Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2001 Sandpoint Magazine summer 2001
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2001

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Planning communities with conscience
MarketWatch: Lots of change over 10 years

By Trish Gannon

Housing developments come in all shapes and sizes, but most recently they come with more of a conscience. Better planned, well thought-out developments address impacts to the environment and wildlife, and covenants are drawn up to guide designing homes and outbuildings to ensure quality and protect neighbors’ investments. The planned-community type housing developments described here fall into resort categories: golf course, waterfront and ski mountain.

Out along scenic Highway 200, right across from where the moose feed next to the road, Hidden Lakes Golf Resort is undergoing an expansion project and owner Dick Villelli says, “Our intention is to be the No. 1 golf course in the state.” It’s a lofty goal, but just one look at the course and improvements says it’s a goal they might very well meet.

The course is at the heart of improvements, and it’s one that’s already been called one of the “hidden gems” of the Pacific Northwest. Of course, Hidden Lakes has always had spectacular golf, scenery and service. The big changes out on Highway 200 will be in what surrounds the course – a spectacular new development.

On 244 acres along the Pack River delta, Villelli is building a community around the golf course. To be built in three phases, with the first nearing completion and the second beginning in May 2001, the final product will boast more than 80 homesites one-quarter to one-half acre each, paved streets and underground utilities, 16 acres of all-year lakes and a massive, 18,000-square-foot log clubhouse that will house the pro shop and a year-round restaurant and lounge.

Future phases include a lodge with an indoor pool, spa and day care, plus a marina on Lake Pend Oreille and further developments on Moose Mountain, across the highway from the course and connected via an underground tunnel. “This is the second largest development in the history of the county and could possibly even eclipse Schweitzer,” Villelli said. “It will have a phenomenal (positive) impact on the community.”

Villelli is an experienced and savvy businessman, and he’s making sure his development will highlight and keep intact one of the greatest benefits of Hidden Lakes – its location. “We’ve increased habitat for the local moose, elk and waterfowl tremendously,” he said. “When we’re done, we’ll have more trees than when we started. For example, we’re requiring every lot to have a minimum of 15 trees, and a lot owner can’t cut a tree over 3 inches without approval. The lawn can’t exceed the size of the house.” He could go on, because there are more than 30 pages of restrictive building covenants. He points out that, if everything planned is built and every homeowner built a single-level, 6,000 square foot “monster” of a house, “we’ll have covered 14 acres out of 244.”

It’s a substantial investment but one that Villelli has every reason to believe will pay off. Of the 45 homesites in the first phase, with prices beginning at $110,000, more than 40 had sold by mid-September. “People are going to come here, not expecting much but a fun golfing experience, and they’re going to be blown away by the quality and the level of services,” Villelli predicted.

Schweitzer Mountain has always met the definition of a planned community, and perhaps no one has been more involved on the mountain than Charlie Parrish, owner/broker of Evergreen Realty in Sandpoint. For 16 years he’s been both a developer and a real estate agent at the mountain. He’s built more than 100 condos worth over $20 million and, last year, helped with the successful sale of the remodeled Selkirk Lodge. Of 41 units, only four are left.

“It’s more expensive to build on Schweitzer,” Parrish said. “Utility hook-ups, site-prep costs are substantially higher.” But the return is worth it. The most current project on the mountain for Parrish is the Cornice Condominiums. The first phase, an eight-plex of two-bedroom, two-bath units, was completed in December ’96 and sold within a year. Now in construction is phase two, an eight-plex condo listed in the $169,000 to $189,000 range.

Part of what makes Schweitzer a good investment is the money and effort being put into improvements by its new owners, Harbor Properties. “I didn’t build anything (on the mountain) between ’96 and this year because of the uncertainties about the mountain,” Parrish

MarketWatch: Lots of change over 10 years

In the 10 years Sandpoint Magazine has been publishing, the real estate market has seen minor booms and busts, realtors come and go, offices open, close, merge and re-open again. Steve Van Horne, now an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Resort Realty, was around in 1991. So was Charlie Parrish, the owner/broker of Evergreen Realty. And they have witnessed the market vary greatly in the last 10 years.

In 1991, Sandpoint Magazine reported a problem in finding sellers. Not so today. “We don’t have any trouble finding sellers,” said Van Horne. Where activity has lowered inventory, he says, is the more
highly desirable properties – waterfront and well-located commercial. As for Schweitzer, he concurs with Parrish. “We’re really working the inventory levels off; we’re probably at the cusp of a seller’s market (on the mountain),” Parrish said.

A buyer can find property of almost any type for sale in the area; what they won’t find are the prices that property sold for in ’91. Midway through the year 2000, the average sales price on property in Bonner County, as reported by the Multiple Listing Service, was $143,109.

The best investment is still in the traditional types of resort property; fairways, ski slopes and waterfront. Major investments at Schweitzer and Hidden Lakes Golf Resort are ensuring the value in these types of properties. “Between last year and this year, Harbor spent $10 million on improvements at Schweitzer,” Parrish explained. “The market notices that.”

Ten years ago, it was possible to purchase a condo at Schweitzer under $50,000. Those prices are long gone. Even the older studio condos are priced in the high $50s today, and mountain real estate set local records this year, with individual properties selling in the half-million-dollar range.

“One of the nice things is the quality of people (moving here) has been excellent,” said Van Horne. “They have given and brought a lot to our community, adding to what the locals have always done. Sandpoint has always been a place where people make things happen. Ten years is a lifetime in any business. It’s a big time frame. Today, (’70s, ’80s, ’90s) prices look wonderful.”

He adds, “Ten years from now we’ll be looking at this (market) as an outstanding bargain. It’s been a very interesting ride and, as usual, I feel the best is yet to come.”

Parrish believes, “Property on Schweitzer will probably double in value. I would think that’s a conservative estimate. Prices here are 15 percent to 20 percent higher than in Coeur d' Alene, but we're worth it. People don't come here, for the most part, for work. People live here because they want to."

- Trish Gannon

Winter 2001

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