River Bend prices drop 

Cheakamus Crossing market homes selling up to 18.5 per cent lower than last year

River Bend is winding its way back to the market.

Last fall the Cheakamus Crossing market housing development consisting of 20 duplex units was offered for sale, but was pulled from the market after just one of the units sold.

Now, after some research on market values, the units are being reoffered at up to 18.5 per cent less than the original asking price. Eric Martin, president and CEO of Whistler 2020, said the units were probably overpriced for the current market.

"When we actually started marketing the project it was late '08 and I think the whole pricing structure of the valley was different then," he said. "So we've taken a long look at it, and taken our time and studied the market and what we think are comparable units. And it's mostly re-sales because there's not much new inventory.

"Looking at what's out there, we came to the conclusion that the prices were yesterday's prices, and we had to update to today's market.

"The other big factor was the introduction of the HST, which didn't exist when we came up with the pricing and which was being applied to every new home."

The result was to reintroduce the units at lower prices between 12 and 18 per cent lower than the $850,000 to $950,000 that was originally planned. Comparable homes were sold to locals on the housing list for $500,000.

The first block of five homes is being released in the next few weeks and will be sold through the Whistler Real Estate Company. Under the new pricing structure, the most expensive of the five units - rated at 1,763 square feet plus a garage - was $724,900, reduced 18.5 per cent. The lowest priced unit at 1,622 square feet, was $685,000, down 15.25 per cent.

When asked if the controversy over the asphalt plant may have affected sales, Martin said they believe that most of the hesitation was related to pricing and the current market.

"Obviously there's been a bit of a subjective impact, but realistically... there has never been any evidence of odours or anything at River Bend so it shouldn't be a factor there," said Martin.

"Overall it's a negative, but I think the overall market - the state of the market - is 90 per cent of the factor."

Asphalt may not be a factor going forward, after council announced on Tuesday that they were sending a cease and desist letter to the operator.

There has also been some movement on the first phase of market lots to be released in the area. One house is built and another is currently under construction, while Cheakamus Crossing has signed an agreement with local developer Vision Pacific to buy four additional lots "at close to market price." If that deal goes through then there would be three lots remaining.

In addition to those lots, there are two other potential subdivisions in the neighbourhood with another 14 lots.

"We haven't decided exactly what we're doing yet - we've talked about releasing some smaller lots but we haven't decided," said Martin. "That's our program for the next two years."

The majority of homes in the Cheakamus Crossing were reserved for employee housing, and in the last few weeks two more of those homes were sold as well. At this point there are just two homes remaining in the neighbourhood, one at Whitewater and one in The Rise.

The Whistler 2020 Development Corporation (WDC) was created by the Resort Municipality of Whistler in the run-up to the 2010 Games to develop an athletes' village and legacy housing neighbourhood at the site of the former landfill. The group borrowed $100 million to complete the facility, which came in on time and on budget.

The majority of the existing loan has been paid off, said Martin, with between $14 million and $15 million remaining at low 1.65 per cent interest. The sale of River Bend and the lots should pay off the remainder.

The WDC was originally slated to end operations once the sale of the units were complete, but the corporation will likely remain in operation to 2012 when all of the land and units are expected to have been sold.






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