Bargain-price ski condos may come with a catch

Hot market reaches ski hills

The average price of a condominium apartment in Kelowna, B.C., is now around $445,000 and it spikes north of $600,000 in Metro Vancouver, but it is possible to buy fully-furnished condos at some of B.C.’s premiere ski resorts for a fraction of that cost.

At Big White, near Kelowna, ranked the second-best ski hill in the province, buyers can find studio and one-bedroom condominiums priced from $127,900 to $139,000. Silver Star Mountain resort, above Vernon, has one-bedroom condos priced from $317,000. Even at Whistler, ranked the No.1 ski resort in Canada, there are ski condos priced at less than $300,000, based on recent listings.

However, there are often caveats with what appear to amazing deals for ski condos this season.

James Henry, a real estate agent with Realty One Real Estate Ltd. in Kelowna, who has a Big White ‘hotel-condo’ listed at $139,000, explained that it would be difficult to live full time in the unit since, as a hotel room, it does not have a vented kitchen.

“Technically, there are no restrictions on how long you can stay in the room,” he added.

Owners can also link the suite to the hotel’s rental pool, which splits the total rental income among the members.

Joan Wolf, a Kelowna Century 21 realtor specializing in Big White properties, however, has an affordable condo listed at Big White that is a conventional strata with freehold title. The 300-square-foot studio is priced at $134,900 and has a vented kitchen. It can also be joined to a rental system.

Henry added that the hot Kelowna market has reached Big White, where a conventional three-bedroom strata-titled ski condo can sell for $800,000 or more. Henry recently had two such listings, priced from $825,000 to $845,000.

“The listings barely saw the light of day before they sold, with no subjects,” he said.

The lower-cost condos at Silver Star are traditional condos which allow year-round use by the owners.

When Glacier Media dug into the details on the lowest-priced Whistler condos, it turns out the $295,000 units were under a long-term lease agreement that did not allow conventional mortgage financing. There are even less expensive offerings, but they invariably are restricted to the amount of days an owner can use them, or were priced as quarter-share arrangements, with hefty monthly fees.

The benchmark price of a conventional Whistler condo is now $591,000, according to latest data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

B.C. ski resort real estate agents are expecting ski condo and villa sales to be strong this season.

Bill Hanrahan, a long time Sun Peaks realtor with RE/MAX Alpine Resort Realty, said things are looking up after a difficult period at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s definitely stronger than it was last year,” Hanrahan told Castanet. “The COVID situation really slowed things down until June of this year. ”

The quick sale of Sun Peak’s new Altitude development—which features 40 two- and three- bedroom condos and townhouse – is seen as evidence of the strong demand.

The project is a joint venture between A&T Project Developments and Sun Peaks Resort LLP, and was offered for sale through Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Sun Peaks.

“Basically it sold out in a weekend, and that’s indicative of the demand and the scarcity of product,” said Hanrahan.

Hanrahn added that steadily rising home prices in the Lower Mainland has also been a factor, as some look to cash out on that market and invest in the Interior.

According to a recently released Royal LePage report, the aggregate price of a house in British Columbia’s recreational regions is forecast to increase 13 per cent in 2021, to $781,918.

Wolf said the demographic of who is purchasing ski condos has changed dramatically. She said whereas the domestic market was a fraction of overall purchasers in years past, that has changed since 2020.

“What I’ve noticed, now is 80 per cent to 90 per cent of purchasers are Canadians,” she said.

Wolf added travel restrictions have played into domestic demand.

“Many wealthy Canadians don’t perceive themselves travelling in the future, like in the next couple years, so having something on Canadian soil is what everyone’s looking for.”

Don Kassa, a Re/Max realtor working in Vernon and Silver Star Mountain Resort, said the resort has seen high demand as well.

He said sales in all sorts of recreational properties in the Vernon area have been strong.

Moreover, it’s a trend that he believes will continue going forward.

“I would suggest that people will continue to invest more in regional recreational properties,” said Kassa.

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