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Buyers’ market met with cautious spenders

Real estate sales this year up over 2009

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Home-sellers: you may need to wait a year before you sell.

Despite a surge of houses listed, and despite more buyer interest than last year, Pat Kelly of the Whistler Real Estate Company said 2010 is shaping up to be an average year in terms of home sales. Typically, Whistler does between 400 and 600 transactions in a year. There are about 1,000 places on the market right now, so time on the market is about a year.

But Kelly said this is typical for a resort market.

"We are dealing with a discretionary item," he said, "and certainly consumer confidence isn't at the same level as it was early in the last decade," he said.

Since house prices haven't increased as they have in Vancouver, people are a little more cautious of investing. But if the houses are priced according to the market, sellers could get an offer right away. Kelly said he has multiple prospective buyers interested in certain properly priced homes.

"If you price in an effective manner, your house will be sold in under six months," he said.

Many people are concerned they're not getting the money they believe their house is worth, which Kelly attributes to them harking back to 2007 or 2008, when the market was much stronger.

While returns on chalets have reached between eight and nine per cent (average price for a house in 2002 was $1.225 million versus $1.574 million in 2010), homeowners of condos and townhouses haven't experienced the same return. Condos in 2002 averaged $450,000 versus $452,000 today. Townhouses averaged $709,000 in 2002 and $815,000 in 2010.

"The market went up in 2006 and 2007 to higher numbers and has now come back (down)," he said. Kelly added that because Whistler is such a small market, a few $3 million-transactions can skew the statistic considerably.

If Kelly hears people complaining that they're not selling their homes fast enough his response is typically: "I tell them their price is wrong."

He said real estate markets operate in a balanced, buyer-orientated market seven out of every 10 years. That is the case right now.

Real estate in Whistler is a direct function of tourism, typically dealing with the top five per cent income earners of Metro Vancouver. There are few international buyers, and very few Americans purchasing homes, according to Kelly.

"People are cautious right now with the way they spend money and they have to see value in what they purchase," he said.

Despite that, he said there is no concern that developers are building more houses than there are buyers. There is more buyer interest than last year, and while Whistler is dealing with a "difficult" market at the moment, he is optimistic that it will pick up.

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