Vision Builders

While the expression "dream home" has become something of an advertising clichÚ in the real estate market, for many people owning a luxury home that they have created, designed and meticulously constructed really is the stuff that dreams are made of. Especially if that home happens to be in Whistler.

World renowned for its mountains, lakes, extraordinary views and endless outdoor activities, this four season resort town still harbours a few secrets in the dream home department. At the risk of upsetting those who prefer all things to remain the same, we'll let you in on a few of them.

Firstly, there is land for sale in Whistler - and a decent amount of it. Unlike so many popular destinations where the only chance of building is to pay big bucks for a "tear down" and go through the rigmarole of knocking it over and starting again, there are 50 lots available right now, ranging in price from $600,000 to $6.5 Million, as well as two new developments offering approx another 50 lots over the next two years.

Second, not only is the land available, but there are highly experienced tradespeople, with a penchant for creating high-end homes, living and working in the town itself. From designer through contractor, carpenter and decorator, Whistler has, over the years amassed a wealth of talent, expertise and skill. Even when the cry all over the lower mainland is "It's impossible to find good trades!" and "All the best people are far too busy!" many of these Whistler based professionals choose to be more selective and relish the opportunity to take part in creating a custom built home.

And finally - it's not as expensive as you might think. It's easy to get caught up in cost comparisons on a ?─˛per square foot' basis, but in reality construction costs when building a new home are often lower than buying an older place and undertaking significant renovations to fit your requirements. Even Whistler homes built less than 15-20 years ago could well have structural impediments preventing an interior's total design overall, not to mention those hidden costs which arise when the walls come down. When you build from scratch, there's no need to compromise on your design aspirations.

So having overcome the first three obstacles, where is the best place to start?

"It's not uncommon for people to come to us asking that exact question," says Eric von Rosen, President of Whistler-based Vision Pacific. "Often they have an idea of what they want to build, but they're seeking guidance and expertise on how to realize their vision."

The ideal scenario according to von Rosen is that people begin the process of exploration even before they have purchased their land. "It's one thing to build the quintessential dream home," he says, "But it's so much better to build that home on the perfect block of land."

For those aspiring to construct a high end home in Whistler having an experienced, dedicated team to work with is probably the most essential component. Next comes communication, trust and honesty among all members of that team.

With their scope of contacts and colleagues throughout the industry, Vision Pacific is happy to steer their clients in the direction of the estate that will best suit the design of the intended home. And when it comes to that all important design, they can also recommend architects and interior specialists who are highly experienced in transforming concepts on paper into a stunning reality.

It's at this point the concept of teamwork really comes into its own. According to von Rosen the relationship between the contractor, the designer and the client makes an enormous difference in how smoothly the whole project progresses.

"When a client feels they are a part of the development team, they know their decisions are valued, so even in dissent the discussions are open and honest."

In other words, Eric is not afraid to explain why a particular idea may not be practical, cost-effective, or in keeping with the overall design - but if a client insists and the idea is feasible, his role is not to force the issue or argue personal taste.

In this and many other respects, Vision Pacific is a far cry from your average building contractor. Not only are they celebrated for creating unique Whistler homes, they also hand pick professionals to work on each individual project. Builders, stonemasons, carpenters and artisans can all form part of the overall team.

Of course, clients are welcome to engage their own tradespeople, but if the Georgie Awards are anything to go by, it's probably worthwhile utilizing Vision Pacific's solid connections and expertise as much as possible. Since 2001, they have received no fewer than three Gold and six Silver awards in this program of the Canadian Home Builders' Association of BC that celebrates excellence in home building.

To achieve accolades of this distinction, any builders of luxury mountain estates need to consistently create a unique blend of contemporary styling while still meeting the requirements of an alpine environment. Over the past 10 years, Whistler has seen a shift from traditional alpine architecture - peaked, steep pitched, shingled roofs, cedar sidings and heavy wood finishes - to much more contemporary designs featuring lots of glass and metal materials, low pitched roofs and a broad range of natural materials.

"What we're experiencing is a mirroring of global changes in attitude towards architecture," von Rosen says. "Finally we're moving away from the mass construction mentality and regaining a respect for quality, substance and structural integrity."

The trends in contemporary design generally dictate an open floor plan which, von Rosen explains, is more structurally complex. However, this allows for spectacular and innovative interiors. In combination with Whistler's natural materials and distinctive textures a new standard is being set for alpine chalets.

Another shift in Whistler's luxury home building trend is an emphasis on outdoor as well as indoor space. No longer simply a winter playground, full and part-time residents are making the most of spring and summer facilities, so outdoor living spaces - decks, fire pits, integrated hot tubs and practical landscaping designs are all major considerations.

Even on the storage front, homes must now cater to far more than skis, boots and poles. Summer sporting equipment - mountain bikes, golf gear and ATVs all need their own quarters, with easy access in the warmer months and securely tucked away once the snow begins to fly. Yes, even the toys are catered to in the grand plan!

As minor as it may seem, it's this level of detail in every aspect of Vision Pacific's work that continues to raise the standard of excellence, not only of their own projects, but that of private estate construction throughout Whistler.

One final secret....Real estate in Whistler is still an excellent investment. The market in high end homes is on the rise and experts are predicting this trend to continue. And as for that elusive plot of land? As locals in any major US ski town will tell you - once it's gone, it's gone.

For more information visit www.vispacific.com