lunch with a mortgage banker friend this week and we were discussing the real estate and prospects of a sustainable and saleable market. Brad and I were sharing experiences of what we were seeing in various markets around Virginia and he used a wonderful analogy. He said we are in a “bathtub recovery”. Perfect. If you are totally confused about the housing market, join the crowd. One day you’ll read that owning a home has never been more affordable. The next day you’ll see news that housing starts have plunged to nearly their lowest level in half a century. After four years of falling prices and foreclosures, it is difficult for anyone to gauge the markets, especially listening to the talking heads on TV. Historic price appreciation in the mid 2000’s had many believing that property values would never go down, and many of us repeatedly warned that things were moving too fast. We were affected by the bubble at Wintergreen and in Central Virginia, like other parts of the nation, but not as badly. Many new people in our markets did not understand the cyclical nature of the real estate and many did not have experience or perspective. Today, it is critical to keep one’s eye on the fundamentals in order to see where real estate values will be going. It seems we are starting to head in the opposite direction. There is a new reality in all real estate markets and while no one has a crystal ball, we are cautiously optimistic.

Customers might feel a cautious and apprehensive to buy right now because they feel prices will not go up fast enough, yet just a few years ago the same people thought that prices would never go down. The majority of gains in the shortest amount of time are made when conditions change, and especially, as they change. Yet, the information that is posted about the home market is usually months old and is “calculated using a three-month moving average and published with a two month lag”. It does not show what is happening now. The recession appears to be over and within a year or two home prices should start to rise. We believe right now, is the best time to recommend anyone purchase at Wintergreen or elsewhere, in the past decade. Why? First, mortgage rates hit their lowest levels in American history in late 2010 and we are up just a little from the lowest rates ever, still about 5% on a fixed 30 year rate. Second, homes are more affordable than ever and it should continue. Nationally, foreclosures and fair valued priced properties sales are leading the way. There is a historic drop in new construction and a steep decline in prices, on the order of “30% nationwide since 2006, and as much as 55% in the hardest-hit markets”. Inflation is just around the corner and when that starts, rates will increase and home prices. However, taking into consideration home prices, income stability, and mortgage rates, we are starting to see increased interest in buying. For this national market to return to what the experts anticipate, America will need a decent economy, job creation, and consumer confidence continuing to improve.

No cities went untouched by the collapse in prices, but markets such as Northern Virginia and other parts of Virginia and North Carolina within our market area held up reasonably well and are showing job growth. Due to their stability and growth, we seem to be headed toward increased interest in a second and primary home community like Wintergreen. Our few distressed sales will be absorbed, followed by the standing inventory, and finally new construction will start again. I encourage you to talk to friends or family who would enjoy owning a 2nd home or having a retirement place in this part of Virginia or at Wintergreen. Send me the names and contact information and I will be happy to send them a package of information. Thank you for thinking of me in referring your friends. It is greatly appreciated and it is a great time to buy here.

As mentioned on previous occasions, our markets at Wintergreen and this part of Central Virginia have always appealed to the upper affluent demographic within a three hour drive time radius and thus, we have been somewhat protected from what has happened on the more distressed parts of the nation. Yesterday, we got the results of the first quarter numbers from CAAR and Nelson County Tight credit standards have not stopped sales and we are we are returning to the standards that prevailed before the craze. We have 90% funding for both homes and condos. “The credit standards are now at about historical levels, excluding the bubble period,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics. “We saw prices rising with fundamentals in those periods, and it will happen again.”

It is interesting to note that while the overall residential real estate market is still down, sales of vacation homes fared better than sales of primary residences and investment properties in 2010, which is great news for us. “Consumers found low real estate prices, attractive mortgage rates and the potential for price appreciation compelling enough reasons to buy more than half a million vacation homes last year”, according to proprietary research commissioned by Homeaway, Inc.; part of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2011 investment and vacation home buyers survey. “We are seeing nearly all vacation home buyers say they plan to rent out their property and decided to purchase a vacation property last year primarily because of low real estate prices”. 2010 proved a good year to buy, according to the NAR survey. “There were 543,000 vacation homes sold nationally last year, 36% paid cash, 54% plan to own their property more than six years, and 34% said they would buy another property within the next two years. 27% wanted a personal family retreat, 12% bought for price appreciation, 11% because of low mortgage rates and the others were 13%”. Our owners at Wintergreen are given the benefit of being able to rent their 2nd home when they are not using them to supplement the mortgage and carrying costs. There is also something developing which might be interesting to the owners of the nicer homes at Wintergreen. It is called “Third Home” and worth a quick search www.3rdhome.com

Now to the resort according to the Chairman of W.P.I.:


“With our ski season coming to an official close on Saturday, March 26, WPI concluded its second consecutive successful winter. Total ski department revenue was approximately $9.5 million against a budget of $8.7 million; of this $800,000 positive variance, about $600,000 in additional cash flowed to the bottom line. Overall, WPI has exceeded its total sales budget by $1.5 million in fiscal 2011, and expects to realize an incremental cash surplus of approximately $800,000 to $1 million by the end of June.”

These positive operational results have allowed the resort to pursue several important initiatives:

“The renovation of the Edge Restaurant. Last updated in 1998, the edge will be closed through mid-may while an extensive remodeling project is undertaken to restore a more rustic, lodge-style environment to the beautiful scenic views from the dining room’s picture windows. Gone will be the industrial, stainless-steel-and- particle-board look, to be replaced by warm natural wood paneling, planks salvaged from old barns, beamed ceilings, and vibrant accent colors. The change will be dramatic and, we believe, appreciated by all.

