Bargain-priced ski condos may come with a catch

Some B.C. ski condos offered for less than $140,000, but restrictions and caveats abound

Big White has smaller ski condos priced at a fraction of a typical condo apartment | Submitted

The average price of a Kelowna condominium apartment 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 top ski resorts for a fraction of that cost.

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

However, there are often caveats with what appear to be 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, said it would be difficult to live full time in the unit because, as a hotel room, it does not have a vented kitchen.

Joan Wolf, a Kelowna Century 21 realtor specializing in Big White properties, however, has a 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 linked to a rental pool.

Henry said the hot Kelowna market has reached Big White, where a conventional three-bedroom strata-titled condo can sell for $800,000 or more. He 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.

But the lower-cost condos at Silver Star are traditional condos that allow owners year-round use.

Details on the lowest-priced Whistler condos reveal that the $295,000 units were under a 200-year 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 the latest Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver data.

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.

The quick sale of Sun Peak’s new Altitude development – which features 40 two- and three- bedroom condos and townhouses – 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.

Hanrahan added that steadily rising home prices in the Lower Mainland have also been a factor, as some homeowners 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 B.C.’s recreational regions is forecast to increase 13% in 2021 to $781,918.

Wolf said the demographic of who is buying ski condos has changed dramatically.

She said the domestic market was a fraction of overall buyers in years past, but that has changed since 2020.

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

Wolf added that 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 the Silver Star Mountain Resort, 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.

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

– With files from Castanet