Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Goodbye to Whistler and #201

Back in 1999, my former partner Tony and I decided we'd buy a small condo up in Whistler, BC, Canada.   I'd already owned a time-share up there and we spent a lot of time skiing in the winter and just relaxing and mountain biking in the summer up there, so it made sense to buy something as an investment and a way to earn rental income when we weren't using it.   So we plunked down a considerable amount of change to by a one-quarter share of a one bedroom condo, number 201, in an as yet-to-be built small building in the Blackcomb Benchlands area of Whistler called "Horstman House".  
With a quarter-share you get to use the unit one week a month, and if you don't use it, you get a share of the rental revenue since it's made available for nightly rentals by the property manager.  We were very excited and watched the building construction progress.  
These pictures were taken on the day we did the final walk through and inspection prior to closing, if you follow Tony's finger he's pointing to the location of our unit above the main portico of the building.  

We loved that place -- and spent several weeks a year there the first few years, and took friends and family up. I manged to get elected President of the Homeowners Association when the building was finished, and served as President on that board for 10 years, so I learned the building and it's operation inside and out.  It was truly a second home.  When the opportunity to buy a second quarter in that same unit came up, we took advantage of it, although the purchase price had increased significantly from what we'd paid for the first quarter, we still figured it would be a good investment.   This entitled us to two weeks a month, and made us half owners in the unit.  While we didn't use it that much more, but it made it much easier to schedule our time up there, and provided us with enough income to pretty much cover the mortgage and condo fees, and it kept appreciating in value.
We tended to go up skiing twice a year -- over my birthday in December, and over Tony's in April, which worked well around my legislative schedule.  We'd also go up on other spur of the moment times, and generally for a week in the summer as well.  The last few years we were together we'd go up on the motorcycles for the Condo Association annual meeting and make a several day swing through BC back roads which was a wonderful week in mid summer.  

We also got married up there -- we were the first same-sex couple to get married in the town of Whistler once the law changed in Canada. And like anyone with a second home, we had our rituals -- stopping for groceries on the way into town, unpacking the truck, opening up the storage closet where we kept our personal items and putting them out.   Right after we'd get there Tony would do an "inspection" of things around the building.   It drove him nuts if there was graffiti that hadn't been cleaned up, or painters tape left from a touch up.  In fact there was one bit of painters tape around a light left over from the construction days that was there for 10 years and every time Tony would comment on it. "Mister President" he'd say, "will you please get the building manager to take that tape down". I swear that painters tape drove him insane -- and I'd have reached up myself to take it down but it would have required a ladder. 

The first night there we'd always walk to the village and eat at Mongolie Grill, our favorite restaurant in town, and we'd make a run to Cows the quirky Canadian ice-cream parlor.  We'd walk the village shops, eat at familiar places, and spend long days skiing in the sunshine down "Burnt Stew" which was Tony's favorite run.  We even subscribed to the Whistler newspaper and had it mailed to Seattle.  We thought of ourselves as Whistler residents. 
But after Tony and I went our separate ways in 2008 I rarely used it -- only when I had to go up for Condo Association meetings.  It was hard to stay there -- the ghosts in Whistler never really left, and it was hard to go up there without Tony.  The last time I went up for more than a night was in July of 2009 for my last condo board meeting.  After 10 years I decided I'd had enough of being on the board.  I wrote about it here 

I only went up one other time after that -- when I cleaned it out and put it on the market in February of 2011.  It wasn't a hard decision to make.  The economy tanked and the value of the place dropped.  And when you are in a recession -- coupled with a requirement now for a passport to cross the Canadian border, and $4.00 a gallon gas, and a Canadian dollar that is worth more than a US Dollar,  people just don't go up and go up on a whim or on ski vacations, so rental revenue was way down.  It was costing me anywhere from $600 to $1200 a month depending on revenue and the exchange rate.   I wasn't using it -- there's no one in my life that skis, and I don't want to go up alone for five or six days. 
It stayed on the market for almost exactly a year.  I finally sold it last week, taking a very low offer on a deal -- all that more complicated because Tony is still a part owner so we had to FedEx documents from Canada to Florida and Washington.   But it's done.  I lost a significant amount of money, the sale prices were much less than what we paid originally, and Canadian taxes are quite high on non-citizens.   But it's off my books, and I welcome the cash flow.   I'll miss it -- writing this today brought back a ton of memories of the happy times Tony and I and our friends spent there.  I'm glad I cleaned it out last year, as hard as that was.  I'd probably be having second thoughts if I were to do so today. 

I got word today the sale closed and it's official -- there's a few dollars in my Canadian bank account and it's showing the mortgages have been paid off.  It's bittersweet.  I'll miss it and the times we had -- I won't miss the expenses.   I'll miss the friends we made who live and work in the building or in the village.  I'll miss the two of us skiing down endless runs off Whistler Mountain in the Spring sunshine and seeing who had the biggest plate at Mongolie Grill.
Last year, as I was carrying out the personal belongings and taking a last look around the place, I noticed that the painters tape that was around the light in the stairwell that drove Tony nuts had finally, after 10 years, been removed.  It was a sign I think.  The building was saying time to move on. 
I'll miss you Whistler, and Horstman House -- you'll always be my second home.

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