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Real estate showing gradual improvement

Lower prices, low mortgage rates increasing in Whistler properties

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Whistler's real estate market is re-inventing itself again.

Many buyers are now focused on purchasing a home for the long haul rather that buying purely for speculation.

"The speculative real estate buyer doesn't have a place in this market," said Pat Kelly of the Whistler Real Estate Company.

He has seen a lot of different trends in his three decades in the industry, from the deep recessions of the '80s to the boom of the '90s to the current financial crisis. Now, after years of doubt he's seeing some interest return. "Back in the day it could have been 35 or 40 per cent of the market," said Kelly.

"But when you take that out of the picture you get back into the more traditional fundamentals of real estate. It's all about lifestyle - that's what's making decisions right now."

The sale price of real estate is down 10 to 15 per cent from the high mark, and has been at that level for a little while without going any lower, said Kelly. With increased interest and sales picking up it's likely that the prices may recover, although Kelly expects it to be slow and steady - a year or more - before prices more or less recover.

"My impression, and I watch it very consistently, is that the values in some areas are as good as I've seen in a decade." said Kelly.

"The only caveat is that people are doing their research on costs, maintenance costs and holding costs, and there are more people making lifestyle decisions than two or three years ago. There's no speculative investment.

"They're asking; 'Could I live here, could I bring my family here on a year-round basis, and is there full value for my dollar here in terms of my life and my family's life in the longer term?'

"It's a more sustainable type of real estate, rather than people buying and betting that (a property) is going to go up 20 per cent."

That's a big change from 10 years ago when Kelly saw the price of real estate jump 35 per cent in one year.

"Real estate is meant to be a good, long-term investment that has a lot of safety in it, as opposed to buying in and then flipping a year later. We're not seeing that in the market at all," he said. "There are still a lot of properties for sale so the demand would have to remain strong for a long term, 12 months or so, before we see any pressure for prices to move up dramatically."

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