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Does size matter?

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An age-old question is the centre of a new debate in Whistler

It’s a question that has been contemplated by generations. For some, it is a measure of self worth, a symbol that defines who you are and what you have accomplished. For others, it may be a matter of insecurity. For still others, it’s just a case of being comfortable. And for some it means money in the bank.

Now Whistler is dealing with the age-old question: Does size matter? More specifically, does the size of a man’s house matter?

Big houses – between 4,000 and 10,000 square feet – have become, in the last couple of years, one of the hottest items in an already toasty Whistler real estate market. More than 70 Whistler homes sold for $1 million or more last year. The sale of the 5,000 square foot Akasha last February for $7.9 million – the most expensive house sold in Canada in 2000 – was a watershed for Whistler. The house was built on spec by Andrew Munster, but only after he’d put considerable time in to studying where the market was going. Since Akasha was built a number of other large homes in the Sunridge subdivision have sprung up.

Other signs the market for large homes is booming include Intrawest’s The Peaks, a 60-lot subdivision above Creekside which will allow homes of between 4,000 and 7,500 square feet, and the consolidation of two lots in the new Treetops area to allow a house of 5,000 square feet. Individually the two Treetops lots were allowed houses of 3,135 and 3,025 square feet.

The demand for big homes is in many ways a tribute to Whistler’s success as a resort. Skiers and golfers have found Whistler and now, with the benefit of a weak Canadian dollar relative to the American buck, the international market has discovered Whistler real estate.

"There is an increasing perception internationally and in Vancouver that Whistler is good comparable value to other North American ski resorts," says Whistler Real Estate Co. president Pat Kelly.

Whistler’s self-imposed limit on development may also be helping fuel the market for large homes. As there are no more development rights – bed units – being handed out, some people with sizeable pieces of land have decided building a large single family home is the best return on their investment.

The fact that Whistler "downzoned" RR1 properties – larger pieces of land with only basic zoning – a few years ago has probably contributed to a sense of urgency about realizing a return. The municipality changed the minimum size required for subdivision of a RR1 property from 20 acres to 100 acres. There have also been efforts to reduce the number of permitted uses on RR1 land.

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