Business is coming back for Minnesota’s fractional real estate industry

Fractional ownership is a concept that’s akin to a timeshare, but often comes with deeded ownership.

Dreaming of a place at the lake, but don’t want to shoulder the ­burden of maintaining it and paying for it ­yourself?

For some, co-ownership through an unusual model called fractional ownership is the answer. It’s a concept that’s akin to a timeshare, but often comes with deeded ownership. Such arrangements were wildly popular before the recession, but the sector crashed exceptionally hard and has been among the last areas of the real estate industry to recover.

Now there are signs that fractionals are starting to come back. “It’s as if a light switch was flipped,” said Lavonne Christensen, the sales agent for Odyssey Development in Duluth, which specializes in owning and managing resorts.

While the volume of fractional transactions remains far below pre-recession levels, some think the concept is on the verge of a rebirth as millennials who have embraced the sharing economy start thinking about owning a place at the lake.

Christensen pointed to one of her company’s properties, a small resort on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and said shares have been selling quickly. “I’m going to start a waiting list.”

Fractional ownership is just one variation of real estate with shared ownership. The category includes private residence clubs, timeshares and destination clubs, but there are no hard and fast rules that define each label.
Often, a fractional interest is associated with projects where the real estate is divided into shares that are deeded individually to buyers. Destination and residence clubs often sell multiyear memberships that entitle owners to tap into a network of vacation homes in multiple locations. A timeshare is typically a situation where there are more than 26 owners.

In an annual survey of more than 304 fractional projects and residence clubs and six destination clubs, Ragatz Associates found that only 68 of the properties made sales in 2015. Total sales volume was $505 million, down slightly from the two previous years and nearly a fifth of what was sold during the peak of the market in 2007.

Dick Ragatz, the firm’s president, said the industry crashed particularly hard compared with other segments and has been among the last to recover in large part because of limited access to financing for such projects. “Demand is increasing slightly, but it will never be what it was before the recession, not for a long time if ever.”

Before the recession many buyers were using home equity to pay cash for their shares, which average $105,425 for fractional projects and $363,550 for private residence clubs, according to the Ragatz survey. Then, as now, access to financing has been an issue for such purchases.

Slow recovery

A lake place is a completely elective purchase and so sales of recreational properties have lagged the housing market recovery in the Twin Cities and other metro areas. With the housing recovery approaching the half-decade mark, the market for second homes is gaining some momentum.

At Duluth-based Odyssey Real Estate, fractional sales have rebounded. So far this year, the company has had $17.5 million in sales compared with $11.2 million last year. Odyssey has had 95 transactions so far this year, with about a third that fractional ownership.

“It’s [been] kind of a slow, slow ride,” said Odyssey founder Bob Ryan. “The real estate recession was an alarming thing for many people because they lost a lot of equity in their homes. That was an equity source to purchase a vacation home.”

The company’s primary focus has been developing and managing resorts in northern Minnesota. Though Odyssey has been involved with five fractional ownership projects, including Trapper’s Landing Lodge on Leech Lake and Grand Superior Lodge, resort operations remain the biggest part of Odyssey’s business. The company manages the properties it develops.

One of the company’s most successful projects was ­Larsmont Cottages, a $30 million development with 40 units on the shores of Lake Superior just north of Duluth. Christensen, the Odyssey sales agent who marketed the project, said that when the 40 units, mostly divided into quarter shares, came online in 2005 and 2006 the project sold out quickly. Prices started at $150,000 for a three-bedroom quarter share and peaked at $175,000. Resales started right away, with some units selling for $35,000 more than the sellers had paid.

By the time the recession rolled around demand evaporated and several shares sold for as little as $135,000 per quarter share. Today, demand is back and there’s a waiting list for shares of buildings that face the lake. Christensen said that so far this year there have been 10 resales with an average price of $162,000.

Ryan said that in some respects the fractional market has come back a little stronger because they’re at a lower price point and another level of maintenance fee. The company’s newest project is Breezy Point, a Two Harbors resort with 12 cabins on 12 acres and more than 1,000 feet of private ledge rock.

Odyssey bought the resort in July 2015 and did a six-month, multimillion-dollar renovation of the cabins and started marketing quarter shares of those 12 cabins last fall. Prices range from $74,000 to $134,000, and Odyssey has already sold 25 of the 48 shares.

Much of that demand was fueled by families who had been regular customers of the resort and wanted to maintain a connection, but a large share are new leads who want a long-term connection to the North Shore.

Luxury destinations

At the opposite end of the price spectrum, Twin Cities-based Elite Destination Homes currently has a pool of nine houses in Paris; Los Cabos, Mexico; Turks and Caicos Islands; and New York City that are shared among 60 fractional owners.

Founder and CEO Bill Bisanz, said buyers have paid $130,000 to $600,000 each depending on the property and their ownership interest. He said that while the business, which he started 11 years ago, definitely softened during the recession and some owners decided to divest, the business is back. Since the beginning of the recovery in 2012, he’s had 36 sales.

