Whistler’s 4 Rental Seasons & the Perfect Time for Home Upgrades

Whistler has traditionally been known as a seasonal community, however the shoulder months have been progressively getting shorter over the years and has transformed Whistler into a year-round resort. For instance, a decade ago, few would have bet that Whistler would ever welcome more visitors in the summer than in the winter, but this is the reality of the resort town today: of the 3 million year-round visitors, 45% come in the winter & 55% in summer. Although this increase in summer tourists may translate into higher occupancy of short-term rental units during the summer months, the highest rental rates for owners and property management companies are still generated in the winter: at least 60% of annual revenue is generated in the 4 months between December to the beginning April.

There are 4 parts to a Whistler rental year:
Winter (highest rental reviews): December 1st to April 10th
Spring (shoulder season):  April 10th to June 15th
Summer (busiest time of year): June 15th to September 15th
Fall (shoulder season): September 15th to December 1st

 The lower occupancy and the drop in rental rates in both shoulder seasons make them the best times of the year to do home upgrades like new paint, renovations, carpet cleans or any other major projects. Although some owners are hesitant to do major upgrades, strategically investing in your rental property will pay dividends. By creating or maintaining beautiful and stand-out home features, you provide an environment that renters are willing to pay for and leads to increased rental rates and higher occupancy year-round! 

Whistler Vacation Homes takes pride in our ability to evaluate and advise owners on the most value-add home improvement projects that will give owners the most return on their investment.


Phase 1 and Phase 2 Properties in Whistler

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First off, short-term rentals and tourist accommodations are categorized as visits that are less than 30 days. In practice most short-term bookings average to about 4 nights. For an owner to provide nightly accommodation their property must be appropriately zoned for nightly rentals and must carry a Tourist Accommodation business licence from the Resort Municipality of Whistler. If a property has a residential zoning it can only be offered for long term rentals (30 days or longer).

Tourist accommodation in Whistler is most often categorized into two types of zoning covenants: Phase 1 and Phase 2. While the basics between Phase 1 and Phase 2 properties are fairly straight forward, various buildings, townhouses or homes have different restrictions on short-term rentals. 

Phase 1 Properties:
Phase 1 rental properties provide owners with the most flexibility. Not only can owners use their property as much as they want year-round, but they can also self-manage the rental of their property or choose any management company to do this for them.

Phase 2 Properties:
Phase 2 rental properties operate more like a hotel with a single management group providing integrated reservations, reception, cleaning, laundry and various other hotel-like services. Owners are restricted to 28 days of use in the winter and 28 days in the summer and every owner is locked in with the single management company that runs the building for short-term rentals. In some cases, this is a property management company that bids on the contract with the strata, in others the management company is the hotel operator, like in the Four Seasons or Pan Pacific Whistler.  

Phase 1 properties have a much higher investor demand and are often much more expensive to buy than Phase 2 properties. Nonetheless, the revenues and returns are generally substantially higher in Phase 1 properties and they also have the added benefit of offering unlimited owner use! That being said, the strata in Phase 1 buildings may have implemented unique rules and regulations or simply be governed by previous covenants, which may impact ownership. It is important to always inquire with the realtor(s) or the strata to determine the exact restrictions, if any, in any given complex.

Here are a couple examples of different rules that impact ownership:
·      Ex. 1: In The Aspens, owners have the benefit of full flexibility with a Phase 1 designation to choose whatever management option they prefer, meanwhile the strata negotiated and accepted Resort Quest’s bid to operate the front desk which runs 24/7 and benefits all visitors.

·      Ex. 2: In Lost Lake Lodge there is a covenant that restricts owners to working with the company that manages the front desk if they want to do short-term rentals, even though the building has a Phase 1 designation.

In Closing:
Understanding the differences between Phase 1 & Phase 2 helps form a basic and useful understanding of these terms, but it is always necessary to inquire further to determine if there are any other building restrictions, strata rules or contracts for the front desk.

Vacation Rental Home Insurance

Whether you’re applying for financing or getting property insurance, short-term rental properties are often categorized differently from other properties, including long-term rentals, which are homes rented out for 30 days or longer. As a result, short-term rentals have different rules governing them and must specify with their insurer that their property is going to be used for nightly accommodation. Although there is often a premium cost associated with this type of insurance, it is certainly better to pay slightly more for insurance that will have you covered when you need it, rather than paying for something that could likely end up being deemed completely useless by the insurance agencies. There are various minor details associated with nightly home management that Whistler Vacation Homes is well equipped to advise and assist with.

Staging a Home for Rentals

The quality of photos used to list a property online has a huge impact on how many bookings a property will generate and will help ensure each booking is for top dollar. Taking the time to prepare and stage your home for a photo shoot will pay dividends!

