Bidding wars on Canadian resort properties now commonplace, says report

After being rattled by the Great Recession, resort town property values are through the roof, and the resulting influx of out-of-towners has put pressure on locals, who are having difficulty affording homes.

According to Liz Forster, managing broker of Sotheby’s International Realty in Sun Peaks, B.C., locals are not happy that their small, quaint towns are suffering from the same unaffordability crisis that plagues some of the country’s largest cities.

“The bidding wars are pushing prices up and as the inventory of available properties are reduced, it is putting pressure on locals that are finding it very difficult to find accommodations and housing,” she said.

“There is some (acrimony locally), and there’s a trend now to make sure we do a housing authority; there’s one in Whistler and now Sun Peaks is establishing one as well so that certain properties in every complex will not go up with the market value, but stay in an affordable range so that we do have housing.”

A Sotheby’s International Realty Canada report, released this morning, shed light on the prevalence of multiple offers in the country’s major resort towns.

According to the Top-Tier Ski Real Estate Report, the Vancouver Olympics showcased Whistler to the world, and in tandem with a low Canadian dollar, the ski resort has become popular with international travellers. However, there’s another reason for the surging property prices in Whistler.

“There’s increased pressure from buyers coming from the Lower Mainland, in particular,” said Forster. “We’ve seen a dramatic shift of the average sale price pushing up over a million dollars.

“People are cashing out. There’s increased value of their primary residence in the Lower Mainland, and as people have more flexibility and the city gets busier, we’re seeing them move towards outside areas. We’re also seeing young families choosing to live in these areas; they like the lifestyle and they’re tired of the hustle and bustle of the city.”

The low Canadian dollar has boosted tourism, and world-famous ski resorts, like Mont-Tremblant—which suffered from Great Recession aftershocks until late 2016—are receiving more visitors. Primary buyers in the Quebec resort town are from the Montreal and Ottawa-Gatineau areas, as well as the Greater Toronto Area.

“At the same time, a low Canadian dollar and broader awareness of the destination ski resort has resulted in interest and sales activity from buyers from across Canada, Europe and China. A stronger American economy has also resulted in an increase in visitors and real estate activity from U.S. cities such as New York, Boston and New England, which fall within a one-day drive of the resort,” read the report.
Blue Mountain, a two-hour drive from Toronto, has seen an increase in property purchasers much for the same reason as Whistler. Property equity has risen substantially in the GTA, and young professionals, many of whom work remotely or simply want recreational properties, and baby boomers, readying for retirement, are major buying cohorts.
According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s CEO Brad Henderson, domestic conditions largely explain the rising cost of property in Canadian resort towns.
“Canada’s ski resorts are certainly global tourist destinations, but it’s important to appreciate that demand for real estate, even in markets like Whistler that are on the world podium, is largely from the immediate surrounding region,” he said. “Local conditions—inventory levels, regional economic performance, unemployment rates—are the factors driving markets right now.”

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  • by Arnold Handelman 2017-11-21 3:34:51 PM

    This good magazine is aimed at real estate investors. When you think about what kind of real estate to invest in, surely resort properties would be low on the list. After all, if or actually, when a slump hits, resort properties are a non-essential asset that would be the first to be disposed of. Furthermore, they don't really produce decent rental income.

    Many years ago, I mortgageed a developer construction mortgage money to complete a townhouse development associated with Cranberry Village in Collingwood, Ontario. I also got one townhouse. At first, we went up there wintertime, as my kids skied at Blue Mountain. We didn't go there summertime, even though they had swimming pool, tennis and other fun summer facilities. Then a winter passed, when nobody from my family went up. I rented the townhouse out to skiers. Finally, I decided that it made more sense to get rid of the place. Since my family wasn't using it, the resort property was a poor asset from an investment viewpoint. Commercial and multi-family properties gave better cash flow.

    But this article shows that prices have escalated. My townhouse went for $150,000 in the late 1980's. Now it would be worth probably close to $1 million. The real reason is that underlying it all, in spite of fears of a real estate bubble, in spite of stats about low inflation, etc., the dirty secret truth is that the dollar is becoming worth less and less. Real estate, whatever its form, represents a hard asset that will become much more expensive to replace in the future. Yes, some people are even opting to move to resorts and live there permanently. Yes, Air BnB can help generate better cash flow from your resort or other vacation property. But ultimately, this kind of property is an investment, a means of preserving capital. That's not to be sneezed at in these uncertain times.

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