“People are attracted to us because we are unique, and it feels like a friends and family business model with clear rules that govern it,” Bisanz said.

Andy Sirkin, a San Francisco lawyer who specializes in fractional ownership deals, said that during the recession the biggest projects took the biggest hit in many cases because the properties weren’t well managed and didn’t have the proper reserves to maintain them.

He predicts that as millennials and others who have embraced the sharing economy move beyond buying their first home, they’ll turn their attention to making an investment in a vacation home. He expects fractional interests to be particularly attractive to them because of their willingness to share their second home with other owners.

He said the model will hold particular appeal because it limits the amount of time and money they’ll have to invest. And, as time has shown, such investments can be volatile.

Bisanz likens fractional ownership to other forms of recreational spending. “It’s more like owning a boat,” he said. “No one owns a boat to make money, they do it [in]case they want to have fun.”

Talk Fractional with International Architecture & Design Magazine

Culture Club

Fractional ownerships let urban tourists put down roots

Even the most seasoned of tourists have left a city feeling like they missed something. In a foreign metropolis, a week or two leaves barely enough time to scratch the city’s surface. For a new breed of traveller, there’s a desire to move beyond a brief getaway to the beach and into an extended urban escape. With the unique opportunity to take up residence abroad in some of the world’s most enticing cultural hubs, fractional ownerships pick up where time-shares leave off. Visitors drawn to the bustling streets and infectious energy of cities may find that fractionals serve their needs in a way that a remote, private villa never could.

Time-shares can tally upwards of a few dozen buyers who purchase the right to use a property for a week or two a year. Fractionals, on the other hand, offer residents prime ownership over elegant foreign real estate while limiting shares to three to six parties. Fewer buyers mean more time to gain cultural grounding and put down some temporary roots for a fraction of the cost of sole ownership. The properties are rare gems—plush apartments in sought-after downtown neighborhoods. Most put scrupulous effort into interior design and modern renovations while maintaining historic architectural structures within enticing, upscale edifices.

Each share of the property is purchased outright in exchange for a few months a year, while a management company oversees and maintains the home. There are also the monthly carrying costs of the property, which are paid year round. Imagine the ease of arriving to a fully furnished apartment with the convenience of amenities like laundry, maid service and a concierge desk to ensure that repairs, for instance, never have to cross your mind. Though a time-share would have locked you into a single property in the past, some fractionals permit swaps with fellow owners in sister cities or tropical destinations. And so, you would have the flexibility to visit sandy shores when the mood strikes.

European cities like Paris and Madrid become a home away from home when you can settle into a familiar environment. With more time to immerse yourself in a city, a pied-à-terre invites you to discover new sights and sounds every year, with the flexibility to book when your schedule permits. At its core, fractional real estate helps you discover your niche, trading in the traditional pitfalls of tourism for a more refined glimpse of the city’s stature. Whether it’s a music festival, an art show opening or a visit to a sidewalk café, you can embed yourself in the DNA of a foreign urban sprawl by mixing the old with the new. As you adapt to the cultural climate, local tastes become second nature and your comfort level will strike the chord of being in a home sweet home, enticing you to linger longer, explore at leisure and experience the city without urgency.

For information: —Anna Cipollone


Elite’s “Villa La Percha” Featured in Ocean Home Magazine

Provo Paradise

Melissa C Gillespie | Ocean Home Magazine

La Percha is the newest luxury living experience in Turks & Caicos

The allure of the British West Indies has entertained the the fantasies of royalty, aristocrates, and celebrities for centuries. Now, Providenciales (or Provo, as it’s called by locals) in the Turks & Caicos Islands welcomes La Percha, a new luxury villa, to the prestigious Ocean Point Drive.

Villa La Percha, a shared-ownership, resort-style home that sleeps eight guests, boasts four large bedrooms with patio or balcony access and awe-inspiring views, plus indoor and outdoor living space. On-site amenities include access to tennis courts and kayaks, a private dock, and ocean facing hot tub and fire pit, a private pool, a screened porch, an outdoor kitchen with a grill, and a gazebo. Steps from the villa, guests can wade in the shallow waters of Taylor Bay.

La Percha’s concierge is available at any time to arrange for restaurant reservations, in-villa spa treatments, or for activities like boating excursions and horseback riding. For a one-of-a-kind experience, take a trip to the only conch farm in the world, located right on Providenciales.

Though the island has numerous resturants nearby, dining at La Percha is a customized culinary treat. We recommend flagging down the lobster boat from the villa’s private dock, picking out some choice crustations, and utilizing the concierge’s connections to bring a personal chef to the villa. Abundant outdoor dining options range from beachside to cliffside to poolside.

Ownership of La Percha, which is part of the Elite Destination Homes network, includes access to Elite’s global exchange program. Villa La Percha is also available for rent from $8,500 per week.

