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Kelly said inventory, especially in the high-end, is becoming more scarce and that is helping drive prices upwards.
“In January 1999 approximately 5.5 per cent of all properties in Whistler were available for sale. Now it’s at about three per cent, so you are seeing a significant drop in the amount of property available for sale which should indicate a fairly strong interest in the area,” said Kelly. “We are selling stuff faster than we are putting it on the market. The only market that is showing more supply than there is interest is the condo hotel market.”
Right now, it is the wealthy baby boomers and Americans driving the high-end sector, more so than Europeans or Asians. Kelly said the U.S interest is due to a combination of factors.
“The American economy is strong. There have been huge profits made in the stock market and that money is being redirected into other investments. It’s the weak Canadian dollar for sure and it is the quality of the amenity package offered here.”
He said the U.S demographic trend to move away from cities and into small “highly controlled and safe towns” is finally spilling over into Canada. Those small towns must, however, offer a healthy amenity package, have a lot of open space, communications capability and they need access to major population centres and transportation routes.
“Resort towns are the top of the list of where people want to be and, Whistler is one of the top resort towns, plus we are cheap vis a vis other American experiences,” said Kelly.
“For example I had a buyer from San Francisco last weekend and for him $2 million wasn’t even a question. He said it was easier for him to get here than to get to Tahoe and as far as he is concerned, Tahoe is overbuilt.”
Kelly said traditionally 75 per cent of buyers came from Vancouver but Whistler is now out of step with the rest of the country. “Vancouver people get a little shocked when they see our prices but they try to compare us to their home in North Van instead of comparing us to Tahoe and Vail or Aspen or other resort towns.”