The renovation and re-opening of The Market at Wintergreen. Recent emails announced the closing of the Black Rock Market on March 27. After undergoing an extensive remodeling and redecorating effort, including new flooring, display shelves, ceiling paneling, and lights, the market at wintergreen will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, May 7. The market will feature Boar’s Head deli products, fresh local produce, freshly baked bread from Albemarle Baking Co., and locally-roasted coffee from Trager Brothers in Lovingston”. (Personal note: this is the best coffee I have ever found.)

“Irrigation of the Shamokin course in Stoney Creek. Since January, your golf maintenance team and local contractors have been installing a new irrigation system on the Shamokin Nine. This project has included the installation of 350 new sprinkler heads which will provide much improved hydration to a course which is typically the first to suffer when heat and humidity descend upon the valley during the summer. Management expects the course to re-open for play in May”.

“But perhaps the most important initiative coming out of the past two winters is the impending $500,000 installment on repayment of the private placement debt. As you will remember, WPI raised $7.5 million through a private debt issue to the membership in 2009, which was used to refinance debt then held by Bank of America. The principal is not due until June 30, 2014, but your board of directors, acting on the recommendation of resort management, voted unanimously on March 19 to initiate an early, voluntary repayment of $500,000. This action is consistent with the board’s goal of reducing the amount of outstanding debt by several million dollars prior to the stated repayment date (providing, of course, that operational performance supports this). The board has authorized the $500,000 to be paid to note holders on or before June 30. If you were an investor in the offering, you will be contacted in the coming weeks regarding the method by which us bank, as trustee for the investors, will allocate the repayment. Please keep an eye out for correspondence regarding this initiative”.

That is the news from the mountains and valleys of the Rockfish. Hope it is helpful. Things are getting better and I feel we are going to have a productive summer in regard to real estate sales and resort usage. Come spend some time in the mountains this spring and summer. It will renew your spirit.

Contributed by Tim Merrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Merrick’s Winter 2011 Newsletter

Wintergreen Winter 2011 Update

Contributed by Tim Merrick

What happened to to the holiday season this year? It came and went so fast, all I remember was Christmas Day. I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season. It was fun and wild on the mountain with family and guests enjoying all the slopes being open and we were very busy. A great start to the ski season.

The winter weather is certainly cooperating and the resort seems to be doing well. There is a new vibrant attitude at Wintergreen and I think it is due in large part to Hank Thiess and his staff and how welcome they have made owners, guests, and visitors feel. It is a big change. The old Wintergreen is coming back. At Wintergreen Real Estate, we are having fun with our Black Bear promotion, giving away stuffed bears, with our mascot, Blizzard the Bear helping us.

Stop by our mountain office with the kids and your friends and guess the pennies in the 5 gallon plastic water jug, and get a free stuffed bear. When someone guesses the correct number of pennies after they are counted May 31st, 2011; the winner will win a week’s accommodation in a three or four bedroom house at Wintergreen with lots of free fun activities and passes for things such as golf green fees and carts, dinners, tennis, wine, massages, etc. Stop by the Black Bear Café. We are next door.

What is happening in our markets at Wintergreen? Recovery is local as you know. Condo sale prices are still sliding as we see repos coming to market which compete with the standing inventory. House prices seem to have stabilized somewhat. Sales seem to be getting stronger but are still not in what I would describe as a recovery. We have set some records, especially at the higher levels, with four homes over $1,000,000 sold recently. Several of us think we are going to be bouncing along the bottom for another year or two. However, last week was packed with national housing market data and the news keeps getting better even though the media hasn’t caught on quite yet. One of the national financial news gurus, however, is taking notice of the resurgence of the second home market and the opportunities it offers. According to Clark Howard, it is the perfect time to buy as shown from this clip from CNN News which aired last week. It is safe to open and paints a picture of great opportunities in the second home markets across the nation. Worth watching! Click here to see what Clark Howard has to say about great deals on second homes.

Last year was an improvement for our real estate group, WREC. We did a little over 45% of all the home listings and sales on the mountain with an average home price of $418,852.00. Our group led all other real estate companies in volume of condo sales as well. In Stoney Creek, WREC also led the other real estate companies in listings and sales. In regard to the lot listings and sales statistics, we controlled over 62% of the sales on the mountain and 50% in Stoney Creek. But, the markets are still flat and many properties are overpriced in relation to true market value and evidenced by pace of sales. Buyers are still driving the market. No new news. Properties which are priced correctly will sell and in many instances have multiple offers, sometimes exceeding asking price. The Internet has made very calculating and informed buyers out of those taking the time to do the research. There is a lot of competition and there is a large inventory and these buyers know where the values appear to be. We are quite fortunate in that I have been able to find financing which will fund as high as 90% LTV (loan to value) for shelter products which is helping the condo market especially. We also have good local funding for lots. The collapse of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has so far cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion and that number could get much higher, depending what happens going forward. Our problem is that every sale we make, especially condos, has to meet the approval of these institutions, which buy mortgages from banks, bundle them up into securities and sell those securities off to investors. Fannie and Freddie and their top executives made bad investments and bad decisions. We have paid the price and will continue to as they have become the responsibility of U.S. taxpayers. In order for this housing market to recover, I believe the government has to have a smaller role in the housing market, with private capital coming back in and taking a larger share. However, we are seeing the banks beginning to lend more led by the 25 biggest banks that Americans love to hate. It is the smaller banks, more in tune to the market, which is providing some of the best financing and that is where we are also going for funding for our buyers. We all watch the Fed in this industry and basically, the Fed seems pleased with the recent signs of strength in the U.S. economy, but most don’t think the economy is in full recovery. They should keep interest rates at zero where they’ve been for 25 months. For most of this coming year they’re going to finishing buying the $600 billion worth of long-term treasuries that they agreed to buy in order to lower long-term interest rates. Inflation which is always spurs sales in the housing markets is still stagnant in the US, kept at bay by The Fed, but inflation is picking up overseas. They are worried about food, oil and raw material prices going up. Being a true global economy, it will not be long before it comes here. The historically low rates we have now are still a blessing to the housing market and a prime motivator for the home buyer. There is also ample inventory and great selective values. It is an excellent time to mention Wintergreen as a place to invest and enjoy to a friend. Please feel free to have them give me a call and I will be pleased to guide them and find them a great deal.

