Low mortgage rates, income growth and immigration are fuelling the market across the country More than four years ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics, 24-year-old Mike, a native of Ottawa, has found his dream home in the village of Whistler. The young squatter, who did not reveal his full name, proudly showed off his one-room wooden shack built in a tree above the elite mountain community 120km north of Vancouver. Mike is a snowboarder who crashed into a tree last winter. He could not walk for three months, lost his job and was no longer able to pay the outrageous rent for his trendy Whistler apartment. So, following the example of other hard-core campers, he moved to one of the hidden camps in the wilderness around the village and built himself a tree house. The tree house is probably the most affordable property in Whistler, where housing prices hit the roof long before the athletes will be checking in for their competitions. All around Canada, signs are increasing that the red-hot real estate market, fuelled by low mortgage rates, income growth and immigration, is reaching a peak. 'Demand simply continues to outpace supply in hot-pocket areas of major Canadian centres,' said Vancouver real estate expert Michael Polzler, explaining the continued price rises. Vancouver is certainly one hot spot. Demand here is so heated now that buyers are adding 'trump clauses' to their offers, giving them the option to outbid any higher offer that may be made, according to real estate heavyweight Re/Max. 'Residential construction activity has reached its limit in greater Vancouver,' said Cameron Muir, senior market analyst with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 'Homebuilders are working flat out, leaving little room for further expansion of the housing sector,' he said. The picture is the same in the oil province of Alberta, where home sales reached an all-time high last month. The property market in Alberta is riding high on the China-induced commodity boom. In Calgary in Alberta, sales activity was up 23.8 per cent in April from a year earlier, the country's best performance. 'At the end of the day, it's oil,' said Gregory Klump, chief economist with the Canadian Real Estate Association. Elton Ash, regional vice-president of Re/Max Western Canada concurred. 'Our agents in Calgary say it's busy to the point of being crazy,' he said. In the Fraser Valley municipality of Abbotsford, British Columbia, which led the nation with gross domestic product growth of 6.7 per cent last year, building permits more than doubled in the first five months of the year. 'We are experiencing explosive growth pressure,' said Jay Teichroeb, economic development officer for the municipality. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board earlier this month announced its second C$1 billion ($6.3 billion) real estate transaction in less than three weeks. In places like Manitoba's provincial capital of Winnipeg, where prices have not risen as fast as in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, realtors report that Britons, Danes, Israelis and Americans are eyeing local real estate for remaining investment opportunities. 'For Europeans we are not expensive,' said Inna Loewen, a realtor with Royal LePage. In downtown Vancouver, 35 per cent of all condos are now owned by residents who live outside of Canada, most of them coming from the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain and Japan. They are global investors, adding these apartments as recreational property to their worldwide portfolios. 'Private investors are recognising that the market is very near the top, in their opinion, and they are taking advantage of that,' said Michael Gill, principal of Avison Young Commercial Real Estate in Vancouver.