Rainbow forces decisions from waitlisters 

Developers entice buyers with promise of completion before 2010 Games

click to enlarge Home Sweet Home Lee and Lisa Sargent, with daughter Jordyn, walk the plot of land they may soon call home
  • Home Sweet Home Lee and Lisa Sargent, with daughter Jordyn, walk the plot of land they may soon call home

Lee and Lisa Sargent are walking around a square patch of dirt they can almost call their own.

With a little imagination and some explanation from builder Tim Regan, the patch of land is transforming before their very eyes, turning into their Whistler dream - a four-bedroom single-family home.

This moment has been a long time coming for these long-term Whistler residents. They have been moving within Whistler's secondary home market - employee housing - for more than a decade, first with a one-bedroom unit at Millar's Ridge, followed by a three-bedroom townhouse at 19 Mile.

"We tried to get a lot in Barnfield," explained Lisa Sargent. "We tried to get a lot in Spruce Grove. We've been doing this for such a long time - trying to get a house."

The Sargents got their shot at a single family home this week when the developers of the Rainbow subdivision opened all phases of the primarily employee housing development to the Whistler Housing Authority waitlist.

In this latest push to get people to sign on the dotted line, buyers had just two days to make their decision and hand over a deposit or risk losing their spot on the waitlist.

"The whole goal of this is to try and get a minimum of 20 duplexes and probably 20 single family homes built before the 2010 Games, so we're taking 40 families and giving them a home," said Deborah Worth, marketing manager for Rainbow.

By end of day Tuesday, six days into the sales push, 27 duplexes had offers pending, along with ten offers on single-family homes. Developers expect to meet their target by Thursday.

"We're quite excited about that," said Worth.

She admitted that this process is forcing the hands of waitlisters, but that needs to happen if building is to continue.

"The climate is: there's a lot of product, so I can take my time," said Worth.

Rainbow was unable to sell out the first phases of its development - 13 single-family homes and 24 duplexes - that were offered summer 2008. Though all the single-family homes sold, half of the duplexes remained on the market.

Even the Sargents felt as though it wasn't the right time for them then.

Several factors hampered those sales, not the least of which was the municipal project, Cheakamus Crossing, offered to waitlisters within months of Rainbow for less money and guaranteed completion dates.

"I think a lot of the reason people didn't buy the first round (at Rainbow) is because they were more expensive than they thought they were going to be," said WHA general manager Marla Zucht.

The least expensive duplex at Rainbow is around $360,000. One of the most expensive, and one of the biggest homes offered, is the one the Sargents have picked.

They have chosen the Spruce, a 2,120 square foot home. It costs $643,093 plus GST. With the garage, mechanical room and storage space, the home is more than 2,700 square feet.

It's expensive, said Lisa Sargent, and with a 35-year mortgage of $500,000, the couple will be in their mid-70s by the time their mortgage is paid off.

But it's worth it to them.

Their young girls, seven-year-old Emily and three-year-old Jordyn, will finally have a room of their own. The fourth bedroom will be the home office.

"It's a step up," said Sargent. "We want to have a house. I grew up having a house, my parents always had a house and I think it's really important to keep professionals and workers of Whistler being able to live in the community, and that's what this is going to be."

Another issue affecting sales at Rainbow is confusion around construction mortgages.

"It's a bit confusing," admitted mortgage broker Doug Mildenberger. "I guess that's why we're involved."

Construction financing can work for many buyers but they need to be aware of the ongoing costs and commitments upfront. The financing is different for every borrower and Mildenberger encourages potential buyers to meet with their bank or mortgage brokers like those at Garibaldi Mortgage - The Mortgage Centre.

"Construction financing did throw people for a bit of a loop," admitted Zucht. "For a lot of people that was a huge stumbling block."

That being said, she hopes this latest push entices some of the 375 people on the Rainbow waitlist.

"I'm hopeful that there's going to be some good uptake," said Zucht.

Rainbow will have exhausted the waitlist by Thursday, April 9. After that time any Whistler employee, or employee in Squamish and Pemberton, will be able to purchase at Rainbow, provided they sell their market homes. These are called secondary qualified purchasers. In the first phases, two of the 25 units sold were bought by secondary qualified purchasers.


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