"If Whistler was to take off and have a 10 per cent growth in employment wed see the growth in the housing market here."
Has the Pemberton Valley bubble burst? Or is the housing market just sluggish?
Currently, there are close to 100 townhomes on the market. One development, Pioneer Junction, is offering consumer incentives to sweeten the deals on the 80-unit complexs remaining townhouses and condominiums.
More than three dozen single-family homes are also on the market, many of which have been listed for more than six months. In the past two months, the Village of Pemberton issued only two building permits for new home construction.
Pioneer Junction is offering prospective buyers a down payment rebate on par with the minimum five per cent down payment plan approved by CMHC, as well as providing up to $1,000 towards closing costs. So far they are the only new development offering incentives, but they are by no means the only development with vacancies. Portage Station and The Winchester projects that also began construction within the last 18 months both have multiple units listed for sale. Eighteen months ago, Pemberton was in the middle of a real estate boom, echoing what was happening in the Lower Mainland.
Susan Smith, a realtor with the Whistler Real Estate Company, believes the market is just sluggish at the moment.
"Theres a lot more product available right now. There have also been no new jobs to speak of in the past couple of years, so people arent moving to the area," said Smith. "And investors just arent buying right now."
She suspects that many buyers are chasing down the market, waiting for prices to become more realistic, reflecting the number of homes currently available. In 2003, according to tax assessments, the average single family home in Pemberton was valued at $315,000, but by summer of that year, those same homes were selling for more than $500,000.
Smith also points out that the number of townhouses for sale is having a negative effect on the buyer who chooses to move in-market and notes that a traditional in-market migration path is from townhouse to single family home.
"But before they can make that kind of move, first these people have to sell their townhomes," she explained.
Pembertons newest development, Mountains Edge, will be completed at the end of July. The developers chose not to pre-sell the mixed residential and commercial building due to the projects unique character.
"We think out product needs to be seen," said Craig Mackenzie of Sea to Sky Properties. "Its a R2000 certified building. This means that it has to be certified R2000 by the federal government and has to have certain features. We have a high degree of insulation like construction in the south of France this means that it will cost less to heat in the winter and keep cool during the day without additional air conditioning."
The areas first "green" building also features tile and hardwood flooring to eliminate carpet off-gassing, low-maintenance concrete construction and a central air extraction system.
Mackenzie is not concerned about the volume of homes currently on the market.
"There seems to be a reasonable demand for one-bedrooms in the Pemberton market, its the two bedrooms there seems to be a lot of," he explained.
Mountains Edge, consists of nine one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units; prices start respectively at $164,900 and $209,000.
"Mountains Edge is aimed at an entry level, new home buyer. The operating costs of the building are lower. So, the value conscious person is someone who will see the value. The fact that it is a concrete building maintenance will be extremely reduced," said Mackenzie. "The location is great. Its directly across from the elementary school, a block-and-a-half-from the high school and a short walking distance to town, so its ideal for a family that has one car."
Like Smith, Mackenzie feels that the current state of the housing market reflects a lack of jobs in the area.
"Pembertons real estate market is tied to Whistler," stated Mackenzie. "Because Whistlers economy has not been growing there are less people looking to buy. If Whistler was to take off and have a 10 per cent growth in employment wed see the growth in the housing market here."
But while waiting for the inevitable market correction, Mackenzie remains optimistic even about the 98 townhomes currently listed.
"It would suggest theres a lot of opportunity for people to purchase," he said. "Its a good market to be a buyer in."