September 07, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Big Houses 

How big is too big?


The debate over house size continues as real estate values climb

Is a house that can double as a hanger for a 747 too big? Well, like a lot of things, it’s all relative.

In the winter of 2000 a house high on Sunridge plateau sold for $7.9 million. Built by local contractor/developer Andy Munster, it is grandly named Akasha and came complete with its own indoor swimming pool. It was reported that there was another buyer who would have been willing to pay more than $7.9 million.

Since then several even more elaborate houses have been built and the asking prices are millions more, although they have yet to sell and Akasha remains the most expensive house ever sold in Whistler.

We’ve come a long way. In 1965 lots developed at Alta Vista could be reserved with a $100 deposit. The lots sold for a few thousand dollars and owners built basic A-frame and gothic-arch cabins on the properties. In the late ’70s lots were developed at Whistler Cay and sold at the outrageous price of $50,000. During the recession of 1982-83 the price of some lots in Whistler again dropped to just a few thousand dollars. But they’ve risen steadily ever since.

In recent years the concept of a house at Whistler has gone way beyond being just a cabin in the woods. These houses – many of which are built on spec. – are not only big (by Whistler standards some would say huge) but built using only the highest quality materials and craftsmanship. For lack of a better term you could call these homes superluxe, or as they are known in some circles "steroid homes."

So who’s buying them? The purchaser of Akasha is a dot-com millionaire. Certainly the high-tech sector has helped drive the market for the last couple of years, but even as the bottom has dropped out of tech stocks Whistler real estate has remained in demand.

The trend for these large houses really began about 10 years ago, which is when million dollar homes first began to appear in local real-estate listings. At the time there was a certain amount of awe amongst locals that Whistler had joined the seven figures club. It was hard to imagine someone would pay that sort of money for a vacation home. After all, many people still thought of Whistler as a place of A-frames and club cabins.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s Whistler was in full rah, rah mode. The community remembered the deep recession of the early ’80s and the sight of abandoned construction projects, including the long-gestating conference centre. So when the economy turned the corner and construction resumed in the village it did so with a vengeance. Every fall would see a new hotel pop up or a new condo development being marketed. As the village expanded its popularity grew. Snow Country magazine regularly heralded Whistler as North America’s #1 ski resort, a title that was also bestowed by Ski and other magazines. Anyone with a business interest in Whistler would be quick to assure visitors that Whistler was now a world class resort.

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