experts: real estate column Wednesday, February 16, 2000


With the most snow in North America and for the eighth consecutive year, Whistler rates as the number one ski resort in North America.

By Ozzie Jurock

So says real estate professional Aare Kuusk from Whistler Real Estate (1-800-667-2993). With the most snow in North America and for the eighth consecutive year, Whistler rates as the number one ski resort in North America. The 1999 ski season started early in November while other US resorts were still praying for snow. Colorado is still trying to shake off the negative effect of poor snow conditions from last season. The result was an 8.2% drop in skier visits in the 1998 1999 season. During this same period Whistler/Blackcomb saw a record breaking 2.14 million skier visits.

This has resulted in accelerated capital improvement expenditures of some 20 million dollars. Twelve million went into two new high-speed quad chairs at the village base of Whistler, which means that Whistler/Blackcomb has now a total of 33 lifts that move skiers at a rate of 59,000 per hour - more than any other resort in North America. Eight million dollars went into creating four new glade runs on Whistler, as well as general improvements to the mountains’ infrastructure.

Kuusk reports ‘Values Up’, particularly in the single family home area where sales volumes doubled over 1998. Condominium sales volumes, although not as high, also exceeded the 1998 levels by the end of October 1999.

In Pemberton, the market continued to consolidate. As prices have lowered, sales volumes have increased. According to Kuusk the future will continue to bring increasing interest in Pemberton and a strengthening of the market in its surrounding areas.

Prices are rising again. Most in demand are properties, which can be rented nightly and close to the ski hill. (Jurock Real Estate Investor (JREI) has long recommended this.) Two and three bedroom condos are selling quickly and at a premium on the Benchlands. Luxury Real Estate -$1 million plus - close to ski lifts, golf courses, or Village are quickly snapped up by wealthy American “baby-boomers”. Some January sales: A $3.5 million home, a $7.9 million home, and a $3.5 million building lot (!) in Sunridge, slightly over one half acre in size. Also a $2.4 million home in Blueberry, $2.85 million in Horstman and a $1.7 and $1.85 million homes on the Nicklaus golf course.

Rental Revenues are up as well. The increase of 18% for the 1997/98 winter season was topped by a whooping 21% in the 1998/99 season. Summer room nights sold in 1998 were up 16% over the summer of 1997 and 1999 over 1998 was up 2.4%. Summer visitors are also increasing. Summer visitors to Whistler in 1998 were up 18% over the previous summer and 1999 saw a further increase of 14% over 1998, again topping the number of winter visitors. Finally, Kuusk reports that the 2010 Winter Olympics may be a decade away but work on the Vancouver/Whistler bid for those games is moving into high gear. Vancouver/Whistler has to score 100 per cent on the technical aspects of the bid, but clearly the winning factor is going to be community support for hosting the Olympics. Among the values Whistler holds dear is a limit on development in the valley. To stay true to that value the Olympic bid has been developed to fit within Whistler’s existing and planned infrastructure. There won't be a new athletes' village or media centre built for the Games. Instead, the new Westin Hotel and the Delta Whistler Resort are proposed to house all of the athletes, while the Whistler Conference Centre will host the media.

JREI assessment of Phase II condos is echoed by Kuusk as he decribes the difference between Phase I and Phase II properties as: “Phase II properties place the tenant ahead of the owner. You own the unit but sorry, you can't just 'zip' in and out whenever you want to...” A fine detailed 5-page report; call Aare Kuusk at 1-800-667-2993 and twist his arm for your own copy.

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