Developers add a tropical touch
Home away from home could be Belize
By Margaret Jackson
Denver Post Staff Writer
A Colorado developer of single-family homes in the Rockies has opened what it believes is the first private residence club in the Central American country of Belize.
Colorado Springs-based Land Properties Inc. started construction on Sueño del Mar, which caters to diving, sailing, snorkeling and sport- fishing enthusiasts, in 2004. It opened to members Dec. 1.
The resorts is on Ambergris Caye, an island away from the jungles and busy resorts on the Belizian mainland, where developers say crime is more of an issue. Unlike on the mainland, women are safe walking alone on the island at night, said Kevin Meyer, general manager of the resort.
Members of private residence clubs own a piece of the real estate, which they visit year after year.
Land Properties, which employs 30 people and has 85 sales associates and brokers, has sold more than half the available memberships at Sueño del Mar less than a year after they were put on the market. Of the 72 memberships, about 40 have sold, including 30 to Coloradans, Meyer said. Each unit has no more than six owners who use the same property for the same two months each year.
"Our early sales came from people who had purchased land from us over the years," Meyer said. "The reason we did the project was because of pressure from Colorado customers to do something in the Caribbean."
Land Properties' Colorado developments include the 2,100- acre South Fork Ranches resort community centered on the Rio Grande Club golf course in southern Colorado. Its other developments are the Bull Domingo Ranch near Westcliffe and Sante Fe Trail Ranch near Trinidad, both communities featuring parcels 35 acres and larger; Elk Park near Pagosa Springs; and Vista de Oro near Durango.
The company, begun in 1981, is privately held and hasn't released sales figures since 2000. That year, they were $44.6 million, up from $21.6 million six years earlier.
Condos at Sueño del Mar range from 940 square feet for a one-bedroom unit to 1,230 square feet for two bedrooms. Sueño's 30-year initiation fees range from $37,000 to $94,000, and the annual membership fee ranges from $1,200 to $1,400 for a two-month residency period.
Memberships include a large on-site storage vault for personal belongings, which the concierge will move into the unit before residents arrive. Membership also includes a water taxi service and use of all resort amenities, including a poolside lounge and restaurant, dive and fishing shop, guided tours from the resort's 300-foot pier, and boat moorings.
"Relative to industry standards, those prices are probably in the bottom 5 percent," said Dick Ragatz, president of Ragatz Associates, an Oregon-based resort consulting and market research firm.
Prices at private residence club resorts average about $247,000 per fraction, according to a research report by Ragatz Associates.
As of March, there were 170 fractional interest resorts that had started sales before Dec. 31, 2004, according to the report. The majority, 142, are in the U.S., followed by Canada with 16, Mexico with five, the Caribbean with four, and three in other locations.
"This will be the first one in Belize," Ragatz said. "So far, the majority have been in the Rockies, but we're seeing a great dispersal on golf course resorts, major spa destinations, urban cities and surf-and-sand destinations. They're spreading all over."
Also spreading are luxury residence clubs - commonly called destination clubs. These differ from private residence clubs in that they give members the opportunity to visit a variety of resorts.
"It's different in that when you pay your membership deposit, you're buying access to a diverse portfolio of real estate," said Brent Handler, president of the Denver-based LRC Exclusive Resorts, which has attracted nearly 2,000 members since it started in March 2003.
Membership fees range from $195,000 to $395,000, with annual dues from $9,500 to $25,000.
Exclusive Resorts owns about 300 homes in 35 destinations. The company pays an average of about $3 million for each of its homes, which range from apartments in urban areas such as Paris, New York and London to beachfront properties in Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean.
"We're the largest buyer of luxury real estate in the world," Handler said. "In 2005, we effectively released a new home for our members almost every other day. We're always looking for great property with access to exceptional amenities."
Staff writer Margaret Jackson can be reached at 303-820-1473 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3365618