On another note, some quick news! I spoke with Fred Biggers, Superintendent of Golf, that the fairways of the Shamokin Nine are being irrigated down the middle of the fairway this spring and it will make a big difference in the look and play for one of my favorite nines in Stoney Creek.

Finally, allow me to share a recipe I heard while driving to the mountain a few weeks ago on NPR. I bought the cookbook. It was also posted on line so I guess it is OK to send it to you. It is outstanding and whoever eats it will ask for more and the cook will be greatly praised. Tim Hess, our resident gourmet chef, does this with wild game and it is incredible. It is worth the effort and a great wintertime dish, I promise!

Hachis Parmentier is a well-seasoned meat-and-mashed-potato pie that is customarily made with leftovers from a boiled beef dinner, like pot-au-feu. If you have leftover beef and broth from anything you’ve made, go ahead and use it.

Or, if you’d like to shortcut the process, make Quick Hachis Parmentier (see instructions below). But if you start from scratch and make your own bouillon, and if you add tasty sausage (not completely traditional), you’ll have the kind of hachis Parmentier that would delight even Daniel Boulud, a chef from Lyon who lives in New York City. You can use chuck, as you would for a stew, but one day my stateside butcher suggested I use cube steak, a cut I’d never cooked with. It’s an inexpensive, thin, tenderized cut (its surface is scored, almost as though it’s been run through a grinder) that cooks quickly and works perfectly here. If you use it, just cut it into 2-inch pieces before boiling it; if you use another type of beef, you should cut it into smaller pieces, and you might want to cook it for another 30 minutes.

Picture courtesy Alan Richardson

Hachis Parmentier or Sheppard’s Pie Makes 4 generous servings

For the beef and bouillon

1 pound cube steak or boneless beef chuck (see above), cut into small pieces

1 small onion, sliced

1 small carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch-long pieces

1 small celery stalk, trimmed and cut into 1-inch-long pieces

2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2 parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

6 cups water

1/2 beef bouillon cube (optional)

For the filling

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound sausage, sweet or spicy, removed from casings if necessary

1 teaspoon tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the topping

2 pounds Idaho (russet) potatoes, peeled and quartered

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup grated Gruyere, Comte, or Emmental

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

To make the beef: Put all the ingredients except the bouillon cube in a Dutch oven or soup pot and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam and solids that bubble to the surface. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours. The broth will have a mild flavor, and that’s fine for this dish, but if you want to pump it up, you can stir in the 1/2 bouillon cube — taste the broth at the midway point and decide.

Drain the meat, reserving the broth. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and discard the vegetables, or if they’ve still got some flavor to spare, hold on to them for the filling. Traditionally hachis Parmentier is vegetable-less, but that shouldn’t stop you from salvaging and using the vegetables. Strain the broth. (The beef and bouillon can be made up to one day ahead, covered and refrigerated.)

Using a chef’s knife, chop the beef into tiny pieces. You could do this in a food processor, but the texture of your hachis Parmentier will be more interesting if you chop it by hand, an easy and quick job.

To make the filling: Butter a 2-quart oven-going casserole — a Pyrex deep-dish pie plate is just the right size for this.

Put a large skillet over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. When it’s hot, add the sausage and cook, breaking up the clumps of meat, until the sausage is just pink. Add the chopped beef and tomato paste and stir to mix everything well. Stir in 1 cup of the bouillon and bring to a boil. You want to have just enough bouillon in the pan to moisten the filling and to bubble up gently wherever there’s a little room; if you think you need more (a smidgen more is better than too little), add it now. Season with salt and pepper, especially pepper. If you’ve kept any of the vegetables from the bouillon, cut them into small cubes and stir them into the filling before you put the filling in the casserole. Scrape the filling into the casserole and cover it lightly; set aside while you prepare the potatoes. (You can make the dish to this point up to a few hours ahead; cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate.)

To make the topping: Have ready a potato ricer or food mill (first choices), a masher, or a fork. Put the potatoes in a large pot of generously salted cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes; drain them well.

Meanwhile, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat (you’ll use it as a drip catcher). Warm the milk and cream.
Run the potatoes through the ricer or food mill into a bowl, or mash them well. Using a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, stir in the milk and cream, then blend in the 3 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the potatoes over the filling, spreading them evenly and making sure they reach to the edges of the casserole. Sprinkle the grated Gruyere, Comte or Emmental over the top of the pie, dust with the Parmesan (if using), and scatter over the bits of butter. Place the dish on the lined baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling steadily and the potatoes have developed a golden brown crust (the best part). Serve.

