Times have changed from the days when landlords could handpick their tenants, according to local property manager Pam Thompson.
"Now its the other way around," she said.
"Its like youre trying to give the places away and nobody wants them."
Thompson, who owns Priority Property Management and Golden Dreams Accommodation, has been renting properties in Whistler for the past 18 years and cant recall the rental market being this slow ever before.
Though last year was quiet too, it doesnt compare to this shoulder season. Thompson does both holiday bookings and long-term rentals.
"One place Ive showed so many times and nobodys taken it," she said.
Its a common scenario.
Nicci Nesmith is renting a room in a three-bedroom house in Alpine.
At the end of the winter season one roommate left town, leaving the landlord with an empty room in the house.
The room, which is going for $600/month, has been available for rent for almost two and a half months, since April 1.
Every week one or two people come to look at it.
"Its not a huge response," said Nesmith.
"Theyre always looking at other places as well."
General Manager of the Whistler Housing Authority Tim Wake said there is a clear message coming from the marketplace.
The demand has shifted.
Two years ago there was strong interest in both long-term rental housing as well as ownership opportunities in Whistler.
That trend has changed, creating a softer rental market and more demand on the WHA employee restricted housing.
The waitlist for employee housing units has risen more from 200 qualified purchasers (families and couples apply as a single purchaser) to 320 in less than one year.
Thats a 60 per cent increase in a year.
And yet, there are no new for-purchase restricted housing units coming on the market in the near future. The employee housing from the Nita Lake Lodge development is all rental units.
Nine units from that development will be handed over to the municipality. It is not clear if those units will be for purchase or rent
WHA numbers gleaned from tracking the classified ads in both Pique Newsmagazine and The Question, confirm the current market conditions.
By mid-May this year there were 280 units for rent in the paper. For the same time period last year there were 160 units, and in 2002 that number was 143.
Wake admits the WHA tracking methods are better now than they were three years ago but the point remains that there are more places for rent this year than ever before.
"As early as the end of February, we began hearing from landlords that they were having trouble finding tenants," he said.
He points to three possible reasons why the rental market has slowed down this year.
Long-time Whistler renters have been migrating out of the resort to neighbouring communities where they can still afford to buy into the marketplace.
This migration frees up more rental properties in Whistler.
At the same time, there are more property owners switching their target renters from the short-term tourist accommodation renter to the long-term renter.
Wake explained the soft winters of the past two years do not guarantee the TA renters. As such, it could be more prudent in some cases to rent out long-term for less money but a guaranteed income.
This crossover has also increased availability on the marketplace.
Wakes third reason is the soft winters of the past two years are not attracting the same numbers of employees to the resort. There is simply less demand for employment, which trickles down to less demand for housing.
Wake said this shift in the marketplace is likely not permanent.
"These things are never static," he said.
"The rental market will come back."
In the meantime some landlords and property managers are adjusting to the changing marketplace by lowering their prices.
"Its fair to say that something that was rented last year for $2,000 is now going for around $1,700," said Dave Burch, who has been a property manager with Whistler Property Services for the past four months.
Burch said its taking longer than usual to rent out the companys long-term accommodation even given the fact that its the shoulder season and its generally a slower time in the rental business.
The renters that are coming to look at the places are looking at a host of other places and taking their pick.
"Its definitely a soft market," he said.
Its a trend he started noticing at the end of March. Currently one-third of their properties lie empty.
"Its pretty tough out there as a manager trying to rent places," said Burch.
Property Manager Gord Low, owner of Mountain Country, which specializes in long-term rentals in Whistler and Pemberton, said its not uncommon for landlords to reduce their rents during the shoulder season by roughly 5 per cent.
"I would say the owners that are aware of the rental scenario in Whistler, especially at this time of year, (are) the ones smart enough to reduce the rents," said Low.
"Those properties are renting."
Low said the market might be a little saturated at the moment but its fairly typical for this time of year in Whistler.
"We just are marginally above (what) wed typically be over the past few years," he said.
Mountain Countrys primary contract is with the municipality to manage the WHA rental properties, which are rented at a lower rate.
Those properties, said Low, are generally occupied at all times by virtue of the price-controlled rent.
Though those properties might be fully rented, Wake said the rental waitlist, which is usually in the several hundreds, has dropped to below 100 people.
Low also manages about 40 market homes in Whistler and Pemberton. He said though long-term rental business in the resort is marginally slower, the Pemberton market is taking a hit this season.
"Pemberton is extremely quiet," he said.
"I think whats happening there is (Whistler) owners are reducing rates and so the folks that would typically migrate to Pemberton are finding they can get a pretty good deal in Whistler right now. So the Pemberton market I really think is taking the brunt of this. Theres certainly not as much interest in Pemberton."
For example a three-bedroom townhouse at the Peaks in Pemberton has been on the market since the end of April.
The landlords offered Junes rent completely free and yet there has only been one positive phone call about the place to date.
It has yet to be rented.
Two years ago at this time the landlords had 20 phone calls from interested parties.
The Piques classified ads for this week show the Pemberton, DArcy, Mount Currie area with the highest number of rentals units available on the market. There are 68 units in that area out of 352 overall long-term accommodation units this week.
Last year at the same there were 33 units in that area out of 254 overall.
The short-term accommodation, on the other hand, has remained relatively flat compared to the same time period last year.
There are 55 short-term units available this week, five more than last year at this time.
Carolyn Hill, property manager with Affordable Whistler Accommodations, which specializes in short-term rental, said that market has bounced back in the past three weeks after a dismal April and May.
"This year the spring was almost dead," she said.
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