Paul Liberatore

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American buyers slow to move on Whistler real estate, despite lower loonie

American buyers slow to move on Whistler real estate, despite lower loonie

International visits to B.C. are up and the loonie is down, but U.S. investors haven’t yet flooded into the province to snap up properties, according to a Whistler realtor.

“The Americans don’t follow the Canadian dollar like we follow the American dollar,” said David Haggins, managing broker at WhistlerRealEstate Co

Consequently, he said, they may not yet be aware of the deals to be had.

The U.S. dollar is worth $1.40 Cdn, international visits to Whistler in November 2015 were up 11 per cent over the same month a year before and the percentage of U.S. buyers in the Whistler market doubled to eight per cent last year from four per cent in 2013.

And last fall, Whistler and area posted the highest number of real estate transactions since 2008.

But the last time the Canadian dollar was this weak more than a decade ago, Americans made up about 20 per cent of homebuyers in the Whistler market, said Haggins.

“If the dollar stays here (low), they’ll buy more,” he said, especially since the recent tourist boom to Whistler — Tourism Whistler said November was the best November on record — can be expected to showcase to visitors the bargains to be had.

Cameron Muir, economist with the B.C. Real Estate Association, agreed the ailing loonie will likely attract U.S. buyers, although statistics on the nationality of buyers aren’t officially kept.

“A 70-cent dollar makes local real estate more attractive to American investors, especially recreational property,” Muir said.

Real estate analyst Ozzie Jurrock said it’s not just Americans who will find deals in B.C. recreational properties, but investors from around the world, especially investors running from collapsing currencies and looking for a more secure investment.

A U.S. blogger on last week posted the headline “Americans buying Canadian property at a 31 per cent discount,” noting a $750,000 Vancouver home will cost an American about $500,000 US.

But the housing stock in Whistler has shrunk, with listings now at 400 from a high of 800 properties two years ago, meaning it’s a seller’s market, said Haggins.

That has caused prices to rise since they hit rock bottom after the 2008 global financial meltdown, he said.

“If you’re looking for a smoking hot deal, you’re about two years too late,” he said, adding a ski-in, ski-out one-bedroom, for instance, that was $310,000 about 18 months ago is now $360,000.

The average single-family home in Whistler was $1.7 million last year.

The trend of a tight market and higher prices holds true across Metro Vancouver, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

The average price for detached homes across the region hit a new record high of $1.83 million in January, 40 per cent higher than January 2015.

The board recorded 2,519 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in January, down 11 per cent from December’s 2,827 sales, but still 32 per cent higher than the level of sales in January a year ago.

However, inventory also shrank, with new listings down 6.2 per cent at 4,442 in January compared with a year ago and a total inventory of 6,635 homes for sale, down 38 per cent, which kept pressure on pricing.


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