Serving
Bring the hachis Parmentier to the table and spoon out portions there. The dish needs nothing more than a green salad to make it a full and very satisfying meal.

Storing
It’s easy to make this dish in stages: the beef and bouillon can be made up to a day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator, and the filling can be prepared a few hours ahead and kept covered in the fridge. You can even assemble the entire pie ahead and keep it chilled for a few hours before baking it (directly from the refrigerator if your casserole can stand the temperature change) — of course, you’ll have to bake it a little longer. If you’ve got leftovers, you can reheat them in a 350-degree-F oven.

Quick Hachis Parmentier. You can make a very good hachis Parmentier using ground beef and store-bought beef broth. Use 1 pound ground beef instead of the steak, and when you add it to the sausage in the skillet, think about adding some finely chopped fresh parsley and maybe a little minced fresh thyme. You can also saute 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves, split and germ removed, in the olive oil before the sausage goes into the skillet. (The herbs and garlic help mimic the aromatics in the bouillon.) Moisten the filling with the broth, and you’re good to go.

Recipe from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Win a Free Week at Wintergreen

Stop by our mountain Discovery Center office, enter our contest for a free week, and get a free Wintergreen black bear. All you have to do to enter is to guess the number of pennies in our jug and fill out an entry form.

The grand prize is a 7-day stay in a 3-4 bedroom home at Wintergreen Resort, including

  • one dinner for four at the Devil’s Grill,
  • two passes for a massage at Wintergarden Spa,
  • two rounds of golf for four (with cart) or two ski passes for four,
  • two bottles of Virginia wine, and
  • a welcome gift including cheese, flowers and fruit.

There is a limit of two bears per family. You must enter the contest in person to receive a bear. Contest ends May 31, 2011 at 5 p.m. Winners will be notified by phone. In the case of a tie, a drawing will be held to determine the winner. WREC employees, agents, or family members are not eligible for entry. For additional information, call WREC at 800-325-2200.

Enter to win a free week at Wintergreen

Wintergreen Black Bear with Pennies

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Fall Newsletter From Tim Merrick

Fall 2010 Property Owner Newsletter

View from Black Rock OverlookTreat the Earth well it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
Old Indian proverb.

The more we focus our appreciation of the natural beauty of the Earth and these mountains the more will be our resolve to preserve and protect what we have been so generously given. Last week I had the privilege of showing a family Wintergreen who had never been here. What I remember most from our discussions was their appreciation for how intuitively our community has been developed. This family was very impressed on how creatively the homes had been hidden from view and how gently they had been inserted into the natural environments of the mountains and valleys of Wintergreen We have managed to preserve a sense of antiquity while carefully creating a refuge for families and our creature neighbors. If you are curious about what has been developed outside of the obvious recreational facilities and amenities, I called Ceason Morris at the W.P.O.A. office, to get a count of has been privately built within Wintergreen. You are probably asked the same questions of how many houses and condos are here, so the following is the latest count:

On the mountain:

1185 condos and townhouses
1065 single family unattached homes
475 undeveloped home-sites
47 combined lots (where an owner has bought the adjacent property creating a double lot)

In Stoney Creek:

537 houses (including Lakeside and Stone Orchard)
387 undeveloped lots
53 vacated or combined lots

Lake Monocan from the end of the dock looking west Lake Monocan from the end of the dock looking west

One of the purposes for this fall Newsletter is the need to discuss one of our most critical resources …WATER …

You may remember that on several occasions that we have either temporarily run out of water or had seriously critical shortages. As a community as ours develops and matures, a stable water source, both for personal and utility usage must be one of the highest priorities. You are probably aware that quite a few years ago the Wintergreen Owners sold the mountain utility company to the Nelson County Service Authority. The NCSA operates the mountain water and sewer systems while the Valley Utility Company is privately owned and supplies drinking water to the residents of Stoney Creek as well as sewer services. Water is pulled from the lakes in Stoney Creek for the snowmaking operations as well as the resort’s tennis and golf operations on the mountain and valley. Additionally, the pumping station at Peggy’s Pinch at the entrance of the Back Country at Chestnut Flats on Stoney Creek is used year-round but in the winter especially because the water temperature is a few degrees cooler than the ponds. Lower water temperature allows the snowmakers to make snow faster. We have a water treatment plant as well as a series of wells in the valley and the mountain. There was a time when all drinking water on the mountain and came from the wells on the mountain.

There has been discussion in the past about various sources of public financing for the construction of a large lake in Stoney Creek in the open space in the long swale south of the stables at Rodes Farm. The stakeholders in the venture to fund a large lake are many, but the end users will be the property owners and their families and guests. Ignoring the water expansion issue could have a dramatic negative impact on enjoyment and property values. We need the Rodes Valley Lake and hopefully will find the funding in the near future to start the lake; as the NCSA continues to repair the water systems on the mountain. It is for this sole reason that I want to make a strong recommendation to you about a nominee, who I personally endorse for in the up-coming W.P.I. Board Elections. Remember the name, Ken Powell. Ken has been a close friend and an owner at Wintergreen for many years. He has a unique set of qualifications and experience and knowledge which will make him a strong advocate for improving the water issues and expanding the water resources in addition to the assets he will bring to the board. By electing Ken we will have someone who knows how to structure the funding for the water expansion in Stoney Creek. It does not matter whether you are a golfer, a tennis player, a skier, or just like good drinking water; nor whether you are member of WPI or not; we are all affected. I am inserting what the voting members of W.P.I. will see in the upcoming ballot mailing regarding Ken Powell. I strongly encourage you to vote for Ken to join the WPI Board and encourage your other voting friends to do the same. And, make sure you sign the ballot.

