Whistler's real estate market rebounded to pre-recession levels in 2015 

Strong demand, lack of inventory driving rise in property prices

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - ON THE REBOUND Whistler's red-hot real estate market rebounded to pre-recession levels in 2015. With strong demand and a lack of inventory, don't expect home prices to drop anytime soon, says local realtors.
  • Shutterstock Photo
  • ON THE REBOUND Whistler's red-hot real estate market rebounded to pre-recession levels in 2015. With strong demand and a lack of inventory, don't expect home prices to drop anytime soon, says local realtors.

Whistler's real estate market posted a strong year in 2015, marked by healthy demand and the highest number of sales since before the global financial crisis.

"Prices improved in all segments of the market as a result of low interest rates, Whistler's continuing successful evolution as a popular year-round destination, a favourable Canadian dollar, and an active real estate market in the Greater Vancouver Area," said Whistler Real Estate Company president Pat Kelly in a release.

Overall, sales activity was up 14.4 per cent over last year, while the average transaction came in at $799,937, according to data from the Whistler Listing Service, the highest value since 2007. That figure was up 10.5 per cent over 2014.

Whistler's continuing attractiveness as a summer destination — 2015 was the resort's busiest summer on record — has been "a huge factor" in driving demand from homebuyers, believes Re/Max Sea to Sky realtor Dave Halliwell.

"Tourism Whistler and the municipality of Whistler have done a great job creating events on every weekend of the summer," he said. "We're definitely not a one-season town anymore."

Whistler's condominium and townhouse segments, which Kelly said make up around 57 per cent of the market's total transactions, saw a six-per-cent increase in activity last year. The average price of a condo rose 7.1 per cent to $415,600, while a townhouse cost an average of $756,142 last year, an 8.4-per-cent jump.

The single-family home market was also strong, with a 22-per-cent increase in sales activity and the average transaction rising five per cent to $1.697 million.

The luxury market, made up of properties over $2 million, stayed busy last year, with a 33-per-cent improvement in the total number of sales. It should be noted, however, that the number of luxury sales reflects a small sample size locally, which can cause large fluctuations in these figures year over year.

With no sign of demand slowing down and a lack of properties for sale — Whistler's inventory has shrunk by two thirds since 2011 — Kelly expects real estate to become less affordable moving forward.

"The prices are going to go up, so logically... for someone who is a server in a restaurant, for example, real estate will continue to get less accessible and you're going to get people looking at opportunities in Squamish and Pemberton as well as whatever's offered by the (Whistler Housing Authority)," he said in a follow-up interview.

The impacts are already being felt in Pemberton, where both the number and average value of sales increased. The average property price in the Spud Valley rose 15.4 per cent to $434,475 in 2015, the busiest year in sales transactions since 2008.

But it's Squamish that Halliwell sees as the centre of the Sea to Sky's growth.

"It used to be that the people who bought in Squamish were people that lived in Squamish and it was partially a bedroom community for Whistler," he said. "But talking to my associates and colleagues that work in the Squamish market, they're saying that 95 per cent of the people they're showing to now in Squamish are from the city."

The dearth of inventory has led to another trend Kelly sees on the horizon that will have implications for Whistler's ever-tightening rental market.

"A trend that has started in the last couple of years that we will continue to see is renovation: the taking of old homes, tearing them down and rebuilding them," he said. "Between that, (nightly vacation rentals) and the loss of inventory as a result of ownership changes, the rental market will be impacted."

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