To no one’s surprise, Whistler real estate continues to attract national and international attention, generating more than $400 million CDN in sales to date this year – approximately $100 million more than in 1999.
Figures show the biggest percentage increase in prices this year has occurred in single family lots, which are up 45 per cent over 1999 due to the short supply. The biggest market overall is in the condo and townhouse categories, which tend to be dominated by Canadian buyers and influenced by regional economic conditions.
However, it is the high end of the market that has seen the biggest price increases, with international and U.S. investors comprising the bulk of purchasers.
"In 1998 around 15 properties over the $1 million mark sold in Whistler, compared to more than 70 homes in that bracket for the year to date," Pat Kelly, president of the Whistler Real Estate Company, said in mid-December.
The highest priced home sold in Whistler in 2000 – and indeed in all of Canada – was the 5,000 square foot Akasha mansion on Sunridge Plateau built by Munster & Sons. It was bought in February by Californian-based publisher Chris Anderson for $7.9 million.
Developer Andrew Munster saw the huge potential of the high end market years ago, and says other builders are now following suite. However, he says massive projects like Akasha are years in the making and the market needs to be analyzed thoroughly before starting off.
"The market can change," he said. "The dot-comers for example aren’t spending as much as they used to and other factors such as finding the right location must be taken into account."
He says he is considering a number of new big housing projects that utilize energy efficient technologies, but construction is at least a year away.
Kelly, says there has been "a dramatic increase in (housing) prices in all categories and in overall sales volumes." Limited supply and a positive investment reputation overseas are the factors commonly sited for the record sales this year.
Kelly says increasing real estate prices have not put off investors, with 10 per cent more buyers in the market in 2000 compared to last year. He emphasizes, however, that any percentage statistics should be taken "with a grain of salt, given the limited size of the Whistler market."
Still, Kelly says it’s a complete turnaround from 1998, when Whistler was competing head-on with Colorado resorts that were riding the wave of two bumper snow seasons. Since then there’s been a change in the weather – figuratively and literally.
"There is an increasing perception internationally and in Vancouver that Whistler is good comparable value to other North American ski resorts, plus Colorado has had very little snow for two seasons," Kelly says.