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Inside the record-breaking $40 million Whistler real estate deal

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It pays to have an outstanding website, respond to emails promptly, and answer the phone. Just ask Realtor John Ryan, who represented the buyers of a $40 million ($39.5 million sale prices and $2.186 million in associated taxes) luxury real estate deal in Whistler, B.C.

A 30-something, self-made couple came across Ryan’s website, which has more than 100,000 visits annually and results in buyers and sellers signing with the top-selling agent.

“We pride ourselves on our website,” says the 30-plus-year real estate veteran with John Ryan Personal Real Estate/Team JR in Whistler. “Incredible photography” and amazing properties drive the site.

Then came the buyer’s phone call. Ryan answered, and the rest, as they say, is history. The combined sale of the two adjacent properties (7.2 acres with the mountain-side home and 9.8-acre lot) is the highest-priced residential real estate deal in the history of the resort area, Ryan says.

The spectacular contemporary residence was designed by Pennsylvania-based architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and sold for $32 million.


The Whistler house is “a piece of art”


“The home is a piece of art,” Ryan says. As he watched the residence being built in 2014, he wondered how the pool would be constructed. “It’s an engineering marvel, like a diving board off a cliff, and the views are spectacular.”

The buyers weren’t familiar with Whistler, so they rented the modern Stonebridge Drive home while they searched for a more traditional design in the neighbourhood.

Ryan says they, as the other high net-worth individuals in the area, like the privacy afforded by these acreage lots.

The buyers were looking for a more traditional design, but while renting, “they fell more and more in love with the property. It took them quite by surprise how much they would love a more contemporary property,” Ryan says.

The home’s design, as described by the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson team, was informed by the dramatic location, with the various building elements “carefully choreographed to accentuate the characteristics of the site….The various cantilevered decks visually extend interior spaces into the landscape, grotto spa and 82-foot pool.”

“We picked up the phone and engage quickly,” says Ryan


The buyers, who spend their time in New York and Europe, want a summer place to enjoy for two or three months, but they’ll also visit for a few weeks in winter to ski, he says.

Ryan spends a lot of time with many of his clients before, during, and after the deal because he is often the only person they know when they move to Whistler. When they’re out and about, his clients often mention they appreciate that “we picked up the phone and engage quickly.”

When he arrived in the world-class ski town decades ago, he noticed other agents would passively wait for business to come in the door. He reasoned it would be easy to set himself apart by being responsive, and he’s been picking up the phone since.

The five-person team (Ryan, two licensed agents, a full-time marketing professional and a full-time administrator) works 363 days a year.

Ryan says he has participated in over 90 per cent of the sales in the Stonebridge development, where the three last record-breaking sales were based. He has sold more real estate in Whistler than anyone else on record, including over 50 developments, and he continues to be a top producer.

He says the small but mighty team does between $300 million to $400 million annually in gross sales value.

The early days


Ryan’s real estate career began in Mississauga, Ont. in the l980s. He door knocked in new subdivisions, where homeowners had purchased directly from the builders. That meant they wouldn’t have a real estate agent, he reasoned. He canvassed hard, and his efforts paid off “incredibly well,” he says.

He packed his work ethic and moved to Whistler, where he is consistently Whistler’s top-selling realtor. “No one has sold more real estate based on (the) cumulative number of sales and total dollar volume from 1988 to date,” he says.

Ryan was featured in a cover story in REM in February 1999 about his Regeneration Tour in which he hand-cycled across Canada to raise $5 million for spinal cord research.

The story, by REM writer Kathy Bevan, says, “Ryan was the top sales rep in Whistler both before and after the 1994 car accident, which left him without the use of his legs.”

Ryan continues to go strong. “I love it all, from parking stalls to $30-million homes,” he says. “I sold a $36-million hotel, but this is the biggest residential (deal). Whistler has arrived.”

Whistler is exempt from the federal foreign buyer ban, as well as the provincial speculation and vacancy tax and has become an increasingly popular destination for international buyers. But one thing everyone has in common is understanding what makes Whistler so special, Ryan says. “They’re not just parking their money; they’re enjoying and supporting the community.”


From left to right: Vicki Weston-Webb, Dani O’Neill, Suzi Mackintosh, John Ryan and Nicole Davidson

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