Here is our Whistler Real Estate Summary of the market in 2010. Written by Pat Kelly, Broker/Owner.
Well, it was quite a year! With the Olympics, HST and general economic concerns the market faced up to numerous challenges during 2010. Here are, in my opinion, the big stories that affected the local real estate industry and will have implications for the marketplace in coming years
Prior to the Olympics, there was an enormous amount of speculation as to what impact the Winter Olympics would have on local real estate value. Many experts (and quite a few venders) were convinced that values would increase noticeably in Whistler due to demand generated by the increased awareness worldwide. Unfortunately, the reality did not meet the expectation (so far) and very little of the sales activity in 2010 could be attributed to the Olympic event (in fact February and March were some of the slowest for business on record).
However, the Olympics did provide us with an enormous number of legacies within the resort which will increase its attractiveness as both a place to visit, and to live.
New recreational amenities at Callaghan (cross-country) and the Sliding Center on Blackcomb, fibre optic networks, improved snow making, healthcare upgrades, the creation of Celebration Plaza, funding for the Legacy Society, the improved highway access, and most importantly, the creation of the Cheakamus Crossing resident housing have ensured that Whistler has everything at its doorstep that a mountain resort can offer to a tourist, a regular visitor, or a full-time resident. We clearly offer more as a resort community than any other option available as a resort community and in the long run those advantages will support our marketplace.
Cheakamus Crossing and Rainbow allowed 320 local working families to make their home in Whistler in 2010. The advantage of having properly housed staff working within the boundaries of the resort cannot be underestimated. Over 240 of these families located in Cheakamus Crossing created an instant neighbourhood. Another 80 located in Rainbow and more are expected to move-in during 2011.
Upon completion of both these neighbourhoods, Whistler will likely have reached its goal of being able to provide adequate long-term local housing for 75% of its permanent workforce at affordable prices. It will be a while before all the impact of the transition from renters to owners is felt in the market, but the positive impact of a reliable committed, locally based workforce on the community cannot be overstated.
Always the optimists, we had hoped that 2010 would be an improvement over the vast economic upheaval we experienced in 2009. However, continued aftershocks in the financial sector showed created improvement in consumer confidence throughout 2010. Despite rock bottom interest values and the widest selection of purchase options in recent memory, buyers continued to only be interested in “clear value” purchases. Given the length of time we have experienced this “buyer market”, we are now convinced that a fundamental shift has occurred in buyer behaviour which will have a long term impact in sales activity. Purchasers are clearly shopping for value, and a new appreciation for frugality is apparent. Buyers are highly self-educated (thanks to the internet), are buying for lifestyle in the short and long term, and are buying for both value in facilities and in terms of family usage. There is much concern about fixed and operating costs on an annual basis and properties are being judged on the basis of sustainability principles in many cases, There is no question that the buyer wants to make a “smart” buy and they will be the only part to determine what “smart” means. There is a definable trend to smaller, easier to use and maintain properties with limited complexity to ownership and an aversion to undertaking building or waiting for property yet to be built. Like tourism the buyers are looking for the best value available today, that they can start to enjoy today. Like many business sectors in Whistler we continue to deal with a “new normal” with both buyers and sellers.
Overall, the market for 2010 was fairly similar to that experienced in 2009. The total number of sales was slightly lower while the total value of sales climbed approximately 10%.
Within the various housing sectors average and median values varied. Single family houses remained largely unchanged from 2009 to 2010 with an average value of $1,537,000 and median value of $1,105,000. The average value of condominiums sold dropped significantly to $365,000 from $454,000 in 2009, although median value remained unchanged, indicating a narrowing of the price range of sales. The townhouse market showed some real improvement with both sales volume and average price improving dramatically in 2010. The average sales price of a town home increased from $644,000 in 2007 to $778,000 in 2010 and there was a 25% increase in total units sold.
Single family lots continue to adjust to market conditions with low sales volume. Average lot value declined by about 10% over the year.
At the current time there continues to be a historically high number of properties listed for sale. I expect little to no growth in values until unit sales velocity increases consistently. Current indications suggest properties will be in the market in excess of 12 months unless priced effectively to meet buyer expectations. We predict continued strong interest in town homes and all other properties priced under $1,000,000 with the most desired locations being those in and around the mountains and the Village. Many of the factors in play in the market today are reminiscent of market characteristics that we experienced throughout the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s.
Value (price), location, and lifestyle will be the primary factors determining buyer urgency in 2011.