Wyoming communities manage to buck trends

No. 10 at Shooting Star

No. 10 at Shooting Star

JACKSON, Wyo. – When the real-estate market caught fire a decade ago, a lot of outsiders belatedly discovered scenic Teton County. John Resor already was here.

His family has ranched the valley just south of Grand Teton National Park since 1929. Four years ago, he secured approval to build Shooting Star, a private golf community, on 500 acres of family land.

Seeking “the wow factor,” Resor recruited Tom Fazio to design his golf course, which opened last year. Fazio shaped 250 pancake-flat acres by moving 1.6 million cubic yards of dirt. It’s largely a core golf experience, with most of the homes clustered on the north end of the property, near Teton Village and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

“Around the course, you’ll see cattle rather than condos,” Resor says.

photo

Shooting Star during the fall

While Resor’s timing might seem inopportune – coming as the real-estate market slumps and golf courses are closing – buyers have taken notice. Shooting Star has sold 12 golf cabins, which start at $4.75 million, 30 lots and 170 memberships, each of which require a $100,000 initiation fee.

“In a very difficult market, to sell that many memberships is pretty strong,” says Clayton Andrews, executive vice president of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Data provided by Andrews illustrates how tough the market has been. In 2007, home sales in Teton County peaked at $792 million, more than double the total from a decade earlier, according to Multiple Listing Service figures. Sales plummeted to $480 million in 2008 and $229 million last year. The current trend, however, is positive; through May, unit sales rose 130 percent compared with the same period in 2009, and dollar volume increased 104 percent.

“I like to refer to the market as steady, not stable,” Andrews says.

His sense is that money is sitting on the sidelines because of low consumer confidence caused by issues buyers can’t control, such as federal legislation and even the BP oil spill.

“We’re not seeing a growth pattern that’s escalating each month,” he says. Instead, he sees periodic market spikes. That’s borne out by MLS data. Since October 2009, sales volume in the county has exceeded $35 million in three separate months, but has been below $20 million two of those months.

Aside from Jackson’s picturesque setting, homeowners benefit from a rare and appealing cocktail of government policies. Most importantly, the federal and state governments control more than 97 percent of the land in Teton County, propping up prices for the sparse acreage that is privately owned. Wyoming also has no personal, corporate, capital-gains or inheritance taxes.

While Shooting Star is just getting off the ground in a difficult market, 3 Creek Ranch, a private club with a Rees Jones-designed course on the southwest outskirts of Jackson, steadily is approaching maturity.

That was evident on a warm weekday afternoon in June, as a bustling lunchtime crowd spilled out onto the clubhouse patio. While this area always has been best known as a resort destination, for these sun-soaked families, Jackson is home.

At 3 Creek Ranch, only 10 of the original 136 homesites remain unsold – seven lots were sold during the 2009 downturn – and 68 homes are either completed or under construction. (The property owners include Tiger Woods, who has yet to build a home here.) The golf club has sold 174 memberships, including eight this summer.

Todd Domenico, 3 Creek’s sales and marketing director, says he sees weakness in the market below $1.5 million – likely people who aspire to live in Jackson Hole, but aren’t flush with enough cash to pull the trigger – but believes his property has benefited from the fact it has higher price points and targets a much more affluent clientele.

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