Housing slump hard on N. Idaho economy

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2008

SANDPOINT, Idaho - It seemed like a no-brainer: build swanky homes around a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course above scenic Lake Pend Oreille, all in the shadow of the Schweitzer Mountain ski area.

But it turned into a nightmare for Sullivan Homes Idaho. The luxury builder recently went out of business after going an entire year without selling a single home despite being the "preferred builder" at The Idaho Club.

In a bear market, even the Golden Bear is no guarantee of success.

The economic meltdown is having a special impact in the remote Idaho Panhandle, where construction of vacation and luxury retirement homes amid the lakes and mountains has made this one of the fastest growing regions in the country for the past decade.

"In the last few weeks, the world's changed quite a bit," said Mike Meldman of Gozzer Ranch, a 395-home development on nearby Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Similar problems are reported at golf and ski resorts across the West.

Among major developments suddenly in severe financial distress are the Promontory development near Park City, Utah; Nevada's Lake Las Vegas golf resort; Idaho's Tamarack Resort; and Montana's Yellowstone Club.

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