Archive for the ‘Real Estate in Italy’ Category

Buying a Fractional Vacation Retreat – Article by Amy Gunderson

May 14, 2009

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Fractional real estate developments are cropping up around the globe, selling partial ownership of luxury residences. Here’s what you need to know before you buy.

Fractional Residences Explained

If you’ve been in the market for a vacation home in the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard about fractional residences. This new upscale spin on the tired timeshare offers shared, deeded ownership of luxury homes in some of the world’s most popular resort areas.

Fractional ownership promises five-star amenities and services, access to prime recreation—from golf to skiing to fly-fishing—and above all, the chance to own a multimillion-dollar residence, or at least part of one, for a lot less than the cost of whole ownership.

Why buy?

A share in a fractional residence is deeded real estate ownership that you can sell or pass down to your children, just as with a traditional real estate holding. The factors that distinguish fractionals from timeshares are not only a high level of luxury—and cost—but also greater access to the property, though these factors vary from fractional to fractional.

One notable perk of fractional ownership is that it reduces the hassles inherent in owning a vacation home—the management company takes care of maintenance and security. That means you won’t need to worry about closing the pool for the winter or hiring someone to look in on your home while you’re away.

As an added draw, most fractional developments offer an extensive suite of concierge services. Ski passes delivered to your door, a stocked refrigerator upon arrival and even help with your travel arrangements are all par for the course.

 Where to Buy

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Fractional residences are available in just about any area that’s popular with second homeowners:

• Golf resorts, including Scottsdale, Ariz., and La Quinta, Calif.
• Ski areas, including Colorado’s Aspen, Telluride and Snowmass
• Beach resorts, including Cabo San Lucas (on the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula), St. Thomas and the coast of South Africa
• International destinations, including Italy, France and Dubai

Just as with buying a vacation home, location can also affect resale value. Beachfront trumps oceanside. Ski-in/ski-out tops a drive to the slopes.

With fractional ownership, you can buy into an expensive real estate market at a fraction of the cost of whole ownership. Take Aspen, for example. In mid-2008, more than half of all houses and condominiums for sale in this tony ski town had asking prices topping $3 million. The way into Aspen for under a million bucks (other than a fixer-upper condo with a kitchen from the 1970s) is fractional ownership, with options available from St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton, among others. Fractionals can also help you buy in a market where there isn’t much new construction, like Calistoga in California’s Napa Valley.

Is the brand name worth it?

Another consideration is whether to go with an established brand – like St. Regis Residence Club, Ritz-Carlton Club, Fairmont Heritage Place or Timbers Collection – or a one-off development.

Big names offer consistency and a certain level of quality control, and sometimes offer extras like discounts on hotel rooms in their network, or last-minute stays in unreserved fractional units for a nominal fee. The flip side of the coin is that the bigger brands often go for condo communities over freestanding residences or cottages, and may lack some of the local charm of their independent counterparts.

The biggest perk of joining established brands is that they typically have developments in multiple locations. Owners can participate in an exchange program that allows them to swap weeks at their main location for time at residences in other communities. These programs are often based on complicated points systems that don’t operate at a one-to-one exchange rate.

 Guaranteed Use & Reservations

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Depending on the development, a buyer can get 4, 6, 8 or more weeks a year of guaranteed use. The size of your share will determine how much access you have to the property, so be sure the share isn’t too small—or large—for your needs. Some owners buy multiple shares to increase their number of vacation weeks.

Getting the home you want

The key question is, can you actually reserve the home when you want it, year after year? Landing reservations during sought-after holiday weeks can be particularly challenging at fractional developments in ski communities, for example, where the prime vacation period lasts only a few months.

Before you buy, be sure you understand how the development allocates reservations, particularly during peak travel times. For example, a development may:

• Provide 1 week during the prime season that remains the same each year, with additional days that can be booked throughout the year
• Limit the number of weeks that can be used in the winter or summer months
• Rotate reservation priorities among owners. For example, each year, a different owner has the opportunity to book the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

If units are already operational, talk with other owners about their success in booking vacations during the busiest seasons.

Cost Considerations

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It’s not exactly a state secret that the sum of a home’s fractional shares exceeds its total value. Why the premium? Developers say selling a single residence to multiple owners leads to higher costs for sales, management and the resort itself. To guard against overpaying for a particular fractional unit, expand your research to other fractional communities in the area, as well as the resale market.

Keep in mind that buying a share of a fractional residence requires more than just the initial outlay. Annual dues—which can easily stretch beyond $10,000—cover things like daily housekeeping, property upkeep, management fees and even property taxes.

One way to evaluate the total cost of fractional ownership is through a simple cost-per-night analysis that looks at how the annual dues break out on a nightly basis over the course of a year. To figure cost per night, divide the annual dues by the number of nights your share includes. Then compare this rate with the nightly rate at a five-star hotel in the area.

Preconstruction precaution

For buyers interested in projects that haven’t yet broken ground, there is another concern in these tough economic times—will the development ever open its doors? While buyers who get in early don’t risk losing their deposit, they do risk having those dollars tied up in a non-interest-bearing account that may never yield a real estate development.

You may want to hold off until the bulldozers arrive. It may be worth risking a slight price increase to avoid having a $50,000 deposit locked into a project that may never get farther than those colorful mockups on the sales room floor.

Resales are unproven

If you’re looking at a unit in a development that’s completed construction, research the resale market. It can take years for a development to completely sell its entire developer inventory, but even if that initial stock hasn’t sold out, there may be units for resale listed by local brokers.

Sample fractional resale listings in Aspen

• Fractionals at the Ritz-Carlton Club, Aspen Highlands have asking prices of $184,000 to $575,000.
• Fractionals at the Hyatt Grand Aspen carry price tags ranging from $125,000 to $2,450,000.
• Resales at the St. Regis Residence Club, a community that sold out of its developer inventory, currently run from $170,000 to $1.2 million. Its fractional units initially sold from $350,000 to $1.5 million a share.

These numbers illustrate two important points:

• There are deals to be had on fractionals in the resale market
• Fractionals are not a proven investment. Fractionals do not always appreciate at the same rate as traditional real estate investments. It’s wise to look at a fractional as a lifestyle purchase, not a financial investment. You should be buying because you love the property, not because you expect to turn a profit.

 Behind the Numbers

Development Location Buy-in price Annual dues Cost per night
Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square San Francisco $250,000 for five weeks $10,700 $306
 
Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas $460,000 for five weeks $12,000 $343
 
The Residences at the Little Nell Aspen, Colo. $1.9 million for six weeks $25,000 $595
 
Castello di Casole Tuscany $508,150 for four weeks $11,783 $420
 
The Rocks Scottsdale Scottsdale, Ariz. $315,000 for four weeks $10,860 $387

Due Diligence Questions

1. How is my deposit secured, and under what terms is it refundable?
2. Are all residences identical in style and design?
3. Is the development part of an exchange program with other fractional developers?
4. How many sales have been closed?
5. What are the recurring fees, including homeowners’ association dues and any occupancy charges?
6. What are the anticipated annual increases in these fees?
7. What financing do you offer, and does it qualify as a deductible-interest mortgage?
8. What are the specific terms for usage and guaranteed access?
9. Are there minimum stay requirements?
10. What are the procedures, fees and restrictions for selling?
11. Has the developer missed any sales or construction milestones in previous projects?

For further information, kindly contact 77 Great Estates on (00356) 2125 2455; (00356) 9944 7444; skype: info.77GreatEstates or info@77GreatEstates.com.