If you want something done right, we are told, you have to do it yourself.
Dr. Robert L. Fuller took that advice to heart two years ago when he sold his West Jordan dental practice in order to devote full time to his then-floundering real estate development, Schneitter's Swiss Oaks condominium complex in the foothills west of this Wasatch County town.Fuller had launched the proj-ect in 1985 on 24 acres of land that had been in his family for generations. His maternal great-grandfather was Simon Schneitter, a Mormon convert from Switzerland who was among a group of Swiss immigrants who settled the area in the early 1860s. His grandparents founded the nearby Schneitter's Hot Pots resort, now known as The Homestead.
It had been Fuller's dream for 17 years to build a Swiss-theme community on the site overlooking the lush Heber Valley, but after two years into it, the dream was beginning to seem more like a nightmare.
The problem was a familiar one for entrepreneurs: Others don't always share their vision and, as a "part-time" real estate developer, Fuller had to depend on others to make it happen. It wasn't work-ing.
In 1988, Fuller realized he was at a major crossroads. Sales were well below original projections - only 26 units sold in the first three years - debt had mounted into the seven-figure range, unpaid interest to his eastern U.S. lender was mounting, he had taken a second mortgage on his Sandy home, and his original partner was ready to throw in the towel. . . . Swiss Oaks looked like it would join a long list of foreclosed Utah condo projects.
But Fuller wasn't ready to quit on the project. He knew the concept was good, he says, but clearly it would take his personal energies and all of his time if he were to have any chance of avoiding bankruptcy court.
"I told my wife I could always rebuild a dental practice," he recalls, "but I would never have another chance to make this work."
So far, he has made it work, but Fuller doesn't take all of the credit for the turnaround. He has nothing but good words for Utah Bank & Trust Co., which refinanced the project. Also, he credits a new working partnership, called Swiss Oaks Development Inc., which he has created with local contractor and former Midway Mayor Eugene Probst and his sons, Bill and Craig, who assumed the position of Fuller's former partner in the original firm, B.F. Development Inc.
And it doesn't hurt that sales are back on track.Fifty-four units have been completed and sold and another 16 are under construction with 10 of them presold. Further construction will be based on demand, but completion of the original master plan of 143 units by middecade no longer seems like a pipedream. In one heady seven-week period this year, Fuller logged $2.5 million in sales - 16 units.
Even the disastrous fire that ripped through the area in August killing two fire fighters and destroying 18 homes, didn't slow things down, said Fuller. To the contrary, the blaze - which at one point threatened to roar right through his complex, causing authorities to evacuate all occupants - brought a crowd of curiosity seekers to Midway. A couple of them, said Fuller, stayed around long enough to buy Swiss Oaks condominiums.
Whether the fire put a temporary damper on real estate sales in the Midway area is up for debate, but Fuller believes the positive developments in the area - such as the new 18 holes of golf at the Homestead, the upcoming completion of the Jordanelle Dam and the new Mayflower ski resort - will remain after the blackened hillsides are green once again.
Swiss Oaks is more family oriented than similar projects in Park City, said Fuller. While buyers have come from all over the country and most buy the condos as second homes, about 20 percent are full-time residents. Also, a majority of buyers are Wasatch Front residents who keep their Swiss Oaks unit as a handy weekend/vacation getaway. Of the 64 owners, only five have their units in a rental pool, which is managed by the Homestead.
Units are priced from $82,000 for an 850-square-foot one-bedroom to $230,000 for a 3,100-square-foot twin home with four bedrooms. The complex has seven different Swiss-styled buildings with 15 different floor plans.
The monthly condominium fee, which covers 12 amenities including a clubhouse, bell carillon, tennis and racquetball and a J-bar ski lift, is $80 and is managed under a concept Fuller believes may be unique to the industry. Part of the "self-perpetuating homeowners fee" goes into bank certificates of deposit that are owned by the homeowners and should eventually allow the monthly fee - contrary to the usual practice - to be lowered.