Elite’s CEO, Bill Bisanz, Talks With FOXBusiness About Fractional Ownership

Fractional Real Estate Ownership: Getting a Slice of a Vacation Home

By Cindy Venegas | Published May 21, 2012 | FOXBusiness

A new breed of vacation home ownership is gaining steam that allows individuals to share ownership of a property.

Think of it like this: A whole pie may look delicious, but it doesn’t make financial sense to buy the entire dessert if you are just having a few bites.

However, if you split the cost among several buyers and ensure that everyone gets a slice, then the purchase makes sense.

That’s the theory behind fractional real estate ownership, in which second homes are purchased under a multi-owner structure and cost and access to the home is shared.

“It allows you to create a connection between the time you spend in the home and the amount of money you pay for it,” says Andy Sirkin, a fractional homeowner and attorney who specializes in real estate co-ownership at Sirkin & Associates []. “It causes fewer headaches, costs less money and I still get everything I want.”

The concept of fractional ownership may sound similar to a timeshare, however fractionals have fewer buyers which increases the amount of time available to each buyer and tend to be an option at more upscale destinations.

According to Sirkin, “the meaningful differences between most old-fashioned timeshares and most modern fractional ownership arrangements are the extent to which each participant’s rights and responsibilities are limited to a particular home or group of homes, and the extent of each participant’s ownership and control.

The concept is reserved for expensive homes in vacation destinations, and offered by both multi-unit developers and high-end resorts. Single-family homes make up a small, but up and coming, part of the market.

Elite Destination Homes [] has been buying resort properties and single-family units and selling them as fractionals for the last seven years. Its offerings range from a three-bedroom in Paris’ St. Germain neighborhood to a five-bedroom chalet in Steamboat Springs, Colo. As the sponsor, the compny handles putting together the buyer partnerships, which can range from four to 12 buyers, as well as the purchase agreements.

Bill Bisanz, founder and CEO of Elite Destination Homes, recommends that buyers research the sponsor’s track record before completing a purchase. “Check to see if the sponsor’s other properties are sold out and be careful of how much the sponsor is marking the deal up,” warns Bisanz, who typically charges at 25% premium. Other considerations include analyzing the sponsor’s resale program, if a buyer wants to sell his or her fraction, and evaluating on-going carrying costs.

Once potential fractional buyers select a property they should verify that the contract includes usage terms, expense sharing, conflict resolution and exit strategies.

“Make sure the contract clearly spells out how usage is going to work among owners,” recommends Sirkin. This is especially important in seasonal properties where multiple owners will be vying for the best times of the year.

He also suggests that contracts include details of how the budget will be created each year. “When bills come in, you don’t want to have to figure out last minute how you are going to pay them.”

Buyers also need to protect themselves against what the industry calls “rule-breakers.”

“Buyers should ask, ‘what happens if someone is in the property when they shouldn’t be or doesn’t pay when they need to? Do we have a system that doesn’t cost a lot of money and take a lot of time?’” advises Sirkin.

For foreign property owners, if a conflict escalates and requires judicial intervention, defining where conflicts will be handled is a must.

The fractional ownership structure is not ideal for every vacation homebuyer. Debra Savage, a real estate agent at Railey Realty [] in Maryland says this type of ownership only makes sense with certain vacation and lifestyle goals.

“The biggest thing is how they plan to use the home. If they are only popping down on weekends once in a while then fractional residence makes sense. If you want to spend a whole summer here, it won’t work,” she says.

When buyers approach Elite Destination Homes, management begins the courting process with a “fit” conversation to see if the concept will meet the buyer’s goals. “We tell people, ‘don’t do this if you are not in it for a seven-year hold,” says Bisanz.

Just like in primary residential real estate, the main roadblock to fractional ownership is mortgage funding. “During the financial meltdown the market experienced a financing freeze,” says Sirkin. “Potential buyers got hesitant about buying anything. Now buyer confidence has returned, but financing is still a problem.”

Girls’ Guide to Paris talks with Paris Apartment’s with EDH’s Kathryn Lynden

I love real estate, especially real estate in Paris. I’ve bought and sold a place in Paris and now own a place near Bordeaux, and if I could I’d buy and fix up many more houses and apartments around the globe. It’s my second passion, right behind travel. So it’s only natural that I’d meet Kathryn Lynden, who like me is from the American Midwest, and who with a partner or two has bought 50-plus homes around the world, fixed them up and sold them as “fractionals.” Continue reading “Girls’ Guide to Paris talks with Paris Apartment’s with EDH’s Kathryn Lynden”

Elite’s Saint Germain Paris Apartment Rental Gets Nod From Swell City Guide

Location alone can often be the deciding factor when choosing a place to stay while traveling. However, when the opportunity arises to not only stay in a great part of town, but to also stay in an amazing three bedroom apartment, it doesn’t get much better.
Continue reading “Elite’s Saint Germain Paris Apartment Rental Gets Nod From Swell City Guide”