About Ken Powell

On more than one occasion during the past year, Wintergreen experienced an interruption in basic services and paying customers / renters / members went home because of a lack of water. What many members may not realize is that water availability is the most important, pressing issue we face. I am an investment banker and specialize in infrastructure finance, specifically water and sewer systems and other “public” infrastructure. Having been involved in addressing water issues in real estate projects all over the country and having seen how these issues affect the value and enjoyment of real estate based investments, I am confident that I can make a valuable contribution to preserving and enhancing the value of our resort.

I believe that the excellent job that Hank Theiss, his staff and our Board have done allows us to move away from “crisis management” to strategic planning. While water is the most important issue we face, I believe that the long term financing of our resort (including the timely repayment of our bonds) is also near the top of the list. In the “new economy,” we must be diligent in not only cutting expenses and enhancing revenue, but we must be creative in establishing new sources of revenue. I have had experiences doing this for other member organizations.

And oh yes———my family and I immensely enjoy Wintergreen!

Credentials:

Stone & Youngberg, LLC, Managing Director, Public Finance, 2005-
Legg Mason, Vice President, 1994-2005
Hazel and Thomas, Shareholder, 1987-1994
Maloney, Yeatts and Barr, Partner, 1978-1987
B.A. University of Colorado, 1975
J.D. University of Richmond, 1978
Master of Law and Taxation. College of William and Mary, 1983

Board Service:

Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Virginia Economic Developers Association
Virginia Public Safety Foundation (President)
Virginia Education Assistance Authority
Science Museum of Virginia (Vice Chair)
Virginia Opera
Economic Advisory Project / Republic of Georgia
National Tax Increment Finance Coalition (Co Chair)
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Wintergreen Activity:

Property owner since 1993 Held fundraisers for Wintergreen Nature Foundation and Wintergreen Performing Arts Premiere Equity Partner for 5 years Advisor to Wintergreen Partners Inc. (WPI) for private placement

On the real estate front, we are two years out from the near-meltdown and the US economy is flat. The equity markets are stumbling, our neighbors in Europe like us are fighting a debt crisis, and the developing nations like China and India are praying we can absorb their exports or their economies will be adversely affected as well. Experts predict everything from a double dip-recession to sub-par growth. When Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve recently said, “There are bumps and potholes on the road to recovery, but the Fed expects continued moderate (economic) growth , a gradual decline in the unemployment rate (to about 7 percent) and subdued inflation over the next couple of years,”. A friend mentioned it may have been one of the all-time understatements ever uttered. At least they are not adjusting the Fed Fund Rates currently but will probably adjust by the second quarter of next year which will push long term mortgage rates up. Everyone agrees that in order for there to be any economic recovery, jobs have to be created; and corporate America, is not willing to invest in expansion because current economic and tax policy provides no clear indication of what the future holds.

Economic Update

Many of the early stimulus packages have ended or are ending soon. Most of these programs have been ineffective and have just created deeper deficits and more debt. American real estate has not recovered. Sales are flat and the mortgage market is still in ruins, despite low interest rates and money to lend. Our leaders are slow to realize that we are in for a long slow recovery. The Obama Administration attempts to prop up the housing market with a generous housing tax-credit ($8000) has not met with much success and the administration and Congress certainly has not done much to improve the job market. The decline in sales has been felt nationwide as well as at Wintergreen. The National Association of Realtors state sales fell 27% the first month in which the tax credit was abolished, and single-family home sales sold at the slowest rate since 1995 and the worst on record since the previous low of 1981. Nationally, sales on new homes are down 32% year to date and down 80% from July 2005. Sales figures indicate that housing markets in some cities have ground to a halt, despite historically low interest rates. They may also presage a new period of declining prices. It is going to take several years to clear the inventory at the current pace of sales. Wintergreen real estate is in much better shape than many parts of the nation. We also have slower sales and several years of standing inventory. But, there certainly seems to be an optimistic outlook for the coming months among our customers and clients and we’re hopeful that the number of sales will continue their current upward trend. Customers are looking for buying opportunities because of a good selection of inventory and low mortgage rates, but they are also focused on realistically priced properties. Much of what is on the market at Wintergreen is over-priced and these properties are sitting on the market. Within our company, we are seeing more sales than others because our listings generally are priced realistically to what they are worth in this depressed market. Currently, Wintergreen has 120 condos and 95 houses and 70 home-sites listed in MLS on the mountain; and 32 houses and 68 lots in Stoney Creek. The following chart might explain the relationships between the three major companies working at Wintergreen. It is grafted by number of total sales YTD as 1 September 2010 and percentage of market share.

I trust you find this newsletter helpful and I hope to see you and your family this fall. It is gorgeous on the mountain. The leaves are just starting to turn and it is a great time to introduce friends to Wintergreen. Please drop me a note or feel free to call (434-361-0503) if I can help.

