Second Home Market Showcase: Whistler, Canada

By Linsey Stonchus

Second home markets were among the most successful real estate markets in 2020, offering rare luxuries such as privacy, space, and gorgeous natural surroundings. Accordingly, LPI has gathered insight from 6 major second home markets for a limited blog series, “Second Home Market Showcase.” A comprehensive summary of these findings can also be found in Luxury Portfolio magazine.

Patrick Kelly, Resort Real Estate Advisor at The Whistler Real Estate Company Ltd., provided us a look at Whistler’s performance during the pandemic, the region’s most requested features, and more.

1. What reasons are buyers drawn to your market?

It has been the go to resort community in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years. Whistler is one of the world’s premier ski resort communities, offers year-round recreation with skiing, world class mountain biking, golf, hiking, and easy access to the Backcountry, and combines it with a wide variety of accommodation and services and cultural activities of all types. It’s easily accessible for both regional and international visitors and is only a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from Vancouver.

Sunlight streams into a gorgeous light-wood Scandinavian-inspired kitchen in a property in Whistler, BC.
2. What are the most popular home features and amenities in your area right now?

Demand is strongest for newer homes with good architecture and locations close to the recreational amenities and our town center. Large entertainment areas, 3-plus bedrooms and 3 baths, outdoor decks, and views are among the most requested features. Other amenities include gourmet kitchens, wine rooms, media rooms, two car garages, high-tech security and A/V, and high-quality construction.

3. How is the local market performing compared to this time last year?

Overall market activity has improved by 27% as compared to a year ago (numbers from the end of November 2020).  We did experience a very slow period March through May , but pent-up demand more than compensated in the other months. Our luxury market (properties over C$4 million) saw an increase of over 150% in sales activity. The strongest section of the market is single family homes and family-orientated townhouses.  Overall, average values have increased by 21% since the end of 2019. The number of listing has dropped significantly and now stands at a historical low level.  

4. Which locations are most buyers coming from?

Buyers for the area are predominantly from the Southwest part of British Columbia (about 65-75% depending on the world economy and exchange rates), about 10% are local residents, and the rest from a variety of international locations, primarily the US.

5. Is there activity from buyers of regions that you have not seen before? Or more activity than usual from certain regions?

This year we have seen more buyers from our regional market and significantly less international buying. This can be largely attributed to travel restrictions currently in place.

The beauty of the forests and mountains of Whistler, BC are on full display through the floor-to-ceiling windows of this living room.
6. Is there a rise in the purchase of primary homes, instead of secondary or vacation homes, within the region?

Family homes with more space and more suitability for full-time living are the most in-demand. A better understanding of the possibilities of remote working has caused those whose jobs can accommodate it to consider Whistler as a permanent location .This, however, was a trend in place prior to COVID. Historically low interest rates has also increased the number of potential buyers for full-time living. Additionally, our neighboring communities have seen a strong increase in interest as people look for alternatives to urban living. Our region is very attractive to a wide variety of people for many reasons and I expect our full-time population to increase well above national averages

7. How do you think the local market will look post-Covid?

Probably much the same, other than the uncertainty regarding COVID, little else has changed as far as what makes Whistler so interesting to many. Assuming that interest rates stay low and the borders re-open fully, then I expect demand for property in Whistler will stay high. I don’t think there will be as much activity as inventory is very low and there are strict growth limits in place as far as new development. I am predicting less activity but higher average values

8. Are there any unique observations you’ve observed that may be difficult to quantify?

I think the tough one is what changes that have been a result of COVID become permanent and what that might mean in regards to tourism – those businesses that rely on tourism and how that impacts the perception of the resort and its attractiveness in the long term. Of course, as a mountain resort, climate change is also a consideration.

The natural landscape of Whistler is brought into harmony with the home in this backyard view of a patio nook.

For more on the second home market, view the latest issue of Luxury Portfolio magazine and check back every Thursday through mid-April for extended interviews from experts in Turks & Caicos; Annecy, France; and The Hamptons, New York. View our previous looks at Lake Tahoe and Naples, Florida.

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for better readability.

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