Rent-to-Buy? Try ‘Vacation-to-Buy’

The Red Cloud Estate, Resorts West’s most expensive property, is up for sale for $16 million — but costs $12,000 a night for a vacation stay.

We thought we’d seen it all when we caught wind of a peculiar marketing tactic to let potential home buyers spend the night in a house before making an offer. But, of course, things can always go a step further.

At luxury communities in Park City, Utah, a sleepover isn’t going to cut it. Instead, house hunters can vacation there before deciding whether to buy a property.

Resorts West, a company that manages high-end, ski-in/ski-out winter vacation-home enclaves, has a program that allows potential buyers to shack up for a minimum of three to seven nights in one of its exclusive properties before agreeing to purchase. Resorts West has a range of homes for sale, starting with a $1,089,000 two-bedroom condo and sliding up the slope to a $16 million eight-bedroom juggernaut with a stadium-seat theater and slope-side hot tub.

Rates to stay in these homes start at $677 a night for the condo and go up to $12,000 a night for its priciest property, known as Red Cloud Estate. Oh, and that includes the full suite of Resorts West services: daily housekeeping, complimentary shuttle service, and a private concierge. Tracie Heffernan, Resorts West’s communications director, says buyers can negotiate longer stays — a month or more — at higher rates.

“These properties are ski vacation homes that owners use a few times a year and otherwise rent to other vacationers,” Heffernan says. “Sellers do not have to commit to a certain time away [to allow buyers an opportunity to stay], but these properties are not full-time residences.”

Resorts West is also a rental company, and some of their clients are high-net-worth home owners who choose to keep their homes in the company’s rental database when they are away during the off season.

“We manage a small, hand-selected inventory of individually owned luxury properties, and renting these homes to skiers is our primary business,” Heffernan says. “Because we offer higher levels of service and set higher rates than other property managers in town, we do not have the high-occupancy mindset of some property managers. And since we target guests who are also often interested in real estate, owners see the value in keeping their homes in our rental inventory. We particularly find value in attracting a potential buyer who also sees the advantages of keeping a home in the rental inventory. We work with many homeowners whose properties are not on the market.”

In a statement, Resorts West points to recent data from the Park City Board of REALTORS®, which shows strong growth in housing demand in the area, as a sign that “vacation-to-rent” marketing can be successful. According to PCBR, total home sales in Park City in 2013 were up 22 percent from the previous year, and sales were up year-over-year for every month.

Resorts West Broker Jeff Spencer, a past president of PCBR, says that letting potential buyers experience a vacation at a home they’re interested in gives them a unique perspective on how they would use the home if it were their own — and it helps both buyers and sellers with a transaction.

“It’s really a rare opportunity for buyers to get a feel for the home they want, and sellers have a chance to show off the nuances of a property in a way that you just can’t in a walk-through,” Spencer says. “How do you show off the view at sunset from the front deck? Oftentimes, a photo doesn’t do the experience justice.”

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at

More Posts - Twitter

  1. This is an interesting concept but since these homes are not set up to be full time residences, it reminds me of Timeshares that often turn into nightmares for those who bought them.