The 2010 Olympic's were going to transform Whistler and it was going to be a real estate bonanza.
Not only were prices surging in pre-Olympic speculation, but a lot of people were holding on to property until after the Olympics in anticipation of a surge of new buyers.
Anyone who bad mouthed the anticipated R/E nirvana was roundly dismissed.
In February 2010 a Whistler realtor named Lillian was boldly (and publicly) wagging her finger in admonishment at potential buyers who might be sitting on the fence about a real estate purchase in Whistler.
"For people expecting the real estate prices in Whistler to drop after the Olympics, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed...The message is, if you’re waiting for prices to drop before purchasing property in Whistler, you may be too late. The time to buy is now."
This despite the fact the realtor acknowledges that (at the time of her posting) the Whistler market was "already 15-25% lower than previous prices in 2007" and that "current prices in Whistler are down to 2001 levels."
Lillian, and other speculators, told you it was different here.
Reality has hit Whistler hard.
And now that we're one ski season beyond the Olympics, and coming up on another, it's becoming clear to those who do own property in Whistler that there's not going to be a big run-up in prices. As real estate agent Shauna O'Callaghan, of MacDonald Whistler Realty, observes,
"The sellers who have decided to sell are motivated, and the buyers are getting good value. I think we're seeing such incredible value in the market that it's pretty exciting for buyers."It seems Whistler has come to accept their customers aren't jet-setting Germans, high flying Americans, or even HAM. The meat and potatoes of Whistler real estate is locals from the Lower Mainland... meaning properties must be priced to sell to local incomes.
As REW.ca noted yesterday:
About 70 per cent of Whistler homeowners are from the Vancouver area.
As Ron Mitchell of Sutton West Coast Realty observed:
"From 1998 through 2002 there was large demand and property values went up 100%. Then the market softened slowly through 2006 where it basically bottomed out. At the same time, prices in Vancouver were going up and a lot of Vancouver people were jumping into the market. But the shock of 2008 put the brakes on all recreational and a lot of residential markets throughout North America.
"From 2008 people were holding on thinking the Olympics were going to spread some magic dust. Meanwhile, prices of unrestricted recreational properties — chalets, condos and townhouses — have softened by 20-25 percent. Condo hotels have dropped in value about 50 per cent from their peak in 2002-03, when American investors were buying them as revenue properties with their 65-cent dollar."
"We're dealing with discretionary items. Nobody really needs to have a second place at Whistler. So it does mean that the negotiation approach is more cautious, more investment oriented. We tell people we've had listings for two or three years, and that's how long the absorption is for some of these properties. So if you don't go into it with the expectation that you might not see an offer for six months, you're going to get pretty frustrated, pretty quick... If you do not have to sell, if your expectations are not in line with the current market, don't list it. It will just sit and sit."
Opportunities are beginning to attract people who want to live the Whistler life full time, says realtor Shauna O'Callaghan. "I think people moving here is the upcoming trend. I think you're going to see people who might have had a $3 million home in Kerrisdale and now all of a sudden you can cash out and that's a lot of money in the bank.
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