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House Hunting…in Canada | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The New York Times
A Contemporary Ranch in British Columbia – Kamil Bialous for The New York Times

This four-bedroom four-and-a-half-bath ranch-style house with a finished basement level was built along a curved road in the Canadian west coast mountain resort by the architect Adam Schell in 2005. The next year the 4,260-square-foot concrete-and-wood residence was a finalist in the Georgie Awards from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia. It has geothermal heating, exposed fir beams, Gaulhofer sliding windows and Brazilian cherry wood floors.

The “mountain contemporary” has four distinct wings, said Maggi Thornhill, the president of the Thornhill Read Estate Group, which has the listing. From the paver stone driveway, a portico leads to a large glass-walled foyer at the core of the house.

The open kitchen has Brazilian cherry wood cabinetry, stainless-steel appliances and a window backsplash. Blue eyes granite tops the counters and center island. A breakfast area shares a double-sided gas fireplace with the living room, which opens to a private courtyard. A black basalt stone fireplace punctuates a wall of windows in the formal dining room.

A glass-walled walkway connects the entertaining spaces to the master suite, an office with an en-suite bath and fireplace, and a private glass-covered deck leading to a hot tub and garden. In the limestone-and-marble-lined master bath, a Mayan shellstone countertop has two vessel sinks. The steam shower has a bench; the tub is separate.

Off the foyer, a powder room with tumbled marble floor tiles has a polished black fossil limestone countertop. Each of the two guest wing bedrooms has floor-to-ceiling windows and opens to the yard. En-suite baths have polished Mayan shellstone counters and showers with Mexican ceramic tiles.

On the lower level is a media/game room with a wet bar, a bedroom and a hall bath with a tub/shower enclosure and a workshop. A temperature-controlled wine cellar has racks for 658 bottles.

A two-car attached garage opens to a mudroom and laundry room.

Used as a deck, a flat, green roof (with grass and vegetation) sits atop the garage. The guest wing is adjacent to the garage, through the laundry room and mudroom. The roof deck is accessible by stone steps from a ground-level sitting area. Roofs on the rest of the house are metal.

This house, on a slightly more than half-acre lot, is in the mountainside Taluswood development with easy ski access to Whistler slopes. It is a five-minute drive to parking on the perimeter of the pedestrian-only village’s boutiques, restaurants, spas and hotels, and equally close to Creekside village. The 75-mile drive north from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler takes about two and a half hours along the Sea to Sky Highway.


The Whistler real estate market was touched by the 2008 global financial downturn, but the anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics temporarily lessened the effect.

“We weren’t hit as hard as other resort areas,” Ms. Thornhill said.

After the Olympics, a swell of listings caused a 25 percent price drop, according to Craig Mackenzie, an agent with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

But since the last ski season, fueled by a strong economy in Vancouver, demand has outstripped supply and prices rose sharply. There is a “feeding frenzy” for homes under a million Canadian dollars, Ms. Thornhill said, helped by a favorable exchange rate and low interest rates.

Whistler is experiencing “a seller’s market,” said Patrick Kelly, the president of the Whistler Real Estate Company. With about 250 listings, well below historical levels of 600 to 700, properties move “pretty rapidly,” he said.

Sixty to 70 percent of demand is for townhouses or condominiums; about half for properties that can be rented nightly, according to Mr. Kelly.

“We are seeing bidding wars,” Mr. Mackenzie said, adding that about 5 percent of properties are selling over the asking price.

The “best value” is in the luxury market for homes 3 million Canadian dollars and up, where sales are “a little slower,” Ms. Thornhill said.

The priciest listing, at 16.5 million Canadian dollars (about $12.35 million) is a 12,000-square-foot house on a lot two-thirds of an acre close to the village, Mr. Mackenzie said. One-bedroom condos start around 400,000 Canadian dollars (around $299,500).

Though Whistler has “very severe restrictions” on growth and development, many 1970s kit-built A-frame and Gothic arch houses, 800 to 1,200 square feet, are being knocked down and replaced with conventional homes up to 3,500 square feet, Mr. Mackenzie said.

The Athletes’ Village from the 2010 Winter Olympics now provides housing for locals.


Vancouver residents who want a weekend home near the ski slopes or by Whistler’s five lakes make up the bulk of buyers, agents say, followed by purchasers from the United States, largely Seattle and California.

International buyers, which make up 20 percent of the market, also come from Hong Kong, China, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico and Britain.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers, but Ian Davis, a lawyer with Race and Company based in Whistler, said it is “not quite so simple” for foreign owners to sell. Foreign owners have to go through a federal “tax clearance process” during which up to 50 percent of sales proceeds can be held up to four months.

It is generally “a little more difficult” for foreign buyers than local residents to get financing. Foreigners can receive up to about 65 percent of the purchase price compared with 80 percent for Canadians, Mr. Davis said.

Property transfer taxes start at 1 percent of the first 200,000 Canadian dollars, 2 percent of the next 1.8 million, and 3 percent over 2 million.

A goods and services tax equal to 5 percent of the value of the property is levied on new construction and triggered on resales used as vacation rentals by the current owner. Buyers who don’t want to rent out their property, should instruct the real estate agent “to look for properties that haven’t rented before” and are exempt from the goods and services tax, Mr. Davis said.


Annual taxes on this property were 15,188 Canadian dollars ($11,374) for 2016, according to Ms. Thornhill.

Legal fees are charged on a sliding scale, with a base fee of 1,100 Canadian dollars; closer to 1,500 if a mortgage is involved, Mr. Davis said. Title insurance, registration and search charges add another 500. Tax on legal fees is 12 percent.

Real estate agent commissions, usually paid by the seller, vary from 6.5 to 7.5 percent of the first 100,000 Canadian dollars, with 2.5 to 3.5 percent charged on the balance.


Tourism Whistler: whistler.com

Whistler Blackcomb ski resort: whistlerblackcomb.com

Tourism British Columbia: www.hellobc.com


English, French; dollar (1 Canadian dollar = $0.75)

The New York Times