Real Estate

Whistler cabin sales decline drastically despite lower prices and high demand

Whistler, British Columbia, Canada from afar with the mountains in the background Photo by ppa/Shutterstock

The number of Whistler cabin sales in 2023 is lower than in previous years, despite both an increase in demand and declining prices, Whistler-based brokers say.

According to an April 2023 Re/Max report, the average number of Whistler cabin sales decreased to 115 in 2023’s first quarter, down from around 220 in 2022’s first quarter. CEO of Re/Max Sea to Sky Real Estate, Stefanie Hostetter, says this roughly 50 per cent drop is because of a stalemate between buyers and sellers.

“Buyers are holding out because the interest rates are higher than what they’d like, and sellers are holding out because the prices weren’t as high as what they’d like,” Hostetter says.

The Re/Max report found average Whistler property prices dropped around 13 per cent over the same year-to-year period, from around $1.87 million to $1.62 million. Yet many Whistler property owners have been holding onto their homes, hoping to sell at market value. 

“Some people haven’t realized the market has declined, so they still want the June 2022 value for their property,” Hostetter says. “That, I think, is what’s causing this decrease in sales.”

A major factor in this market stagnation, according to Hostetter, is Whistler’s unique condominium and hotel market. She says most properties in the village are either condos that can be individually owned, rented, and lived in for flexible time periods, or hotel rooms that can only be rented for a maximum of four weeks in the summer and winter. 

Since the prices for these properties are driven much more by changes in rental rates than changes in mortgage rates, single-family property owners haven’t been “pinched out” of the market.

“The majority of our market is those condos and hotel room properties now,” she says. “It’s been shifting since the 90s when they started building them.”

Another factor is the trend towards redevelopment in Whistler. Hostetter says “old-timer cabins” established as far back as the 60s were under-built according to modern zoning laws. Owners have been either tearing down those structures to make more use of their land and get a bigger return on selling a property, or they’ve been modernizing the old buildings and charging more based on updated amenities. 

Mila Lane, the senior vice president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, says despite the reported decrease, Whistler property prices have “gone up substantially” over the last few years. Properties often go for $3 to 4 million, with a cabin recently selling for around $32 million—the “highest sale price ever in Whistler,” Lane says. 

These high prices are due in part to the fact Whistler is exempt from the federal government’s foreign buyer ban, imposed across Canada for two years starting in January 2023. This is because the village is a popular resort town with international appeal.

Lane says even though demand is going way up, supply is also going up, and affordability is going down. She recommends selling now while prices are still high. 

“Potentially, the prices can go down if people can’t afford to buy with the current interest rates,” she says. “But there’s not enough supply in Whistler and in Canada. It’s a national housing crisis.”

With the holidays on the horizon, Hostetter expects more sales and a decrease in interest rates: “In probably nine months from now the market will pick back up.”

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