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The high value of the U.S. dollar compared to the Canadian buck has helped attract American investors, Kelly says, but not to the extent that people think. Whistler’s number one resort ranking has also helped, he said.
Ann Chiasson, owner of Windermere Sea to Sky Real Estate, says the lower price range market is not as strong as the high end, but overall, things looks positive.
"You hear all this doom and gloom about falls in the dot-com buyer market, the depressed Asian economy and the weak Canadian dollar, but Whistler is individual and does not seem to be affected," Chiasson says.
She believes Whistler is just beginning to tap into the high end market and the days of Lear Jets flying into the area won’t be too far off.
"We have only been building the high end product in the last 18 months and the Americans are just beginning to discover it," she explained. "These people want big houses so they can bring their families and friends up here and take time out."
The saying, "people go to Vail to be seen, they come to Whistler to hide," really does apply, she added.
However, she says local zoning restrictions may hinder the development of the luxury home market and the municipality should look into this.
"These big homes pay top dollar property taxes but it is locals who benefit from any surpluses, since they are the ones typically using the community’s facilities, not the home-owning visitors."
Chiasson admits big housing projects also have their downsides but says the current 5,000 square foot house restrictions may need revising.
According to the Whistler Real Estate Company’s internal statistics, the geographic origin of buyers has remained consistent over the past two years, despite the increased sales volumes. It says Canadians comprise approximately 60 per cent of Whistler real estate buyers, with the majority being from within the Sea to Sky corridor and the Lower Mainland. U.S. buyers make up around 20 per cent of the market, with Europe and South-east Asia each taking around three per cent.
Kelly says Tourism Whistler and other promoters have done an excellent job marketing the resort to world-wide investors and the dividends are now paying off. However, he cautions the need for price sensitivity in all sectors.
"Money is mobile, it has no loyalty and will go where the best value is perceived to be," he said. "Rumours are already circulating that Whistler is damn expensive and it is crucial for its long term success that investors feel they are getting good value for money."