Ritzy club’s sales are running ahead of pace at Highlands | AspenTimes.com

Ritzy club’s sales are running ahead of pace at Highlands

Aspen Highlands’ vaunted double-diamond ski terrain hasn’t spooked potential buyers from the posh new Ritz-Carlton Club in the base village.

Sales of the high-end time share project are running about 8 percent ahead of projections for this point, according to Jud Hawk, general manager of the club.

The Ritz crew believes it will make its targeted opening of Feb. 3, 2001. Construction and employee recruitment have progressed along with sales, so far, said Hawk.

“At this point I can honestly say we haven’t had any `I gotchas,'” he said.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. selected the Highlands base as the place where it will enter one of the hottest real estate sales niches – interval ownership.

The Ritz is selling ownership interests in 1/12 intervals for 71 two- and three-bedroom residences plus two penthouses divided among three of the new buildings towering out of the Highlands base.

Fractional ownership is being offered only in the 47 units scheduled to be completed in February. Of the 564 shares available, 156, or about 28 percent, have been sold thus far.

Shares will be available later in the 26 residences offered in a building pegged for completion in December 2001.

Who’s buying?

It’s a safe bet that the typical Aspen Highlands skier or rider isn’t the typical buyer at the Ritz-Carlton Club, Hawk acknowledged.

He’s sure that some buyers aren’t even skiers, something the Ritz-Carlton Hotel experienced when it operated in Aspen.

“A number of people just came because they loved Aspen in the wintertime,” he said. Those visitors often had someone in their group, a grandchild, perhaps, who did ski.

Prices for 1/12 interests range from $160,000 to $500,000, depending on size, location and seasonal preference. The average cost is $240,000.

Ownership entitles buyers to 28 days of use. They can choose a winter preference and receive two weeks during ski season, one week in the summer and one week in an off-season. Some members prefer ownership skewed toward summers. The weeks they spend in the residences are rotated annually.

Hawk estimated 99 percent of buyers are interested in the Ritz name and reputation for quality service. As proof, he said a significant number of buyers purchased a share sight unseen.

Avoid home ownership hassles

Several of the club’s initial buyers have been people who can’t justify spending millions of dollars on a home or luxury condominium that sits empty 10 months of the year. The average home price in Aspen has climbed to $2.4 million.

Interval ownership allows them to purchase a second home for only the time they will use it – at a price that reflects that limited use.

“Most of our members are purchasing because it takes the hassle out of home ownership,” Hawk said.

The 21 two-bedroom residences in the project range from 1,340 to 1,656 square feet. The 50 three-bedroom units range from 1,719 to 2,076 square feet. All are set up similarly, with each unit featuring two master suites with walk-in closets. The three-bedroom residences add a third, small bedroom.

They all have a full-service kitchen, a formal dining room, a living room with a well-stocked entertainment center and a washer and dryer. High-speed Internet access is being provided to one bedroom per unit, although members are pressing for service to each bedroom.

Ask and you’ll receive

One man, whom Ritz-Carlton won’t name, bought 12 ownership interests in one unit – securing it for the entire year. Assuming he spent the average of $240,000 for each share, he paid $2.88 million – more than the average house price.

What he sacrificed in square footage compared to a single-family home, he more than made up for in pampering.

The Ritz-Carlton Club will follow the luxury hotel chain’s reputation for providing anything its members ask for – well, almost.

Limousines will pick up members at the Aspen airport. Shoppers will ensure their kitchen cupboards are well stocked when they arrive.

Twice-daily housekeeping is standard. A ski valet will tote skis or snowboards.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will issue lift tickets, which members purchase, that have the Ritz-Carlton logo.

Then there’s help with customizing the units. While the pictures cannot be taken down from the wall and the main decorations must stay, Hawk’s staff will help each owner with personal touches – pictures in standing frames on the fireplace mantel, for example.

He said the staff will take a photograph of the setup that each owner prefers. When that owner comes back, personal decorations plus clothes will be taken out of a storage locker and placed in the appropriate spot around the residence.

To provide that level of service, the Ritz-Carlton Club will have 80 full-time employees. Hawk assumes average occupancy will be be three people per residence, so 219 total, creating a ratio of one worker per 2.75 guests.

Membership, of course, has its costs as well as its privileges. Currently, members pay a $9,400 annual fee, and it is subject to increase.

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