Sea to Sky real estate trends upward 

Interest in recreational property bolsters sales

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - REC REPORT  Bolstered by recreational properties, real estate sales are trending upwards in the Sea to Sky, according to RE/MAX's 2016 Recreational Property Report.
  • Photo by braden dupuis
  • REC REPORT Bolstered by recreational properties, real estate sales are trending upwards in the Sea to Sky, according to RE/MAX's 2016 Recreational Property Report.

A new report outlines broad trends that are driving interest in recreational properties across the country. The Re/Max recreational property report indicates that properties in recreational meccas — like Whistler and Squamish — are increasing in value.

According to the report, the median price for a property sold in Whistler between May 2016 and April 2017 was $540,000, which represents a 3.25- per-cent jump over the previous year. The median price for a property in Squamish for that time period was $589,000, which represents an 18.04 per cent rise.

The report, which speaks to national trends, said young families are driving sales. Re/Max surveyed brokers working in markets with high potential for recreation across the country, and 73 per cent of them said young families are one of the most active demographics in their market.

The report also indicated that sky-high real estate prices in Vancouver and Toronto are a contributing factor. "Buyers are increasingly selling their homes in Canada's two largest urban centres and using the equity from the sale to purchase a cottage, cabin or ski chalet," found the report.

Longtime Whistler realtor Ann Chiasson said she's seen that first hand. But does it constitute a major trend? "No," she explained. "I think people buy in Whistler because they've been coming to Whistler for a long time — they love to come and ski and bike ride — and they've finally reached a point where they can afford it."

According to the Whistler Listing Service, which tracks purchasing in the Sea to Sky region, the volume of real estate sold in Whistler (the dollar amount) has increased dramatically over the last five years.

In the first quarter of 2017, approximately $230 million in real estate was sold, while in the first quarter of 2012, approximately $90 million was sold.

The driving force, said Chiasson, continues to be "executive families" who love all of the skiing, hiking, and biking Whistler offers. They tend to be "executive or upper-management families," said Chiasson.

Whistler, she pointed out, is an increasingly difficult market to get into. And locals are looking to Pemberton and Squamish to extend their value.

"People are starting to see that peripherally, things are a better value," said Chiasson. "The changes in Squamish and Pemberton are dramatic — dramatic."

Prices have jumped in both communities over the last five years. In the first quarter of 2017, approximately $98 million worth of real estate sold in Squamish, compared to $20 million in 2012. And for Pemberton, the number jumped from $12 million to $15 million over that same time period.

For Pat Kelly, owner of Whistler Real Estate, the trend will continue going forward. Whistler is not the type of place that just "builds a new subdivision," he said. "The West Coast is a very desirable place to live right now, and Whistler is one of the most desirable places to live on the West Coast."

Max Thornill — a partner at Thornhill Real Estate Group — agrees that Whistler's market has seen "unprecedented gains" in recent years. He also expects the trend to continue, and is anticipating increased demand from international buyers. "The world cares about lifestyle more than they ever have," said Thornhill, who is anticipating another strong year.

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