Thursday, November 15, 2012

After suffering a reality check, the Whistler real estate market realizes who they must sell to.

It's been a while since we wrote about the real estate situation in Whistler.

What a stunning change from all the pre-Olympic hype.

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.

She said:
"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."
Ah yes, the'buy now or forever be priced out' mantra.

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.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a screenshot of the blog post in case the link comes up dead (click on image to enlarge):

Fast forward to 2012. Back in May 2012 we noted that a hotel condo at the Blackcomb Lodge was now selling for 65% off it's 2005 launch price. That post followed earlier ones about Whistler properties being down about 50%.

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 noted yesterday:
About 70 per cent of Whistler homeowners are from the Vancouver area.
That's right. 70% of Whistler homeowners are locals (who probably HELOC'd their Lower Mainland homes to buy in Whistler pre-Olympics) and now that those Olympic dreams of massive real estate profits have evaporated - they realize the only potential buyers are other Lower Mainlander's.

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."
Whistler Realtors say one of their biggest challenges right now is managing seller expectations.
"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."
But don't think the omnipresent realtor optimism is lacking in Whistler.

What are real estate agents pinning their hopes on?

The Boomer Trigger, of course.
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.
Riiight. Do you get the feeling Whistler is gonna get kicked again?


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  1. "Get the feeling Whistler is gonna get kicked again?" Just hoping...

  2. I wonder where "Lillian" is now?

  3. " may be too late. The time to buy is now."

    "...don't list it. It will just sit and sit."

  4. Places like Bamfield and other out of the way spots must really be in for a surprise.Ive seen some crazy asking prices for these areas.
    Not many people want to live in these places full time,even Whistler.

  5. All these years and people poo-pooing the 2/3's price decline possibility and now it's here. Everyone should remember that Whistler was held out as this super special area. That it's dropped this much was unthinkable a few years back to many. The call that no one needs a secondary property is after the fact rationalization. No one should think Vancouver will be any different. In the long run fundamentals apply which means homes need to be affordable by the populace that buys them. History shows this is a somewhere around a 3x home price to income ratio for an average home. It may take some years to arrive, like it has in whistler, but arrive it will.


  6. Bear Mountain has changed their plan ,removing one golf course in favour of single houses and dumping a big quantity of condos onsite.
    Still won't save it specially now.....who wants to live on the top of a mountain?It sounds great if you never have to go anywhere I guess, but otherwise it's a pain in the ass.

  7. The sellers are not the only ones desperate. If I was an RE agent and did not receive a commission cheque for a few months I also would be desperate.

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  9. Great comments guys. I hope it’s ok to add my thoughts. I started selling real estate in Whistler in 2009 and have been calling the valley home since 1995. Right now it really does seem to be the lost decade as we see prices start to fall back to levels prior to the higher prices driven mostly by what was then a strong US dollar. Outlying valley subdivision homes that have been owned by N. Van and W. Van owners since the ’70’s – 80’s may experience baby-boomer downsizing meaning more single family homes coming to market. The well valued Phase I properties are becoming fewer as Vancouver buyer activity increases (with even a few multiple offers occurring if priced right). It should be an interesting season ahead!

  10. Thought I would add to these comments...I have been living in Whistler for 40 years, developing hotels, marketing and selling real estate and while the Olympics had a unique bubble effect on the Whistler market the thing that keeps Whistler pricing somewhat inflated is the bed cap limit on development in the Resort. This bed cap limit essentially limits the amount of growth that can occur in Whistler. We are close to the final build out in the Resort and as we reach that pricing will likely stay strong....recent luxury sales in the resort attest the the new "value" opportunities, but frankly it is all relative to what is going on globally and with 70% of our buyers coming from BC we still rely heavily on what is going on in our BC economy...sales stats from Whistler in the past 90 days indicate that we are seeing some strong sales, in particular in the luxury real estate is a link to all of the past 90 days sales