K - I'll speak to Jack's question - anyone lost money buying in Whistler?
and also to another question - having a second home there.
Whistler almost went bankrupt in the 70s. I can't remember why and the details but the town borrowed a bunch of money for development and couldn't make payments and if I recall, had to be bailed out by the provincial government. I'm sure house prices took a dive then
Between 1982 to 1988 approximately house prices took a huge dive in Whistler and recovered only after the World Expo took place in Vancouver and a subsequent real estate boom occurred. This correction was triggered by skyrocketing mortgage rates which approached high teens low 20%s.
Between 1993 to 1997 there was then a mini-correction where prices dropped 5 to 15%. I think this was general economic malaise.
So like almost all real estate markets - capital appreciation in Whistler has been lumpy. One has to assume there have been people who've lose money when the cycle dumped. You hear a lot of great stories about locals who've become millionaires by selling houses in which they've raised their kids and then moving to smaller places and cashing out. You don't hear stories about those who've bought at peaks and been squeezed out in bad times but then in rah rah real estate markets who wants to hear about the "losers" right.
TONS of people have second homes in Whistler. Not all of them are multi-millionaires. Many bought 1, 2 or even 3 years ago. There are quite a few americans and non-Canucks (10 - 15% of the new buyers 2 years ago but numbers may have risen) but for the most part the ownership is still mostly Vancouverites, followed by Ontarioans and the rest of Canada. The place seems to suck in people who like the mountains and the recreation. I'd say the biggest draw for most people there is the recreation/lifestyle and secondarily the potential capital appreciation. The biggest hurdle is cost of living and expense of the property of course.
I'll blather on now ..
As to recreation, well there are comparable mountain towns without the sometimes cited elitist veneer that Whistler is criticized for having. You'll find lots of people who say that Whistler has lost its soul. But you've got to spend some time there and talk to locals and dig a little deeper than a superficial week visit to find out if that's true IMO since I'd say that a town's "soul" is very much in the eye of the beholder. There are other BC mountain towns that are also beautiful and have lots of recreation and are a helluva lot more affordable. Personally, I think Whistler is top-notch for recreation. Out of my door, I can bike, hike and snowshoe. I can be at lifts in 5 minutes. If I still paddled; ww kayaking is all over the place. The windsurfing sucks but can't have it all. Oh, I also know most of the neighbours on my street, talk to them all the time and they agree our tulips kick ass.
Potentially still lots of demand and constrained supply. Some might not agree but Whistler tends to elect local government that is wary of growth . The process for adding additional land and bed-units is excruciatingly slow and painful. Basic economics dictate that prices should rise until either demand levels off or supply grows substantially. The next window for growth might be the 2010 olympics as there's pressure to add housing
Some would say that Whistler real estate has bubble characteristics. It's hard to argue against this except for the fact that rents are very high; supply is carefully managed and Intrawest is such a freaking marketing machine. Love or hate Intrawest they're very good at marketing; which marketing spills over into real estate appreciation generally.
Bubbles do deflate though - see notes above about corrections in Whistler market. Also recall corrections in late 90s in Three Sisters areas in Canmore and in Fernie generally. The high-end chalet market in whistler has been soft too and has corrected (I don't know how much). Add to that the weakness of real estate valued on a cash-flow basis.
To really take a good run at whether Whistler is bubbleish and to get a sense of timing you'd want to do a lot more research than I've done. I think you'd want to look at trailing sales for say 5 years; the amount of equity those new buyers have in purchases and get some sense of their plans and goals. Of course, there's some problems with this kind of research. First the data doesn't exist in systematic form and it'd be expensive to collect. Second, the whistler market is small and illiquid so I'd think any data you get would be very rough and just show a general macro trend. It'd be hard to drill down.
I find real estate fascinating - which is why Im such a geek about data and trends/ However, I own at Whistler so I can ski my brains out; not so I can flip a property every 2 or 3 years and worry about market timing. I would suspect that Im not the only one who thinks that way.
Taxes are high! Unless you're paying cash the mortgage costs is still high even w/ int rates so low.
Lots of people co-own; there are quarter shares. There's an interesting 1/10th concept ownership called "At Natures Door". There's lots of informal partnerships of multiple people.
There are people who've bought houses, use the suites and then rent out the main floors either short or long-term. Of course, there are people who use the main areas and then rent out suites too.
There's tons of other more conventional ways to buy too. I won't bother going into that as any realtor there would be more than happy to bend your ear. Let me know if you want a referral as I ski and bike with a few.