Whistler real estate market levels after three years of decline 

Total value of resort properties up $137 million

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Whistler's real estate market looks to be leveling off after B.C. Assessment's 2014 report showed the resort's first increase in total overall property values in four years.

The latest assessment roll has Whistler's residential and commercial inventory valued at $9.73 billion, up nearly $137 million, or 1.4 per cent, from last year. Last year's assessment value dropped nearly five per cent from 2012, which plunged roughly seven per cent, or $700 million, from 2011.

Factoring in new real estate of over $129 million, the actual increase in 2014's assessment roll is less than 0.07 per cent. That's still a positive sign for the Whistler market that has struggled in the post-recession economic climate, according to Re/Max Sea to Sky agent Matt Chiasson.

"Having a stable market in the assessments is a sign that we're not going down any further and an upwards trajectory could be in the future," he said. "It will definitely motivate some buyers and also get some owners to stand firm and say they're not going down any more."

Both Squamish and Pemberton market trends were similar to Whistler's, with the assessed overall property value for the Spud Valley totaling nearly $482 million, a slight drop of 0.37 per cent. Squamish's numbers were nearly identical to last year's, with a slight increase of $149, 000 in total property value to more than $3.854 billion.

The assessments are based on market value estimates on July 1, 2013, and the physical condition of properties as of Oct. 31.

Pat Kelly, owner of Whistler Real Estate Company, said the resort has also seen strong sales activity and increased interest at higher price points over the last six months of 2013, which bodes well for the year.

"The last six months have actually seen a bit of an increase in activity over the previous 12 months and I would expect we might see a continued increase in assessed value when these assessments come out next year," he said. "I certainly am pretty optimistic about the direction the market's going in for the upcoming year."

Chiasson said Re/Max experienced similarly strong activity towards the tail end of the year, with the third quarter seeing the highest number of transactions since before the recession hit.

"We've had tons of sales at a lower dollar value than where it was in 2008, but the number of sales is up and has been very strong," he added.

According to Re/Max's most recent sales stats, which uses data from the Whistler Listing Service, the 2013 calendar year saw over 630 transactions in Whistler totalling approximately $450 million in sales. This was up from over 580 transactions in 2012 totalling roughly $372 million.

BC Assessment also highlighted five resort properties to give a snapshot of the year's market performance, with four of them showing an increase in value. A single family dwelling in White Gold, for example, went up $19,000 to $988,000 in 2013; the value of a single family home in Alpine Meadows rose roughly $115,000 to $2.26 million; a two-bedroom apartment in the village was assessed at $459,000, up $30,000 from last year; and a two-bedroom townhouse in Blackcomb Benchlands was valued at $641,000, a $34,000 hike. Of the sample properties, only a single-family dwelling in Whistler Cay went down in assessed value, a drop of $41,000 to $1.97 million.

Last year's assessment was significantly impacted by a 12 per cent drop in Whistler's condo market, but it has since stabilized due to an increase in buyers' interest in townhomes and single-family homes.

"I don't know that we've seen a rebound back to (pre-recession) levels but I think the trend that was in place 18 to 24 months ago has stopped and has reversed itself slightly," said Kelly, who added that it's important property owners remember that, due to timing and sample size, the assessment roll can provide a skewed picture of the resort's real estate market.

"The assessment statement is a very broad brush, and every subdivision in Whistler may have a slightly different experience," he said. "Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about whether or not their taxes are going to go up or that their property values have gone up in the marketplace, they need to look at comparable data of similar properties."

Corridor-wide, the Vancouver-Sea to Sky region's assessment roll increased from $367.8 billion last year to $374.1 billion this year.

Property owners who have any concerns with their assessment should contact BC Assessment as indicated on their notice as soon as possible. Visit www.bcassessment.ca for more information.

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