Summit County second-home owners report struggles if their properties aren’t paid for by short-term renters
Summit County second-home owner Rick Davis said he wishes he never bought property in the county.
Davis said he and his wife, Teresa, who live in Austin, Texas, have brought their sons to Summit County since 1988 routinely to ski and spend time outside as a family.
His sons loved it so much that they eventually moved out to Denver to be closer to the resort community. Once their sons had children, Rick and Teresa decided they wanted a place in Summit County to host family, be close to their grandkids and enjoy the county they’ve loved for so many years.
The two bought a townhouse in Wildernest in March 2022. For the next month, they spent large sums of money paying local workers and companies to upgrade the home, Rick said, as it hadn’t been updated in years.
Rick said they swung the purchase with the understanding that they could supplement the mortgage cost with short-term renters. However, once the May 24 moratorium on certain short-term rental licenses in neighborhood zones hit, Rick hasn’t been able to rent the property.
Now, Rick said he may be spread very thin since finding out he wouldn’t be able to rent his property, especially since he can’t rent during the peak months of November, December and January.
At the Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9, both Commissioner Tamara Pogue and Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said they’ve heard from many second-home owners who have struggled to pay for their property without the ability to rent it short term.
The county implemented the moratorium to evaluate issues caused by short-term rentals and homes that sit vacant for a majority of the year or are not accessible to the workforce that keeps the county operating. As many as 12 local workers may share a single home, and options for housing for people below the area median income are few and far between.
Short-term rentals are also causing issues involving excess trash, increased noise violations and other negative effects to the character of neighborhoods, something the regulations are looking to address during the moratorium.
Sara Gambino, a broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Real Estate, grew up in Summit County and has seen the real estate market change drastically throughout the years.
“I would say, you know, 60% of our market is second-home owners,” Gambino said. “And the majority of them can’t afford it without offsetting the cost.”
Short-term renting, then, is the perfect solution, Gambino said.
It’s such a normal thing that Gambino said when second-home owners want to buy a property, lenders take them through a process of projecting short-term rental visitor numbers and how much an owner will make from renters to make sure they can financially qualify for the purchase.
“An investment property is essentially a business, because you’re generating income off of using your investment,” she said.
And with a business as integral as short-term rentals in Summit County being regulated, Gambino said there are inevitable consequences.
Summit County local Timothy Paynter has owned a second property in Breckenridge for 20 years that he rents for six months out of the year.
His studio loft has served him during that time, but now Paynter has a 2-year-old grandson who he wants to grow up in the county and attend Summit County schools.
“I’ve looked at the programs that they offer in Summit County, and I’m impressed that there’s golfing and there’s skiing and there’s rock climbing and there’s swimming,” Paynter said, “and I’d like him to be part of all of that.”
Therefore, Paynter wants to buy a different property in Summit County, one where he can expand his home to welcome his grandson and his grandson’s parents. However, with the increased price of housing, he would need to rent it.
He said during peak seasons and holidays, he and his family could open a room in their home for a renter because there’s so much money to be made during the peak season.
However, Paynter isn’t able to get a short-term license in many neighborhoods, and the ones where he could obtain a license are far out of his price range, he said.
Paynter added that he wants to make this investment for his grandson. At the moment, however, he’s stuck and feeling frustrated that the moratorium hasn’t done as much as it should have to help workforce housing numbers.
Gambino also pointed out that she hasn’t seen a high demand from locals for workforce housing even during the moratorium.
“They’ve done it. The pause button has been hit,” she said. “Where is the demand from locals?”
Both Paynter and Rick said they are frustrated with the moratorium and have struggled to understand the benefits.
“They’ve been looking at the angles of short-term rentals for years,” Gambino said, “and it is essentially a business, but then it’s not treated like a business.”
Paynter said he feels the county will feel economic effects from this that have not been predicted yet, like less room for skiers in Breckenridge during the winter months. Rick also said that he believes tourism is an integral part of the Summit County economy.
Gambino also agrees.
“I don’t think that every angle has been, I guess, empathized with,” she said. “It’s slowed the market. It’s slowed the tourism.”
She added that growing up in the county has given her a unique perspective about what the county has tried to become in the past 30 years from when it was just a winter tourism town. With all this context, she sees the moratorium as a regression.
“New people became involved with the politics and the ski resorts and everything, and their goal was to make it a winter and summer destination,” she said. “So, they’re kind of going back on all the work that went into making the county the destination that it is.”
The moratorium will end in February 2023, and many people have ideas on how to improve the situation.
“I think the biggest thing that people need to understand is we’re a resort community, and our entire economy is based on tourism,” Gambino said.
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