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Real estate market looks good to Intrawest

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Recent economic reports may have been painting a weak picture of the U.S. economy but it is not likely to affect the demand for vacation real estate in the mountains, including Whistler.

That is the view of Intrawest chairman, president and CEO, Joe Houssian.

"Our buyers are very well established financially and therefore less susceptible to variables in the economy," he told analysts and institutional investors in a conference call last week.

"They are primarily baby boomers. We have spoken many times about the profile of the purchaser being in their late 40s or early 50s and the fact that the number of people coming into that age group will be increasing every year for the next 12 years," said Houssian.

"So the demand side of this equation looks pretty good, but the supply side looks even better because there is a scarcity of supply. The number of mountain resorts in North America where you can buy vacation homes, in contrast to the size of the market, is very, very small," noted Houssian.

"And, we are not bringing out 2,000 or 3,000 units (per resort), we are bringing out 200 units a year at the various resorts. For example, at Squaw Valley this year, into the whole big San Francisco market, we are offering only145 units."

And, the reservations are looking good for this year. That’s not reservations for Intrawest vacations but reservations for up-coming real estate sales.

"We continue to see very strong reservations from people who want to line-up to purchase these vacation homes," noted Houssian in response to an analyst from RBC Dominion Securities who asked him to confirm that Intrawest has "seen no changes whatsoever in demand at this point in time for real estate product."

Houssian said most of Intrawest's real estate launches for this fiscal year have been slated for March or April. "The bulk of reservations are just coming in now and we have hundreds of sales people out there talking to prospects all the time," Houssian told analysts.

"And we have prospects calling wanting to lobby us to get to the front of the list. We are really seeing no difference in terms of feel this year than we have in prior years," he said. "In fact, because we are still bringing on more product in more locations, it is kind of exciting for us that what we saw in Whistler and what we saw in Tremblant and what we saw at Copper, we are now starting to see across the whole system."

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