Richard Seay is vice president and director of sales and marketing for the large – and growing – Suncadia resort. He was surprised by how many young people are buying homes in the Cle Elum development.
Richard Seay has worked on 43 master-planned and resort community developments. His latest project is the 6,400-acre Suncadia resort in Kittitas County.
He’s struck by who’s buying homes there: mostly young professional, some with kids.
“The money in Seattle is young. This is the youngest buyer I’ve ever dealt with,” said Seay, who moved his family from St. Martin in the Caribbean to Suncadia in 2013.
Seattle’s booming economy was beginning to fuel a comeback at Suncadia. The resort had a record year last year with 160 homes sold, a 21 percent year-over-year increase and nearly five times more than the number of homes sold in 2009.
EXCLUSIVE: Homebuilders return to Suncadia resort
This year, developers are planning to start building nearly 60 single-family homes and townhouses. The resort’s spending on infrastructure and amenities will hit $12.7 million, nearly double last year’s capital expenditures.
Seay- a self-described “South Carolina country boy” – has adjusted to life in the Pacific Northwest and sat down with the Business Journal to talk about what’s next for Suncadia.
What has changed at Suncadia in recent years?
Suncadia for years and years was known as the place to go buy a lot – a homesite. Now homebuilders are coming in and building on a speculative basis. This has really changed the way buyers are looking at Suncadia.
As a second-, third- or forth-home community, instant gratification is a huge part of it. If there’s a finished product, a home that fits their needs, they buy it. The vast majority of most of our spec homes are sold long before they’re finished.
How did you end up at Suncadia?
I had wrapped up a project on St. Martin and was just enjoying island life with my wife and kids. A friend called and said a property up in the Pacific Northwest was looking for a vice president of real estate.
What were your initial thoughts?
I had been with a company called IMI before, and we had done projects at Lake Tahoe, Sand Point, Idaho and Bend, Oregon, so I was very familiar with mountain resort communities. And we love Seattle and wanted to get off the Island. Cle Elum is a good place to raise children. It was an easy choice.
The tropic to the Cascades is quite a switch. What was that like?
We got off the airplane and all we had were shorts and flip flops and T-shirts. I spent a small fortune at REI the day we landed.
How many people live at Suncadia year-round?
Fifty-four families full time, which is about 120 people. We’ve got another 40 families that are at Suncadia for six to eight months. They live with us in the summer and go to Arizona or Hawaii during the winter.
Does anybody commute to and from Seattle?
Yes. Some people call us home and are commuting from Seattle. Seven or eight folks sold their homes in Seattle, downsized to a condo and bought or built something in Suncadia. They spend most of their time in Suncadia but keep a place in Seattle when they’re there during the week for work. We do have a couple that both work for Amazon and they commute daily.
What’s something that would surprise people about you?
I love to snowshoe. I’m a South Carolina country boy that came here via St. Martin and my goal was to never, ever snowshoe. I did it this year and have loved it. It is so quiet and so peaceful. It’s like you’re going where nobody else has gone. There’s not even animal tracks, and then all of the sudden you come up to a place and you’ll see a run where the elk have been.
What’s Suncadia’s biggest challenge?
Labor. Central Washington University in Ellensburg has been a savior to our resort. The kids in college come over and they do everything from cut grass to serve food to tend bar to lifeguard. And from the real estate side, it’s finding construction laborers, especially framers.
How much are you concerned about wildfires?
They were something very new to me, and it was scary when we had a fire down on the river. Suncadia has done a phenomenal job and I’m comfortable with all the plans in place. We have an onsite fire department, fire hydrants and water tanks. The homeowners association provides a fire watch tower that is manned 24/7 from spring to fall. Last year they actually spotted the fire on the river, which was put out using helicopters.
You’re in Seattle for business. Where would you go for dinner?
Either Chandler’s or Daniel’s in South Lake Union. I’d go to the new Thompson Hotel and have a drink on that beautiful rooftop. Which is one of the coolest things I’ve seen.
- Company: Suncadia, owned and managed by Lowe Enterprises
- Title: Vice President , Real Estate Sales & Marketing
- Past Jobs: Partner, Signature Real Estate Group LLC 2008-13
o Senior VP, IMI Resort Holdings LLC 1993-08
- Community Service: Member of the Cle Elum Roslyn School District Board of Directors
- Education: Bachleor’s degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism from the University of South Carolina
- Family: Wife Tiffany and two teenage children
- Mentor: Woodlands Development Co. CEO Tim Welbes
- Most Influential books: The Bible and Pat Riley’s “The Winner Within”
Marc Stiles covers real estate for the Puget Sound Business Journal