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Downhill slide: Whistler real estate worst performing in region

Glen Korstrom, Business in Vancouver, July 30, 2013

Whistler real estate prices are on a downhill slide with the resort notching the steepest year-over-year price decline in the Metro Vancouver Sea to Sky region as well as in the past five years.

The benchmark price for a Whistler home fell 8% in the past year, 9.5% in the past three years and 21.5% in the past five years, according to Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) statistics.

Condos have fared the worst, suffering 12.7%, 33.9% and 41.2% price declines in the past 12, 36 and 60 months, respectively.

REBGV statistics come from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is accessible to realtors across the region.

“Whistler is one of the best places to buy,” Landcor Data Corp. CEO Rudy Nielsen told Business in Vancouver. “The market is definitely down, but you’re never going to replace Whistler as one of the best places in the world for skiing and recreational use.”

He believes key factors in the resort’s decline include:

global economic uncertainty;
a comparatively high Canadian dollar; and
tightened lending requirements for buying secondary homes.

His company is completing a report showing that real-estate prices at other B.C. resorts have also softened.

However, a turnaround could be in sight. Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate Whistler agent Ann Chiasson told BIV last week that she recently sold a home for $10 million. Even though the home was formerly listed at $15.7 million, it’s the most expensive Whistler home sale since 2009, she said.

Whistler Real Estate Co. president Pat Kelly similarly believes the market is stabilizing.

His statistics, based on the larger Whistler Listings Service (WLS), show the average home sale so far this year is $1,479,323, or 7.1% less than the $1,593,000 in 2012.

“The condo market has taken the biggest drop, and this is almost solely attributable to the condo-hotel market, which represents about 10% of the total number of transactions in the marketplace,” Kelly said.

“Phase 2” properties are one quirk of Whistler real estate. Buyers of these properties get condominiums that are managed by companies such as the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Phase 2 properties have a covenant and operate in a rental pool system that limits owners to spending a maximum of 56 days in their properties each year.

The properties are desirable because they tend to be close to the village and ski hills. Realtors, however, argue they are qualitatively a different real-estate class than properties in which the owner can live year-round.

Chiasson said another factor that skews Whistler real-estate price trends is the small total number of sales. High condominium sales or low single-family home (SFH) sales can magnify and distort trends, she said.

SFH in Whistler have been the best-performing real-estate class, rising 6.2% in value in the past year and 1% in the past three years. SFH home prices fell 11.3% in the past five years, according to MLS statistics.