Valley real estate showing encouraging signs of life

Recent sales indicate interest returning to real estate in the valley

Real estate sales figures in the Columbia Valley, along with one high-profile sale of an upper-end lakefront property, are giving some cause for optimism among local homeowners and realtors.

The most recent numbers available from the national Multiple Listings Service shows the Columbia Valley had 161 sales in 2012, including single family detached homes, attached housing, and multifamily housing. That’s an increase from the 151 units sold in 2011.

The area that saw the biggest jump was Invermere, which saw 47 homes sold last year, up from 36 homes sold in the previous year. Windermere also saw a notable uptick, with 35 homes sold last year compared to 28 the year before.

“Everybody’s busy right now; all the realtors are doing showings, but no buyers are in a big hurry,” explained realtor Scott Wallace with MaxWell Realty in Invermere. “Everybody’s still being cautious, but there are definitely signs that more people are looking.”

“The last two years, people have been just waiting for the bottom to hit, and I think we’re there — I hope we’re there,” he said, with a laugh.

It’s been about four years, most realtors agree, since there was a strong market for homes in the Columbia Valley, but with the recent sale of a multi-million dollar lakefront home on Baltac Road near Windermere, a buzz appears to be building.

The valley saw no single sale as large as that in 2012, noted Mr. Wallace.

A robust supply of foreclosed homes and an oversupply of condominiums remain thorns in the side of a healthy local real estate market.

“It’s going to be a long time until we see all of those condominiums sold, and that’s going to keep prices down,” said Mr. Wallace, noting various developments in Panorama, Radium Hot Springs, Windermere and Copper Point have many unsold units resulting from the mid-2000s building boom.

Foreclosed properties continue to sell well in the valley, to the detriment of the standard housing market.

“Likely we haven’t seen the end of foreclosures, though that supply could decrease by the end of the year,” said Mr. Wallace. “There are about 20 foreclosures now on the market, all of which must sell within six months. As those sell, we’ll probably see more coming on the market that will probably keep it at about that twenty level.”

Despite the downsides, Lake Windermere continues to be an attractive oasis in what’s been at times a desert of real estate oversupply.

As a tourism destination, the valley is competing against many hard-hit U.S. destinations in terms of second homeowner market, but the lake offers a unique asset.

“Anything with lakeshore is going to sell nicely because that’s a recreational possibility that you can’t get in Phoenix or elsewhere, and its close by,” said Mr. Wallace.

“But anything that doesn’t have a lake exposure, people are really thinking twice about; they could spend that money in Phoenix and have a really nice time in the winter.”