Contributed by Tim Merrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Merrick’s Summer 2010 Newsletter

Greetings from one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Summer activities are in full swing from evening concerts in the Evans Center to summer sports to children’s programs to great dining in the Devils Grill and Copper Mine (new menu) to guided hiking with Doug Coleman and great fishing, just to mention a few. The opportunities within Wintergreen while enjoying the cool summer breezes in the mountains seem endless. If you want to escape the heat and have some fun, COME! And, if you need a good deal on a place to stay, call us at (434) 325-7933. We are still 15 to 20 degrees cooler than where you are.

Now to business:

There is little doubt the upheaval in the real estate market over the past couple of years has been a jolt to the nation’s collective psyche. Economists believe we are at the trough or close to the bottom of the market and the market is starting to turn. Due to historically low interest rates, we are starting to see more activity and sales. It should be remembered that in any housing recession, housing prices are slow to recover, but sales recover faster. WREC sold in the six months from January 1st to July 1st 2009: 7 lots, 6 condos, 16 homes. In the same period of this year, we sold 14 lots, 8 condos, and 28 homes and that does not include all the sales within Wintergreen, but it is the lion’s share. It seems to be getting better. People have become more conservative in their personal finances and those interested in buying here are looking for houses and condos and home-sites that exhibit affordable value. These buyers are prudent and informed by making use of the Internet. It gives them information which makes it harder for properties which are overpriced to be noticed. Wintergreen Real Estate Company has an advantage in our market in that we have one of the most sophisticated and robust web sites in the industry. Our website www.wintergreenrealestate.com remains the primary driver of prospects to the community and eventual sales. Most Americans within a three hour radius of our community are familiar with Wintergreen through vacationing, advertising, or referral. And, although the Internet services satisfy many of a potential Buyer’s initial curiosity, there is still a tremendous need to utilize the skills of a real estate professional. The best result requires a partnership. At Wintergreen Real Estate Company, we like to utilize the strengths of the internet coupled with experienced, knowledgeable agents to make sure our buyers are making the right decision and they look to our group of seasoned experts at WREC for good advice. Understanding this real estate market will be the key to our recovery. There are still opportunities for savvy real estate investors even in a slow real estate market recovery. As mentioned, properly priced real estate sells and the other properties sit on the market. It is a great time to recommend a friend or relative. Simply put, there are some good deals out there.

A friend sent me the following note on pricing and I thought it might be interesting for our owners who have property listed for sale.

“Most of us think of numbers as describing quantities, and nothing more. Four is more than three; case closed. However, numbers have aesthetic qualities, too. There’s a reason an estimated two-thirds of items on retail shelves have prices ending in nine. It’s good for sales. Researchers have known about this nine-ending effect for nearly 80 years. Perhaps because precise prices look low — even lower than those ending in nine. A Cornell University study published recently in the academic journal Marketing Science looks at buyer attitudes toward precise numbers, both in the laboratory and the marketplace. Subjects sorted into groups and asked to make flash decisions on where a string of large numbers ranked on a magnitude scale of 1 to 9 consistently assigned higher magnitudes to round numbers than to precise, slightly higher ones.

For example, they judged $510,000 to be slightly higher on the scale than $511,534, and they saw $400,000 as considerably higher than $401,298. The researchers theorize that people aren’t used to discussing large numbers with precision, so they tend to associate precision with smallness. They call this tendency the precision heuristic (a heuristic is a type of mental shortcut that humans use to make decisions quickly, but not always wisely). The habit seems to be learned, not hard-wired; the researchers found that they could retrain subjects through additional demonstrations in which the obviously large numbers were precise and the obviously small ones were rounded.

That’s all well and good in the lab, but would the precision heuristic work in real life? It already has, apparently. The researchers studied thousands of real-estate transactions in South Florida and Long Island, N.Y., where houses sold for less than the asking price. All else held equal, houses that were originally listed at precise amounts sold for about 0.75% more than those that started with rounded prices. On a $500,000 house, that’s $3,750.” We should be willing to explore anything to get an edge for our sellers in this weak and recovering market. Maybe a price adjustment based on heuristics valuing will get a buyer’s attention.

Headlines may proclaim that real estate sales are up, but according to a recent AP Economic Survey, home values in some areas have fallen an average of 30% since 2006. We are seeing few new single-family housing starts but are seeing more additions. Our buyers are looking at existing inventory which will help absorb the standing inventory.

It is very important to remember given the slow rate of sales and the weaken economy that Wintergreen is in far better financial shape than many of other resort communities. Thankfully we have a mature community, little debt, and great leadership. I asked John Coy, the chairman of W.P.I. if I could enclose a copy of his recent letter to members, because it is pertinent and affects all owners at Wintergreen. If you are a member, forgive the redundancy, if not, it is worth noting.

“As you recall, two years ago we were in default on our loan agreement with Bank of America, and owed them about $12 million. Today, WPI’s debt consists of $7.5 million owed to the Members who participated in the private placement. We have no balance owing on the line of credit. These results were not achieved without sacrifice by many and a ceaseless dedication to the cause, but I believe that today we stand apart from many other organizations and communities that have not been able to endure the economic difficulties of the past two years.

I am especially pleased to report that on Wednesday, June 30, WPI executed an agreement with Bank of America whereby the large majority of our real estate holdings and personal property were released back to the Resort. An extremely difficult business and financial challenge which began in July, 2008 has been successfully met and resolved, in no small part as the result of the Membership’s continuing support of the Resort and the success of last year’s $7.5 million private placement initiative.

