Over the past three or four years, Pat Kelly, president and owner of the Whistler Real Estate Company (WREC), had been approached more than once with offers to buy his company.
While he’s been laying the groundwork for a graceful step back from ownership for some time, the process was enlightening.
“I realized going through the process with them that it was really important to me that the company continued to be owned locally, that it continued to be operated within the community the way I always envisioned, and [past owner] Drew [Meredith] before me envisioned,” Kelly said.
With his sale of WREC to agent Wendi Warm and her son Phelan Regan, Kelly believes its locally focused spirit will live on.
“Wendi’s been in the community for a long time, her kids were raised here, she’s well known, she’s worked for us for an awfully long time,” Kelly said, adding that, particularly this year amongst the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a familiar face at the helm was important.
“To me, it became very evident that we wanted to have as much consistency and continuity in culture and values and history as we could, and Wendi was a very good fit in that way.
“Change is never easy in my experience, and lord knows Whistler’s been the boiling pot of change over the last 40 years.”
Since he arrived here four decades back, the biggest change Kelly has witnessed is the resort realizing its potential as a fully fledged four-season powerhouse, to which he credits the upgrade of the highway ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games as the key factor.
“The access to the resort, I think, is a huge contributor to the success of the resort, not just Whistler but to the entire Sea to Sky corridor,” he said.
“One could argue the biggest beneficiary of the highway was Squamish.”
Vail Resorts stepping in to buy Whistler Blackcomb in 2016 was another huge moment for the resort, though the jury is still out on its long-term historical impacts, Kelly said.
“Whether that’s a good or bad thing I don’t know; I think that’s for historians to decide, but there’s no question that that big American brand gave us a stamp of credibility,” he said.
While he’s no longer the owner of WREC, Kelly will be staying on with the company in an advisor capacity, and will still be handling the statistics for now—statistics that show some interesting developments at year’s end, he said.
Even a global pandemic couldn’t dampen enthusiasm for Whistler real estate in 2020.
“The number of sales is going to be significantly above where it was in 2019 [at year-end]. Values have risen significantly, so people are not going to be happy when they see their assessments in January, I’m afraid,” Kelly said.
“If you’re looking to buy, the challenge is that there’s less for sale now than there was a year ago at this time, and I don’t see that changing going forward.”
The demand is driven by a number of factors, Kelly said: enhanced remote working capabilities and low interest rates (the lowest he’s seen in 40 years) among them.
Sales activity is likely to fall next year due to a lack of inventory, he added—but the reopening of the border remains a wildcard.
“If the borders open I could see a big swell in demand, but again, if there’s nothing to sell then all it does is support prices and put pressure on them to go upwards,” Kelly said.
“So sellers are probably going to be on the control side of negotiations going forward, would be my guess, and if somebody is looking for prices to go down, I don’t think that’s likely.”