Canadians are homebodies when it comes to their winter recreational property desires, particularly in these times of U.S. economic turmoil, according to a Royal LePage survey.
The survey found that more than 36 per cent of Canadians who own or are considering buying a winter property are leaning towards ski destinations, edging out the 32 per cent of respondents looking for sun spots.
Call them non-migrating snowbirds. And despite the fire sale on real estate in sunny cities like Phoenix, buyers are willing to spend big bucks on inflated B.C. ski properties.
"High levels of demand combined with limited inventory have pressured winter recreational property prices upward," said Lisa da Rocha, Royal LePage's vice-president of marketing.
Across the five B.C. resorts Royal LePage canvassed for its report, that means paying as little as $150,000 for a standard two-bedroom condominium within 30 minutes of Kimberley or up to $10 million for a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot chalet within 30 minutes of Whistler.
Brian Perry with Royal LePage Kelowna said prices at Big White near the Okanagan city have spiked due to the cost of building, although he described the market as "flat throughout most of 2007."
Candace Grey, the owner of Royal LePage 4 Seasons in Fernie, said the market there -- with prices up to $1.5 million -- was stable in 2007. Over in Kimberley, where Albertans are a big buying group, Philip Jones at Royal LePage East Kootenay said the market has been strengthening.
Patrick Kelly, owner of the Whistler Real Estate Co. and Royal LePage Black Tusk Realty, said that generally, Whistler prices have increased about 10 per cent over the last year, sales are up 50 to 60 per cent, and the number of listings has declined.
"It's been a net seller's market," he added, although the interest of U.S. buyers has waned as difficulties with American real estate markets have increased.
Kelly added that it is "lifestyle properties" -- chalets, houses and townhouses that people expect to use every weekend rather than hold for rental revenue -- that are in demand.
Maggi Thornhill of Thornhill Real Estate Group said Whistler reached a pinnacle in about 2002, then hit a lull.
She said, however, markets in other prime ski resort locations have raced ahead, and now "we're not looking like the most expensive resort anymore. Now people recognize value in Whistler."
The 2010 Olympics has sparked some of the interest in Whistler, but Thornhill added that back-to-back years of "the most phenomenal snow we've seen in years and years," have probably been the real catalyst of its real estate market.
Kelly added that Whistler buyers are typically winter lovers looking for the "iconic Canadian experiences" of snow and skiing. Not a lot of Whistler buyers are giving up sun vacations for ski resorts.
Kelly said 80 per cent of Whistler's market for real estate is within driving distance either in south west B.C. or Washington State.
"We're not the destination market here," he added. "It's people who come very weekend to be part of the Whistler community."
Top five most expensive homes ever sold in Whistler, and when the sales occurred:
$10,467,289 May 2005
$10,000,000 Nov. 2007
$9,345,794 Jan. 2002
$8,600,000 Nov. 2006
$7,900,000 Feb. 2002
Source: Landcor Data Corporation