Bank of America has released all of WPI’s real estate holdings, with the exception of the Wintergarden Spa and the Associate Housing facility. The Devils Knob complex, the developable parcel known as Grassy Ridge, the Mountain Inn and Village area, and all our ski terrain has been returned to our control. We continue to maintain a $3 million line of credit with Bank of America (thus their retention of the two parcels), and our account has been moved from the “workout” group in Charlotte and returned to the commercial office in Richmond.

To be sure, the past winter helped provide WPI with its best financial performance in many years, and we look forward to reporting these results in greater detail at the Annual Meeting in October. But just as important as an improved financial picture is what I believe is the elevation of morale among the Membership and its different constituencies over the past months. There exists a sense that things are moving in the right direction and, while there is undeniably much ground to be made up and work left to do, we have the right leadership team in place to achieve those goals.

I am exceptionally pleased to be able to make this announcement, and offer my gratitude and thanks to our Membership, the management team, the entire staff who helped engineer and make this turnaround possible, and the support of the many guests and day visitors who have joined us over the years. The future of WPI is certainly much brighter today than in 2008. “

I also wanted to pass this on to you because we just recently received it from the W.P.I. Members Office and I did not want you to be confused with their new policies.

“Please note that effective May 28, 2010, the Wintergarden Aquatics & Fitness Center will become exclusive to WPI Members and Resort Guests every day, all day, 365 days a year. Patrons with spa services or enrolled in a fitness class will continue to have access to the pools and fitness center on the day of service or class. WPI Membership is available for the new set price of $5,000 for a Non-Equity membership and $12,000 for a Premier Equity Membership. The new set price for a WPI Right of Membership is $9,000. Financing is available for all products.”

In closing allow me to mention something that is guaranteed to bring great pleasure to any member of your family in addition to all the things there are to do at Wintergreen; FISHING. Wintergreen is blessed being in the middle of some of the best fishing in America. The James River and the Shenandoah River are world renowned rivers for Smallmouth Bass and only about ½ to an hour away. The Rockfish River branches merge a couple miles down Route 6 and below Skyler to the confluence at the James in the late spring and early summer is a stunning little river with spectacular fishing when the large Bass from the James are spawning. It can provide one of life’s best days on the water. The fishing is great and the scenery truly beautiful. The ponds in Stoney Creek were stocked in the mid 1970’s and those fish are big and strong enough to pull your canoe. Whether you have a cane pole and some worms or a fancy fly-rod and poppers, you will catch big fish. As a favor, just don’t kill them. The same fish should be caught by Grandparents and later Grandchildren. The trout fishing is also first class. Spend part of a day enjoying quiet solitude and a beautiful upstream hike on Stoney Creek in Shamokin Gorge. Russell Otis and WPOA under a permit from the good folks at Virginia Department of Fisheries stocks twice a year in addition to a decent resident population. Finally, for the true fly fishermen, there are opportunities to catch large trout on dry flies on the Limestone streams in the Shenandoah Valley and Western Virginia, which will rival the famous trout streams of Montana and Great Britain. Instruction is available through local shops and there are guides and information available. Call me if you need advice or have questions. Have a great summer and stop by the Black Bear Café office or the Stoney Creek Office next time you are here, It would be great to see you again.

From Tim Merrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bogus Email

We have recently seen incidents of phony emails supposedly from us asking for personal information. These bogus emails are from hijacked computers. This is, unfortunately, an increasingly popular form of spam—one over which we have no control.

Needless to say, these emails are not from us. Wintergreen Real Estate has based its business on integrity, honesty, and personal contacts. We will NEVER send you an email requesting personal information. If you receive such an email, delete it immediately—before opening if possible. Call us at (434) 325-7933 if you have any questions

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Appear in Our Calendar

Calling all photographers!

As our Wintergreen and Stoney Creek property owners know, we publish a calendar every year that showcases the seasonal beauty and happenings of the area using pictures taken by our marketing staff, sales agents, and friends. For the 2011 calendar, we would like to showcase some of our local talent. As property owners or frequent visitors to the area, you are bound to have footage of the natural beauty that surrounds Wintergreen, and we’re calling for your best shots! For every month we will include a small photo from the pool of submissions that we collect. This is a contest of sorts…the photo we select for each month in the calendar will be the one that best illustrates the time of year and most accurately depicts Wintergreen in a single snapshot. Here are the guidelines for submission:

  1. One entry per email address ·
  2. Photos must be high resolution (check camera settings to be sure you’re shooting at high resolution or consult camera guide for more information
  3. Maximum file size: 2 mb · jpeg or tiff formats are preferred
  4. Deadline to submit: August 31, 2010
  5. Email submissions only (web submission TBD)

To submit your photo, send the following information to calendar@wintergreenrealestate.com. Include your full name, mailing address, phone number, #years at Wintergreen, and note your permission for us to use the photo in our 2011 calendar. Include the photo as an attachment and please include your last name in the file name of the photo.

From Julie Benner

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Straight Talk About Wintergreen

Charles Dickens once said, “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade”. Those words perhaps best describe the end of ski season which officially ended the last weekend of March.

The community of Wintergreen has had one of the best ski seasons in our history. In a recent conversation, Wintergreen General Manager, Hank Theiss, mentioned that the budget for this year was about $1,800,000 and the actual numbers were closer to $3,500,000. The $1.8 million vs. $3.5 million are budgeted and projected figures for EBITDA or free cash for the year. The operating budget is closer to $31 million for this fiscal year. As you know, most of the annual operating revenue comes during ski season, so these additional funds enable deferred maintenance and improvements, put off due to past financial challenges. Rather than reiterate what you will receive through Resort communiqués, I will concentrate on the real estate markets in regard to where we are, how we got there, and where I believe we are headed this year. Perhaps it is important to first fully understand how America was affected by financial and mortgage markets and how it affected values across this nation.

