Call me an eternal optimist, but there could quite possibly be no better time to buy or build your mountain home dream than right now.

The Setting

If you’re reading this, you probably already know what Windcliff is about but at the risk of restating the obvious, “it’s about the views (, stupid ; ).”

But it’s also about the community, the neighbors and the mountain we share.

Windcliff is more than just a cabin in the woods.  It’s secluded and private, but it’s a community of like-minded, like-hearted neighbors who wave when they pass, plan gatherings together and share something in common which is rare even in the Estes Valley.

The symbiosis of the long-running onsite, professional rental management program, the seasonal second homeowners and full-time residents is like no other community in the world.

The Windcliff Homeowners Association maintains high standards that protect our shared interests and provide us some of the best maintained roads in the Rockies.  We enjoy first-use water in our own reservoir system that was a design ahead of its time in the mountains.  We benefit from the healthy infrastructure of the Upper Thompson Sanitary District.  Our neighborhood sits arm-in-arm with the YMCA of the Rockies and all its amenities.  It’s only a 9-minute drive to downtown Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest are literally just steps away from every home in Windcliff.

Buying a Home in Windcliff

I tend to analyze the new home building scenario, but it is also worth noting that many of my neighbors in Windcliff have recently found great success buying an existing home and remodeling.  A number of homes are available at the time of this posting ranging in prices from condos in the $600K’s to luxury homes approaching $3M.

Building a Home in Estes Park

As I mentioned in my previous post, your mileage WILL vary, but we typically see a few rules of thumb in Windcliff.  The lot tends to be 25-30% of the total property value.  And homes are running $450-$850/sf to build depending on finishes and design.

So we would expect a buyer of a $500,000 lot to target building a 3,500 square foot 3-4 bedroom home ($2,275,000 home building budget) and have between $2M-$3M invested in the project by completion.

Obviously, the sky is the upper limit but even the largest and most elaborate home building projects tend to cost under $3M in Windcliff these days.

Vacation Rental Income

The Town of Estes Park and Larimer County are in the throes of increasing regulations on vacation rentals, but assuming the regulations continue to be sensible and vacation rental permits are easily obtainable for new vacation rentals in the Estes Valley, new vacation rental homes, appointed well for renting and available to paying rental guests during the bulk of the peak seasons owners can sometimes generate as much as $100,000/year in gross rents.  After rental management commissions and expenses, most homes in the Windcliff rental program eek out a modest positive cashflow that helps take the bite out of the monthly mortgage payments.

Again, the usual “consult your tax advisor” and “your mileage will vary” caveats apply, but the cost of utilities, maintenance, taxes and financing a 3-4 bedroom, 2,700 square foot home could run around $5,000/month or $60,000/year (typical).  So if the home is a strong performer in vacation rentals, the vast majority of the costs can be offset by vacation rental income (tax scenarios not considered – could be favorable or unfavorable – consult your favorite tax advisor).


I’m not a market analyst and do not play one on TV, but even with recent increases in lending rates, it’s still an excellent time to hold paper on an appreciating asset.  The sins of the dumping of trillions of dollars into our economy have made these unprecedented times, but at the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to  lock-in the gifts of the present at today’s value of the dollar and hold an appreciating asset that you ENJOY USING year-in and year-out.


Depending on your approach, clearly you’ll need a wad of available cash to make this dream come true.  Given the scenarios above and making a ton of assumptions (the lot is paid for with cash, but the value of the land is applied toward a 25% down payment of the  permanent financing), allowance for construction financing costs plus a budget of $100,000 for window coverings, outfitting, decor and furnishings, it would probably be best to have at least $1-$1.5M cash available to work with to feed the project – more if you’re self-financing the construction (obviously).  And of course, as is always the case with cash, more is better (and begets more peaceful sleeping habits throughout the project).

Is it the right time for you to buy a home in Windcliff?

And finally, the million dollar question:  Is this the right time for you?  Only you can answer that for sure.  But let me throw out some quips to consider:

  • Do you think you will ever see homes cost less in the Estes Valley?  With more than 4 MILLION visitors passing through Estes Park each year, demand goes up each year, yet Estes Park struggles to chip away at a modicum of the needed inventory of new homes.  The supply/demand curve continues to simply grow out of balance each passing year.
  • Can you gather your family around your stock portfolio a couple times a year to come together and get back to nature?
  • Are you ready to stop the vacation pin-ball effect bouncing from destination to destination with the family in tow and ready to vacation in YOUR home TOGETHER on a REGULAR basis?

Owning a vacation home may not outperform the best equities you hold (it won’t), but it can easily be the most MEANINGFUL asset in your portfolio when it brings your family together – eye-to-eye & heart-to-heart with nature (The Estes Park community, The Rocky Mountain National Park, The Roosevelt National Forest, etc.).  And it is likely to give your family blessings beyond the measure of any economic barometer. If you’re ready to start, browse our Estes Park real estate today!