The Magic of Spring

One of the great mysteries and beauties of spring is Nature’s rebirth, and this spring is no less magical. Let me tell you a little about some magic, and then bring you up to date on the sales statistics for last year and the first quarter of 2017.

Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. from Utah (PGRI), who operates and manages the Wintergreen Resort, acquired Wintergreen Real Estate Company and will merge it with Wintergreen Resort Premier Properties. Merging the two largest Wintergreen real estate firms and strengthening their connection to the Resort will benefit both buyers and sellers. Click here for a copy of the press release.

We have been waiting for clear indications of where Wintergreen was headed after the sale by Jim Justice in 2015. I am pleased to report good news. PGRI has been working with the Resort on major improvements (see below), and the real estate merger offers further benefits. Tim Hess, our Managing Partner, worked with PGRI on the acquisition/merger for over a year, and it has been well vetted. PGRI says, “What the partners (WREC) have done over the years is truly a life’s work and an admirable one at that, and PGRI respects what has been created and the opportunities it affords families to create memories and bonds for generations. PGRI is excited for the possibilities and the future of the resort and the community. From the clients’ perspective, it is business as usual for now with some exciting things to come.” We expect that together, PGRI, the Resort, and the combined real estate company will develop new marketing concepts and programs to boost current property values and help sell properties.

Wintergreen Real Estate will continue to have office space in the Stoney Creek building and on the mountain with the main mountain office moving to the Mountain Inn. Our new mountain office will be behind the front desk where the rental department currently resides. Please stop by and say hello. I expect to have an office there as well as the one I have always had in the valley at Stoney Creek. The intention for the Café is at present unknown but PGRI understands its location and potential. 

By the way, as part of this new arrangement, we are no longer in the property rental business as of the date of the new agreement and sale, March 31. 2017. (One quick important note: Kathleen Jensen who worked for a short while and part time at WREC does not represent our company.)

The acquisition means is that we shall be unified, focused, and holistic in our marketing approach both for real estate and the resort. Working together will benefit everyone. Wintergreen will be re-established as THE PLACE, a wonderful resort destination with a unique lifestyle. Mark Fischer, President of Resort Investments for PGRI and Managing Director of the Pacific Group, understands this. He made an interesting comment in our recent meeting when he said, “We are selling memories. A skier who buys a lift ticket will have memories for a day but, an owner at Wintergreen creates memories for a lifetime.” It is what we have preached for decades. Mark compared our resort community to a factory, an interesting analogy. In a factory, there are three shifts. At Wintergreen, Mark said we also have three. The ski season is one, the spring and summer and fall resort season is one, and conference or group business completes the third. Regarding conference bookings this April, we will have the best April for conferences in our history. But, we need more conference business, and you are aware what that will lead to in the future. I encourage you to refer your company or organization to our conference folks. Let me know how I can help.

In addition to the acquisition, there are exciting changes and expansions underway, including major expansion to the exercise facilities at the Wintergarden Spa and major changes to The Mountain Inn which everyone will welcome. The expansion and upgrades in Stoney Creek of the locker room areas and exercise facilities have just been completed. The renovations make perfect sense for a growing Stoney Creek community and there will be more in the future.

When we met with Hank Thiess and Mark Fischer after the Pacific Group acquired Wintergreen, Mark said that when they acquire a resort community like ours, they do not do anything for the first year. They watch the operations and how it is managed and then once they understand the policies and procedures and operations, then they make changes, so they are on target with this announcement and the planned capital investments.

On the subject of the real estate market, my Dad had a great expression; “What the golfer curses, the farmer prays for.” It was certainly true this past winter. We were playing golf most of the winter in the valley while our ski operations on the mountain were praying for cold weather. It did affect our market and real estate sales. We just did not see the traffic we usually see during a cold and snowy winter.

Last year 42 homes on the mountain ranging in price from $120,000 to $1,050,000 were sold. Local MLS statistics also showed sales of 77 condos (from $40,500 to $365,000) and 3 townhomes (from $125,000 to $250,000). Twenty four homes in Stoney Creek (from $170,000 to $629,500) plus one townhouse sold last year. Six lots on the mountain (from $17,000 to $59,000) and 11 lots in Stoney Creek (from $17,950 to $150,000) sold last year.

This year in Stoney Creek one townhouse has sold and 3 homes are sold and 5 more are pending YTD (from $ 295,000 to $799,000). More families are discovering Stoney Creek as a great place to retire or live close to Charlottesville. Judy and I and the boys, when they visit from DC and San Francisco, love living on the 8th fairway of Shamokin. Stop by next time you are playing golf. I keep the garage refrigerator well stocked and have plenty of extra golf balls. The mountain has 21 condos either sold or pending and 3 townhouses and 22 homes are closed or under contract at last count.  This year, 7 lots have sold on the mountain and 5 in the valley.

I expect all sales to rise with the new marketing approach by The Pacific Group but, as long as homes remain attractively priced far under replacement value, I do not see a great increase for lot sales on the mountain or in the valley. I hope I am wrong. Buyers are aware of the steeply discounted prices in condos and homes on the mountain and rates are still excellent. Rates are a bit up from last year but still very attractive at about 4.125% fixed for 30 year with no points.

Back to the topic of spring and the weather. We are having an active spring after a very warm winter. Having an early spring is not a bad scenario if one is looking for a place to buy. Please drop me a note or feel free to call if I can answer questions about the sale or if I can help you or your friends find a place here. The timing is perfect for buyers.

In closing, I know the question will be asked, “Tim, you have been at Wintergreen since the beginning. What do you think”? I think change is growth. If things do not change in Nature then they rot and die. Spring is a season of dramatic change and re-birth. Wintergreen is no exception, it needs and deserves change and growth. I truly think these guys from PGRI have the vision, the drive, the understanding, the knowledge, and the finances to make Wintergreen one of the most respected and admired resort communities in the East. I want our owners and all of us working here to be a part of it.

From Tim Merrick

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