West Coast gem cashing in on Olympic glory

A community that boasts 20–30% below market replacement value, that hasn’t seen a major real estate price increase since 2002 (according to the Whistler Real Estate Company), and that offers a relaxing atmosphere sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Well, wake up and smell the fresh mountain air because the “Princess of the West Coast” has all of this and more.

From 1994 to 1997 Whistler experienced an increase in the price of property with median condo prices rising from $193,215 to $288,134 and chalet prices soaring to $651,017 from $378,792, according to the Whistler Real Estate Company. In 1998 the market boomed when investors realized that the price of property in this picturesque town offered great value for their investment dollar. The real estate market in Whistler, like most resort towns, is directly linked to its tourism industry, as people who visit Whistler enjoy the lifestyle so much that they tend to purchase vacation properties for themselves. When global problems such as 9/11, SARS and mad cow disease arose in 2001, visitors stopped traveling, causing a slow-down (and related price decrease) in Whistler’s real estate market. When tourists began to travel again in 2002, the market peaked and has continued to flourish.

According to Mike Wintemute, general manager at RE/MAX Sea to Sky Real Estate Ltd and past chair of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, there has been a 60% increase in real estate activity in the last year alone. Wintemute notes that condominiums tend to be the investment of choice, with 258 sold throughout the first and second quarters of 2007. Chalets are also a great buy, with 79 sold throughout the first and second quarters of this year. The average detached home price in Whistler is in the one million dollar range. While the median property price has not increased dramatically, Wintemute says that the amount of properties sold continues to exceed expectations.

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