Whistler's real estate market posts busiest month since recession 

Lack of housing inventory drives interest: realtors

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - RED HOT September saw 90 home sales worth over $64 million in Whistler — the busiest month for the resort's real estate market since before the recession.
  • Shutterstock photo
  • RED HOT September saw 90 home sales worth over $64 million in Whistler — the busiest month for the resort's real estate market since before the recession.

Whistler's real estate market has bounced back to pre-recession levels with September going down as the busiest month in sales activity since 2008.

In all, there were 90 real estate transactions over the course of the month, accounting for over $64 million in sales.

Re/Max Sea to Sky realtor Dave Halliwell chalked the sales flurry up to a variety of factors.

"I think it's a combination of the Vancouver market being very strong, interest rates being very low and there not being much product out there right now," he said.

Also at play is the weakened Canadian dollar, making the market all the more desirable to the important American buyer, Halliwell said. Whistler's status as a world-class ski resort coming off a record-breaking summer in visitation, didn't hurt either.

Townhouses and chalets made up the bulk of September's sales, at approximately $26 million and $21 million, respectively, while condos accounted for over $10 million.

Single-family units priced at $2 million and below are particularly hot right now, Halliwell said, adding that many buyers from the Lower Mainland, which make up an estimated three-quarters of home sales, are increasingly looking for Phase 1 housing to rent out on a short-term basis.

"For somebody who lives in the Vancouver market that's ideal because it means they can come up and use it for weekends and (holidays) and rent it out when they're not coming up to help cover the mortgage," he said.

While that's good news for sellers, it doesn't bode well for low-end buyers or seasonal residents looking for rental accommodation in an already tight market.

"It certainly makes it tougher for certain groups to access property here," said Whistler Real Estate Co. president Pat Kelly.

With the resort short on inventory, Kelly expects home prices to continue to rise.

"Based on the trends I'm seeing, if I was looking at property today, I would probably want to make my decision today because it might be a bit more expensive next year," he noted.

Still, in a luxury destination like Whistler, Kelly doesn't believe interest will wane from deep-pocketed buyers.

"Whistler's a very attractive place to buy for a number of reasons," he said. "I don't think buyers are going to disappear anytime going forward."

Sales figures for 2015's third quarter were also strong, and indicate "continuing growth" for the resort's real estate market, said Halliwell. There were 219 sales amounting to $163 million over that span, roughly seven-per-cent higher than the same period last year, and 18-per-cent over 2014's second quarter.

The positive trends weren't relegated to Whistler, either, with both Pemberton and Squamish posting busy Septembers.

A total of 18 sales were recorded in Pemberton, amounting to nearly $7 million in sales. Activity was slightly up over last quarter, and increased significantly over the same period last year, with a 34-per-cent hike in sales.

Squamish's red-hot real estate market saw 73 sales in September worth approximately $40 million. Third-quarter numbers, meanwhile, were down slightly from the previous quarter, which Halliwell said is likely due to "dwindling inventory."

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