Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the most expensive homes of all? 


Ritzy real estate sells well at mountain resorts

Despite the recent listing of an $11.2-million luxury home, Whistler real estate is far cheaper than that found in many other mountain resorts.

"Prices for unique, one-of-a-kind homes are actually below what they should be," said Pat Kelly, president of the Whistler Real Estate Co. Ltd. "The demand has not increased but there are more (luxury) homes available."

The $11.2 million, 5,000-square-foot Chateau du Lac features a basalt stone exterior, copper roof, cantilevered deck, ornate fireplace, temperature-controlled wine cellar, 10-person hot tub, snow-melting system and state-of-the-art kitchen and home theatre. The four-bedroom home is located on a private 1,250-foot lakefront lot above Nita Lake. There is also a fully equipped guest suite, 600-square-foot carriage house and attached triple garage.

"When I started (selling real estate) I thought $250,000 was a ton of dough," said Kelly, a realtor with 20 years experience. "Now we?re selling about three or four (luxury homes) a year."

When it is sold, the Chateau du Lac will likely hold the record for the most expensive single-family home ever sold in Whistler. The current record is a $7.9-million home that sold last year.

Whistler?s pricey real estate prompted one of Canada?s national newspapers to call it "the most expensive" in the country.

There are at least four more luxury homes, ranging in price from $5.7 million to $8 million, currently on the market.

And who buys these homes? "Wealthy, international business people who understand value," Kelly told Pique Newsmagazine . "But their decisions to buy are more careful and cautious. The process has slowed down since a year ago."

But the slow summer real estate market traditionally picks up in the fall and, according to Kelly, luxury homes in Whistler are still cheap compared to those found in other resorts like Vail and Aspen.

A 4,700-square-foot, four-bedroom Vail home recently sold for $14.3 million US ? that?s $20.7 million in Canadian funds. The sale surpassed that Colorado resort town?s old record of $11.5 million US ($16.7 million Cdn).

Real estate in Vail is so hot right now that one realtor claimed he could sell an empty lot for $10 million US ($14.5 million Cdn).

The typical real estate commission for a listing agent in Vail is three per cent. That comes to $429,000 US ($629,000 Cdn) on that $14.3 million home.

The population of Eagle County, the area that includes Vail and Beaver Creek, has grown by 90 per cent in the past 10 years, while Whistler?s permanent population has almost doubled in the same time.

Real estate prices are even higher in Aspen, Colo., which also goes by the name "Glitter Gulch." In March 2000, a five-bedroom home in a ritzy subdivision sold for $15 million US ($21.8 million Cdn). That sale did, however, include 67 acres of land.

Will the prices of luxury homes in Whistler ever reach that level? Kelly seems to think so.

"We haven?t seen the end yet," he said. "Prices will be much higher in eight or nine years. It?ll astonish people."


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