First off, it’s well worth the investment to hire a professional photographer in order to get take high resolution images, perfect the lighting, and have edited photos to optimize every feature.

There’s a ton of different things that can make a home look more appealing, but here’s a short list of some basic things to consider:

  • De-clutter: move unnecessary trinkets out of site (kitchen magnets, cords, pens, or any other unnecessary items)
  • Bedding: Everyone wants to have a beautiful bed to sleep in, decorative bedding that matches the bedroom gives a great impression
  • Bathrooms: Make sure it's spotlessly clean. Then clear out plungers, soaps, or any other items. 
  • Kitchens: Make sure all stainless steel is sparkling, there’s no tea towels that are not perfectly placed and that the counters aren’t too cluttered (if necessary tuck away certain appliances)
  • Fire place: if you have a fireplace make sure it’s lit for photos!
  • Additional items: Flowers (fake ones are fine), fresh colourful fruit, and a breakfast tray on the beds in bedrooms with complimentary napkins are fantastic additions to photos.

Do not misrepresent your home if you do extensive staging. The photos should be an accurate representation of what the place will be like when guests arrive. That said, making it look tidy and adding some fresh fruit or other little touches will improve the appeal of your property. 

The last and final tip, which is hugely important, is to make sure to use a captivating and spectacular thumbnail photo. When properties are listed on many home sharing sites, the thumbnail or cover photo is what should captivate the viewer. If your home has a beautiful kitchen, a fancy new hot tub, or a spectacular view looking out, whatever feature or photo is best, be sure to use this photo as a primary thumbnail. 

At Whistler Vacation Homes, we spend considerable time staging homes and perfecting all our listings online in order to help maximize income for our clients. It’s well worth the investment, it creates more inquires from guests and ultimately leads to more reservations!

Winter-Proofing Your Whistler Home

Winter temperatures are slowly starting to creep in. For homeowners or property managers, this is the time to ensure each vacation home is ready to brace the cold. Here is a short-list of some of the basic precautions to take in order to prepare your property for winter:

Basic Precautions:
-        Keep home temperature above 13°C or 55℉ through the winter
-        Detach any exterior hoses or other similar utilities from your property and store indoors  
-        Turn off hose bibs that have an internal water control
-        Keep your room doors open to allow warm air to circulate throughout the house
-        Ensure pipes in crawl space, car port or around the exterior of the property are properly insulated to prevent freezing and potential bursting

If your home is going to remain empty for an extended period:
-        Shutoff water supply to washing machine(s) and dishwasher when possible
-        Open cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around pipes in kitchen and bathrooms
-        Unplug electrical devices – small kitchen appliances, TV’s, alarm clocks etc

Additionally, make sure windows and doors are sealed properly. If your home is a bit older, windows are likely overdue for re-caulking or you could replace your windows altogether. That said, replacing windows can be quite expensive, re-caulking is a much more affordable option and is part of regular home maintenance over the years. There are many little tips and tricks to improve energy efficiency that Whistler Vacation Homes can help with. Homes can become between 5-30% more energy efficient by taking certain measures to properly winter-proof and insulate! 

Vacation Homes & Water Heaters

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Water heaters are an essential component to any home, but in a vacation property they are something that can be easily forgotten about. The average lifespan of a hot water tank is 8-12 years. A sticker on your water heater will tell you how old it is so you can consider if it’s time for a replacement.

It is especially important to keep track of how old your hot water heater is because they can corrode and leak at the end of their life span. Water damage is one of the worst things that can happen in any home. It is both costly and timely to repair. Damage in a vacation can be particularly troublesome, especially if goes unnoticed for a period of time. For this reason, we offer our clients free flood sensors to minimize the potential of serious water damage, regardless of whether anyone is in the home or not. Flood sensors work by sending a push notification to a cellphone app when water is detected in an area that should be completely dry. From there a plumbing technician can be dispatched to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

If you are considering a replacement, you should know that with today’s advances in technology there are various options for replacing your water heater. Historically, the most common in North America have been electric water tanks, which store warm water until released for use in the kitchen, bathroom or elsewhere. Based on our research, one of the most trusted brands of hot water tanks is Bradford White. Today, there are more energy efficient electric hot water tanks and there are also tankless or on-demand water heaters; that come in both gas or electric options. These latter options don’t store water, rather they only heat the water at the time it is dispatched through a set of internal heated coils. These are generally around 30% more efficient than regular hot water tanks, although they often come with a greater initial investment. Depending on the occupancy level of your vacation home it may be worth the initial investment to upgrade to a tankless water system. Additionally, the fact that it is substantially more eco-friendly, may be enough of a reason to make it worthwhile!