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Too much heat in Winter Olympic property?
by Adam Irish

Vancouver Canada has been chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. What impact has the International Olympic Committees decision made on the real estate markets of Vancouver and Whistler / Blackcomb? A surge in developments, a surge in real estate professionals working in Vancouver and a surge in prices have lead some to question if the hype surrounding the Games has over inflated the property market of the area.

Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city boasting a distinctive west coast culture and a real estate market that has seen growth attributed to a number of factors including the growing wealth of its residents, its standing as a one of the most beautiful cities to live and work in the world and its increasing importance in the Canadian economy as a whole. The growth in prices seen in recent years in districts of the city such as New Westminster and Richmond indicates that the city itself is going through a surge in prices regardless of the successful bid for the Winter Games in 2010. The case is less clear in the resort of Whistler.

Whistler will be the resort of focus during the Olympic Games; it has only 10,000 residents but boasts visitors numbering 2,000,000 annually and only 5400 available rooms for rental. The Whistler Mountain will hold the alpine discipline ski events. Yet with the limited amount of accommodation and increasing demand from tourists the resorts faces a dilemma. The problem with building new and improved accommodation within the resort is that prices can be over inflated as demand is over emphasised and the 2010 Olympics used as a way to increase values.

Development of new accommodation is ongoing and Intrawest (who own the mountain resort) are coming up with innovating ways to help people own property and use the resort. Club Intrawest is one such way. The private resort club which allows members to use the facilities at numerous Intrawest resorts around the world is a great way to use Whistler and have flexibility in your holiday options over the coming years.

Within the property market of Whistler itself prices continue to rise. The Whistler Real Estate Co. Ltd. is one of Whistler’s top real estate companies; they have seen the market explode since the Olympic hysteria came to town

Average Values
Year Lots Chalets Condos
2003 $1,078,545 $1,353,864 $735,288
2002 $1,069,373 $1,250,046 $539,149
2001 $949,286 $932,758 $487,872
2000 $651,678 $997,436 $422,686
1999 $389,593 $849,096 $334,860

It would appear that the Olympic effect has already been felt and the potential for further growth on the back of the Olympics coming to town has already past the investor by. It has been reported that figures for 2004 will also show rapid increases in prices for Lots and Chalets whilst Condo price growth has steadied. These figures indicate that the market might be becoming over inflated in the light of the Games effect and that even with increased demand for tourists the market might be at the top of its range.

Due to these price increases shared ownership agreements have become a fashionable and a more affordable way of owning a piece of the action. Starting from Can$100,000 for a Quarter share in an apartment up to Can$500,000 for a Quarter share in a new build chalet shared ownership is one of the best ways to buy into the market; that is, if you feel that there is still escalation in prices to be experienced! The growth in the popularity of this type of investment may be an indication of how the market is already having to readjust to the over hype of the 2010 games.

Lets not forget 2010 is a long way off, Turin which hosts the 2006 Games next winter has seen only a small growth in real estate above and beyond those of the wider market. The games themselves only last for a few weeks and with the market already over heating in places it is perhaps time to let the spring thaw occur without buying at the top of the market. Comparable markets in other Rookie mountain resorts perhaps offer better value for money. My personal opinion is to try resorts not touched by the Olympic hype such as Big White, British Columbia’s second biggest resort or Red Mountain which has remained relatively undiscovered.

Whistler Real Estate
Vancouver Winter Olympics
Big White
Red Mountain

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