A young couple from the United Kingdom has set a record in Squamish, paying $1 million for a home there.
The home was listed on the market for roughly eight months at $1,098,000. It sold for $1 million on the dot.
The purchase, finalized on Friday, Dec. 9, heralds a new chapter in the community which has seen real estate prices double in some areas in the last couple of years.
"We’re living between the two richest communities real estate wise," said Martin Sprenkels, the selling agent in the deal who works for Home Town Realty. "Our prices are fairly low compared to (Whistler and West Vancouver)."
Sprenkels, who also sells real estate in Whistler, said the same $1 million would get you a two to three bedroom townhouse in the Blackcomb Benchlands in Whistler.
"Nothing compared to this," he added. "This same product in Whistler, you’re probably looking at $3 million to $4 million."
Buying agent Joanne Ennis, who works for Royal LePage Black Tusk Realty, said the buyers were captured by the beauty of Squamish. They plan to sell their home in the U.K. and move to their new home permanently in April.
"They had travelled to Whistler a few times on vacation and they ended up coming down to Squamish, and fell in love with Squamish," said Ennis. "They loved the ocean and the mountains and decided they wanted to relocate here and start a fresh new life."
The custom-made home is 3,600 square feet, with four bedrooms and a den, five bathrooms, a media room, wine room and speakers throughout.
Located in Garibaldi Highlands, the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows stretches clear across Howe Sound.
While the two record-breaking realtors said the Squamish market in general has stabilized, the million-dollar sell may give confidence to more high-end buyers.
Roughly a dozen homes in Squamish are listed at $900,000 or more.
"I think what (the sale) really means is in the upper end of the properties buyers will have a serious look at Squamish now that they feel confident that one has sold for a million," said Sprenkels.
But that’s just one end of the market. The average single family home sells for between $350,000 and $375,000 and is still holding strong.
Mayor Ian Sutherland said the million-dollar sale is the exception rather than the rule. Squamish, he said, is one of the cheapest places to buy real estate when compared to the Lower Mainland.
When asked if he was worried about affordability in his community, the mayor said there is a range of product for sale in Squamish for many segments of the community.
"I’m confident that we’re developing enough product for different segments of the market that for the most part we can satisfy a lot of needs," he said. "We still have the issue of affordable housing and that has to be addressed through new development as they come forward."
The sale should be seen as a positive, added Sutherland, that people are choosing to live in Squamish rather than relocating there by default because they can’t afford anything else.
Sprenkels said people are starting to discover the 16,000 strong community more and more.
"What I’m finding is that people are now actually stopping in Squamish and looking at the real estate market and going into the different areas of Squamish to see what’s available, rather than just driving through and not even thinking about living in Squamish," he said.
Some of those looking in Squamish are people living in Whistler, either cashing in their real estate investment here for a cheaper home 40 minutes away or buying their first home there.
The real estate market in Whistler is also looking better now than it was in the first six months of the year.
Realtor Pat Kelly, owner of Whistler Real Estate, called the market "steady".
"A number of more expensive transactions have occurred but also (there’s been) good activity in other areas," he said. "So it’s not a market that favours sellers particularly but it’s certainly one that somebody looking to make an investment has a good selection to choose from."
Ann Chiasson, president of Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate, said in her office there have been 35 deals this year on homes worth $2 million and more. That equals $120 million in high-end real estate transactions for Re/Max.
"I think the high-end market is improving everywhere because people with dollars are investing in real estate," said Chiasson, adding that interest rates are still good.
Both realtors pointed to a number of new developments on the horizon, including Cressey’s redevelopment of the Shoestring Lodge site, which could bring some hype and excitement back to a market which has been drab in recent years.