‘Olympic effect’ on Whistler property sales

Trying to gauge the ‘Olympic effect’ on Whistler property sales

By Derrick Penner, Vancouver SunJanuary 30, 2010

Let the sales pitch begin.

With the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver and Whistler’s doorstep, one local real estate insider has crunched a decade’s-worth of Whistler sales results to make the case that the 2010 Olympics have given the resort’s real estate a boost.

“I still think there will be a good, positive side to the Whistler story,” Rudy Nielsen, president of research firm Landcor Data Corp., said in an interview.

Nielsen chronicles a doubling of Whistler’s property values and widening sphere of international buyers there over the last decade to support his case.

“I think people will realize that this is a world-class place to be, and not only Whistler but Vancouver and British Columbia,” he said.

Landcor, in a report released this week, has compiled a list of trends from examining the resort community’s sales as recorded by the B.C. Land Titles office. Between 2000 and 2010, with the 2008 financial crisis that dented markets everywhere notwithstanding, Whistler saw 8,990 property sales among the 13,134 residential properties within the resort.

And the Landcor data records dramatic price increases over the decade, with a lot of the gains coming in the first half of the decade. The average price for a condominium rose 101 per cent over the decade to $380,000 by 2010. Town house average values increased 104 per cent to $677,000 and

detached homes saw the biggest gain rising 141 per cent to hit an average of almost $1.4 million in 2010.

In Whistler right now, Lisa Bjornson, general manager of the Whistler Real Estate Co., said it is difficult to tell if the Olympics are having an effect on the market, but there is an assumption they will.

Bjornson said the community’s real estate counterparts in Park City, Utah, host of alpine events for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, told them sales would dry up in the three months leading up to and three months following the Games, but agents have been making sales.

“We just don’t know who, if anybody, is buying after the Games as a result of the exposure yet,” Bjornson said. “We just know that a lot of people are going to be here.”

However, University of B.C. real estate expert Tsur Somerville expects that the gains Whistler is seeing come more from the improved Sea to Sky Highway and not the additional exposure.

“I’m not saying it’s zero,” Somerville said in an interview, but he is skeptical that the Games will give Whistler better exposure to the market of buyers likely to buy ski-resort property than it has already had.

Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, released a report, co-authored with Jake Wetzel, on the effects that staging Olympics have had on property prices host cities. They found that being an Olympic host city did not bump property prices up any more than surrounding, non-host locations.

Any gains, Somerville said, were more attributable to general economic conditions that were shared by non-host regions, or as a result of infrastructure improvements independent of the Games.