From a historical perspective, government policies encouraged homeownership by making mortgage interest made tax-deductible in the same 1913 legislation that created the federal income tax. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created to provide mortgages with low down payments to qualified buyers and sell bundles of those mortgages as federally backed bonds. The Federal National Mortgage Association, known today as Fannie Mae, created during New Deal Administration of Roosevelt in 1938, bought mortgages from banks, who then sold the bundled loans. Its purpose was to make more credit available and thus allow more Americans to own homes. Freddie Mac followed in 1970. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were officially private corporations, but as entities created by Congress, the mortgages they held were implicitly guaranteed and backed by the government. Together the two agencies held about half of the residential mortgages in the United States.  Under President Carter’s administration, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA). The Act required banks and other financial institutions to offer home mortgages to those who would not qualify normally for such mortgages, such as low income borrowers and minorities. President Clinton strengthened the CRA in 1995. Financial institutions were pressured to increase the number and amount of home loans to moderate and low-income borrowers. The predictable result was an explosion in the number of sub-prime loans for which little or no down payment was required. The borrower was not even required to provide proof of income in many cases. On-line lenders and other sub-prime lenders did not care as long as they originated the loan and got their commissions. These sub-prime and Alt-A loans were risky; because the borrowers had no “skin in the game”. By 2006, nearly half of all new mortgages were subprime or Alt-A.  The banks packaged them and sold them to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and then they were sold again, financed by big banks, hedge funds, and large institutions. They were repackaged by Wall Street’s financial engineers and sold to pensions, and as investments all over the world. They were attractive because in a world of low interest yields these loans offered high returns. Many institutions, when purchasing these complex collateralized securities, understood what they were buying; but were able to justify these purchases because the reward of the high returns. The risk in these mortgages spread around the world as the loans were chopped up into bonds and derivatives.

When home building declined and prices fell, the universal downward pressure on consumption in America’s households spread across the nation to other industries. Debt levels created individual household financial disasters. As the market cooled and mortgages defaulted, the banks started to fail; not only because of losses on the mortgages they retained but also because of the mortgage backed securities they held. As the capital levels of the banking institutions were depleted and their leverages increased, big national firms like Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual, AIG, etc. failed. This led to a worldwide financial crisis from which we are just now emerging.

What does all this mean to a little community like ours? Wintergreen has been fortunate because throughout all of these national upheavals, we have been responsible and grounded in regard to real estate ownership. Our owners have decent FICO scores, the necessary down payments, and good jobs and a sufficient income to make the mortgage payments. Lenders rarely hesitate to make loans to our clients and owners because they are qualified and have the necessary cash to make usually a 10% to 20% or greater down payments, real “skin in the game”;  and a 2nd home is generally a discretionary purchase for those who can afford it. Until the housing boom of the early to mid 2000s, there was a moderate wave from low to high selling ranges and good liquidity in values over the past 25 years. During the first half of this decade we saw values skyrocket at Wintergreen and agents and builders came in to the market with no concept of Wintergreen’s history or its markets. This led to a boom real estate market experienced brokers and agents had never seen before. Prices shot up and inventories shrunk.

Following the financial crisis, values are resetting downward and inventory is growing. Prices must readjust because much of the current inventory is overpriced. Values are transparent at Wintergreen and properties will bring only what the market establishes. We have been fortunate in we have had only a few foreclosures in the history of the Wintergreen, even in these troubled economic times—often from those who bought at the top of the market and have decided to walk away.

In general, the real estate market at Wintergreen has fared much better than the national average. However, there is fierce competition for buyers, who are all looking for bargains in a recessive economy. There are about 90 homes on the market on the mountain currently, 30 or so in Stoney Creek, and over 125 condos. Lot sales include about 65 home sites on the mountain and approximately 60 lots in Stoney Creek.

Although our firm saw considerably more sales closed these past couple of months than we saw for the same months in the past two years, there is still a lot of property to sell to get inventory back to acceptable ratios. Once more, real estate needs to be priced to the market, if it is going to sell.

Sales in general are fair, but improving. The days are gone when a property would sell quickly because demand was fueled by national events. I am optimistic and believe we may have gone through the worst of it, provided rates do not move up too quickly and sellers are willing to be realistic.

What does the future hold?  There is cash out there waiting for the perfect time to invest in real estate. We are starting to see stability in the equity markets and confidence restored. I believe we will start seeing a recovery starting in the 3rd or 4th quarter because buyers who are on hold will make the decision to buy because they see opportunity.  Long term interest rates are exceptionally low now, about 5.0% or below with no points on an 80% loan. So, if buyers find the perfect home that they plan to live in for the next several years or a 2nd home condo or home they will take advantage of reduced prices and historically low interest rates. Rates may never be this low again in our lifetime due to the federal deficit spending.  In addition, gaining time together with family and friends who want to enjoy good times and build wonderful memories with all the amenities and facilities at Wintergreen is important. Folks with stressful and busy lifestyles are looking for an alternative. In addition, those considering waiting to buy could lose their dream home to another buyer.  Finally, this timing just after ski season, when sellers are motivated, is a tremendous opportunity to recommend a friend who is looking for a great buy and would like to be a part of this beautiful and unique environment and community called Wintergreen.

Contributed by Tim Merrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment