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Market Insights - BC Waterfront Real Estate

There are a lot of "how-to" articles online that regurgitate the same advice about real estate related topics such as getting a good mortgage or prepping your home for the market. While those things are obviously very important, we want to write articles that are enlightening and valuable for visitors to our site. Rather than write about the same-old, same-old, we endeavour to create interesting and compelling articles specifically for people interested in (BC) waterfront real estate.

Thanks for reading.
Sharleen Kneeland
Publisher, Waterfront West

The Experts Weigh In: How Will Alberta's Oil Slump Affect B.C. Recreational Real Estate?

Ever since the price of oil started to slip,  I have been wondering about the possible effect the oil slump might have on B.C.'s recreational real estate market.

Historically, a large segment of our site visitors (around 19-22%) have hailed from Alberta and we know that Albertans like to purchase waterfront getaways and retirement homes in British Columbia. With the market for recreational properties on the upswing again in many of the smaller B.C. communities, could a lack of Albertan cash be enough to send us back to a slow market?



Interest for properties like this luxury waterfront home, listed by the Jane Hoffman Group in Kelowna for $8, 975, 000, often originates from other Canadian Provinces or large urban centres like Vancouver & Calgary.


There are two sides to the coin. On the plus side, lower oil prices have been partially responsible for our current low mortgage rates; however, on the flip side, Albertans with an eye on B.C. real estate could have a tougher time selling or refinancing their homes in Alberta due to the lagging real estate market there.

So where will we end up?

With this question in mind, I started to investigate our site statistics and what I found may surprise you!

Let's get started with a look at the year-over-year visitor traffic to our site. Since September 2014, when news of the slump first came out, the percentage of Albertans as a total of our site visitors has actually increased slightly. Furthermore, according to the breakdown below, we have seen a year-over-year increase in the  percent of Albertans (as a total of our Canadian traffic) visiting the site since January. It looks like Albertans are still on the hunt for B.C. waterfront properties and that not only Albertans, but also people from Ontario might be longing for mild B.C. winters and ocean breezes. 


Top Provinces:

Breakdown of Canadian Visitors to Waterfront West (January 1, 2014-February 25, 2014)

  1. BC 58.6%
  2. AB 25.4%
  3. ON 8%

Breakdown of Canadian Visitors to Waterfront West (January 1, 2015-February 25, 2015) 

  1. BC 52%
  2. AB 29.2%
  3. ON 10.5%


Why the increase in interest from Alberta in the face of this slump? It's difficult to say. According to this Globe and Mail article, for the first time in several years, B.C. is experiencing a positive net migration of people from Alberta. In the last few years, many B.C .residents have moved to Alberta for high paying oil industry jobs in places like Fort McMurray; however, now they are starting to trickle back into the province to find work here. Even when they are working in Alberta, some of these workers maintain a primary home in B.C. and commute back to Alberta on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, thereby supporting the market here. Although they may have a primary home here or purchase a cabin for family vacations, these younger oil industry workers; however,  are not the typical demographic purchasing luxury B.C. waterfront homes.

B.C. luxury waterfront home buyers are more likely to be people who are nearing retirement, with equity in their first home, looking for a second home to enjoy or to retire to permanently. Furthermore, most our our site visitors from Alberta hail from Calgary. Could this increased traffic be comprised of oil industry executives that are getting ready to retire? Possibly. Notably, two large oil related firms were listed in the top 10 companies our site visitors originated from during the last two months.



These Furnished Oceanfront & Condos Cottages at SookePoint are Popular with Retirees 


With the real estate market in Alberta only having taken a turn for the worse in the past couple of months, it's a little premature to really delve into the sales stats and find out the true toll the slump will take on our recreational market, but judging by our site traffic so far, at least the desire to purchase B.C. waterfront is still alive and kicking in Alberta. Whether that results in sales remains to be seen.

To find out more about the situation, I contacted two experts on B.C. recreational real estate who typically work with Albertan buyers to find out if their information meshed with ours. I also asked them a few questions about their forecasts for the B.C. recreational real estate market this year. 


The Experts


Rudy Nielsen of NIHO Land & Cattle Company, Landcor & LandQuest

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-shot-2014-05-09-at-11.40.33-AM.pngWith over 50 years of real estate experience, Rudy Nielsen is a highly regarded expert in the industry. He has occupied the roles of developer, appraiser, entrepreneur, landowner, real estate consultant, speaker and deal maker. A skilled negotiator, Rudy has successfully closed many notable deals and worked with thousands of individuals on buying and selling real estate. Rudy is also an innovator and a trailblazer, anticipating the needs of the real estate and financial industries, and developing products to serve those markets. He's also a really nice guy and a very entertaining speaker.

Rudy is the founder of no less than three of British Columbia's major real estate corporations:

  • Landcor (President & CEO):  One of Canada’s top-tier online real-estate companies, specializing in an Automated Valuation Model (AVM) for real estate data analysis and valuation.
  • NIHO Land and Cattle Company (President & CEO):  One of British Columbia's largest private owners of recreational property, with over 40 years of experience in buying, selling, managing and developing all types of recreational property and real estate throughout the province. 
  • LandQuest (Founder & Partner): A unique real estate company specializing in marketing rural, recreational and investment real estate for sale throughout British Columbia. With a large database of listings ranging from small bare land acreages to large trophy ranches in all price ranges. 

Rudy is a designated fellow of the Real Estate Institute of B.C and an accredited member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada. 


Jane Hoffman of the Jane Hoffman Group

b2ap3_thumbnail_12ebd26.jpgJane Hoffman has been selling real estate in Kelowna since 1985. As one of Kelowna's top producing agents, she is familiar with all aspects of real estate, in all areas of Kelowna. Jane is intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of Jane Hoffman Group, oversees all sales transactions and works to build strategic partnerships and relationships in every area of her real estate business. She has a very strong commitment to her community and is an avid supporter of the arts and the Central Okanagan Hospice Association.




The Questions:


1.  Do you think the drop in oil prices and slower housing markets in Calgary and Edmonton will affect sales of B.C. recreational property to Albertans this year?



No I don’t think so. I think B.C. will continue to be the recreational playground for the oil people from Alberta and some from Saskatchewan. I also think that a lot of buyers will come out of the Eastern Canada for retirement in  B.C. because of the heavy snow and cold winter they have had this year specially from Ontario East

NOTE: Incidentally, overall traffic to LandQuest and Niho from Alberta has also increased year-over-year since September, with just a slight drop from Calgary visitors recently. They also report that they are still getting calls from interested buyers in Alberta.



We’re fortunate that Kelowna draws buyers from various markets across Canada.  If the Alberta pool of buyers is quieter this year, we still have a strong segment of buyers from locations such as Vancouver and Eastern Canada whose wealth isn’t as “tied” to the Alberta economy. We are also fortunate that Kelowna is highly desirable to retired people across Canada who have acquired their wealth, have secure finances and are looking to spend their senior years in our mild climate enjoying all the amenities Kelowna has to offer.

We are also seeing people commuting to work in Alberta while maintaining their primary home in Kelowna. They are purchasing second homes here and commuting back to work in the summer months taking advantage of charter flights flying direct to Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray. 



If the stats tell the story (and the cold winters continue in the East), we'll see increased demand for B.C. waterfront properties like this (also listed by Jane Hoffman Group for $1,499,000) from Alberta and Ontario in the future. 


2. Do you think low mortgage rates will result in more sales to local buyers this year?



Most buyers looking for recreational property are established home owners with equity looking to enjoy the property immediately and possibly to retire there in the long term. The current low rates should help these buyers use their equity to accomplish these goals, so that should be positive for the market. 



The low mortgage rates are certainly enticing people to strongly consider new ownership options. Whether it is a new home buyer looking to redirect their rent payments to mortgage payments or a family looking to upgrade to a higher price range, the low mortgage rates are allowing people to make changes and reposition themselves.


3. Are you starting to see more U.S. and international buyers purchasing B.C. recreational property now that the dollar is lower again?



Not really U.S. buyers yet as much as the Chinese and some Europeans. Foreigners love Canada because we are a stable country and a safe place to live. With a majority government, a sound financial system and a low dollar, we are a prime market for international investment. The worse the situation gets in countries like Greece, Portugal and Italy, the  more money leaves those countries for more secure places like Canada.

Note: Rudy's observations with regards to the Chinese market have been echoed by this article which was recently published in the South China Morning Post.



Truth be told, the majority of buyers in Kelowna are from across Canada. Certainly, international buyers are on the horizon, but currently they hold a small segment of the market.


4. What is your forecast for the B.C. recreational property market this year?



We are positive about the market this year. I think it will be very active year and were finding the first two months already very busy. With mountains, water and acres of untouched wilderness, we are a prime destination for both international buyers, Canadians from other provinces and locals who want to own a piece of paradise. 



We think it will remain stable with very little change from last year. Stable as far as price and sales volume. It is interesting to see the number of condo and strata projects launching right now,  this is showing signs of confidence in our market now and for the future. 


The Consensus?


So there you have it. It seems like although real estate has slowed in Alberta, the conclusion, based on visitors to our site, is that B.C. will continue to see demand for recreational property from Alberta and that retirees will continue to flock here from the Eastern Canadian provinces as well. Furthermore, based on inquiries, sales activity so far, and the opinions of our experts, the oil slump will not have a huge impact on the B.C. recreational real estate market. It should be a great year for the B.C. recreational real estate sales.


And now, without further ado, on to our Hot Properties for March: 


1. Great Value on Francois Lake - 2 Storey Cabin for $162, 000


Represented by Fred Gorley  Royal LePage Prince George

2. South-West Facing Oceanfront on Pender Island, Reduced to $549, 000  


Artist's South Facing Waterfront - Watch the Whales, Bask in the sun and enjoy the views. This could be a great family gathering place or easy full time living and best of all, it could be yours! Great View Value and Great Lifestyle here! 

Represented by Sherrie Boyte & Sam Boyte
Dockside Realty Ltd. - Pender Island

 3. 265 Acre Private Oceanfront Fishing Paradise $799,000 


One of Kind!  265 Acre Private Oceanfront Fishing Paradise, with approximately 6,060 feet of ocean frontage on beautiful Porcher Island, about 24 km SW of Prince Rupert. The land has protected moorage in Refuge Bay, as well as sandy beaches on Useless Bay. Located only minutes from Goble Point, this property has some of the best salmon fishing on the North Coast. It has a fresh water creek that runs through the property and is one of only a few oceanfront properties on the island.

Represented by NIHO Land & Cattle Company

11334 Hits

Vancouver Island Waterfront Property for Under $500, 000? Find out More in Our Spotlight on the Alberni Valley

Many British Columbian (and Albertan) city dwellers dream of purchasing a waterfront getaway on Vancouver Island: a place where they can get out of the concrete jungle and relax on weekends, a place to make special family memories, or even a place to move into permanently when they retire.


Bamfield Sunset

With the equity of a Vancouver, Victoria or Calgary home, it's increasingly possible for this dream to become a reality, but where can you get the most bang for your Vancouver Island real estate buck?

Well, if you are looking for an inexpensive getaway, one of the areas you might want to focus on is the Alberni Valley. For under $500, 000, there are some great waterfront prices to be found up the Alberni Inlet and you may even be able to snap up some fabulous Sproat Lake waterfront if you prefer lakefront living.

Located south of the mid-island mark, just a one-hour drive from Nanaimo and two hours from Victoria, the Alberni Valley has some pretty inexpensive real estate when compared with some other major centres on the island (and not just for waterfront property).


British Columbia Average Home Prices: May 2014

(source: Alberni Times)


City of Vancouver          Over $1,200,000
City of Victoria               $565,763
Nanaimo                        $370, 123
Comox Valley                $369, 330
Campbell River             $309,389
City of Port Alberni       $174, 861 


Of course, if you go further north, to places such as Port Hardy, Port MacNeil and Gold River, you can definitely find some great waterfront real estate prices, but if you prefer being close to the perks of big city living, the valley boasts a location closer to the facilities available in large centres such as Nanaimo. Moreover, the valley offers all three types of waterfront real estate: oceanfront, lakefront and riverfront and for some pretty great prices.

In our recent Google Hangout on Air, I discussed Alberni Valley waterfront real estate with Realtor and area expert Chris Fenton of the Fenton Team. Chris and I discussed the different types of waterfront, average prices and current market conditions in the valley. You can view the video below; however, I have extracted the main points as well so that you can have a quick read through if you prefer. 


Video Summary: Waterfront Areas in the Alberni Valley


Map of Alberni Valley Waterfront Areas


1. Alberni Valley Lakefront


Sproat Lake

Sproat is a large warm water lake with over 300 kilometers of lake frontage, less than half of which is developed. A plethora of recreational opportunities are available on the lake including fishing, boating, paddle boarding, canoeing and of course, swimming in the summer. The lake is also home to several provincial parks. Although single family home prices generally average in the $800, 000 range, boat access lakefront can sometimes be found in the $300, 000 - $400, 000 range. Prices also go the other way; with large estate style homes in the million-dollar plus range. Also, I have noticed that there are sometimes prime lakefront lots for sale in the $300, 000 plus range if you prefer to build.


Sproat Lake, Alberni Valley 

Lakefront Single Family Home Avg. 2013 = $800, 000


Great Central Lake

Another large lake in the area, this lake is just in its infancy of being developed according to Chris. The lake is currently home to an RV Resort and around 50 or so houseboats. The majority of the lake is inaccessible by car and access is by boat or float plane only.


2. Alberni Valley Riverfront


Somass and Stamp Rivers

The Somass River heads in from the Alberni Inlet, which is the inlet that Port Alberni is built on. The Stamp River is a fast-moving river with numerous waterfalls and home to the Stamp River Provincial Park. According to Chris, riverfront properties rarely come available and therefore they are highly sought-after. When they do come up for sale, they usually average around $500, 000; however, the average price for 2013 was only $292, 000 for a single property that was in poor condition.


3. Alberni Valley Oceanfront

    The Alberni Inlet: An Outdoor Enthusiast's Haven


The Alberni Inlet stretches from the town of Port Alberni out to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Along this inlet, much of which remains forested and untouched by human development, one can find some relatively inexpensive oceanfront cabins and cottages. The area is the perfect place for the wilderness aficionado, with plenty of recreational opportunities and a feeling of being really out in nature. Some of the main communities on the inlet are reached via a  maintained gravel road, which is best travelled by truck or 4x4 according to Chris (but is routinely travelled by cars as well), and others are accessed by boat or float plane only. At the end of the inlet lies the picturesque community of Bamfield and the terminus of the world-famous West Coast trail.  


Headquarter's Bay Property for Sale $389, 900


Headquarters' Bay and Haggard('s) Cove

Headquarter's Bay is an oceanfront community about a 30 minute drive from Port Alberni. Featuring 41 large lots, this gated community has a year-round caretaker, a boat launch, marina, BBQ shelter and more. The average sale price for an oceanfront house in Headquarter's Bay is around $300, 000 and Chris says that typically includes a whopping 5 acres and 150 ft of oceanfront. Part of the reason for the great price is that it's not a land purchase, but rather a share purchase. A company owns the entire development and people buy shares and get exclusive use of their designated property. Headquarter's Bay also has small monthly fee and which includes a tax on the improvements on the land. Also of note is that the community is powered with propane generators, as there is no electricity.

Haggard('s) Cove is a similar set up to Headquarter's Bay with a strata ownership structure, marina, and propane generated power; however, this area is accessed by boat, float plane or ferry service from the Valley (so not via the gravel road in this case) and consists of 61 strata titled, city size lots. Single family homes here run around $250, 000 - $400, 000. Boat service is daily in the summer from Port Alberni and 3 times a week in the winter. Haggard's Cove monthly strata fees are around $45/month.

Haggard's Cove would make a perfect getaway spot for the true outdoorsman, while Headquarter's Bay is an excellent choice for the nature lover or family that doesn't want to break the bank with their recreational property purchase but have a lot of land at their disposal (5 acres/lot).



Kildonan is a very small community. It is also a boat/float plane access only community as it is located on the north side of the Alberni Inlet. Rather than being part of a strata, the properties for sale in Kildonan are purchased fee simple. 



An hour and a half drive (or boat ride) from Port Alberni you will find Bamfield, with its world famous hiking, kayaking, salmon fishing and lots of diving. Bamfield had several different waterfront areas and the properties are not sold on a strata system but are fee simple. Chris says that the average oceanfront price single family home in Bamfield is usually around $500. 000; however, the average oceanfront single-family home sale price for 2013 was only $410, 000, so maybe it's a good time to be out there looking! 


Bamfield, Vancouver Island: Average Oceanfront Single-Family Price in 2013 was $410, 000


4. Current Market Conditions

Buying activity in the Alberni Valley picked up midway through last year, but according to Chris, it's still a great buyer's market. Chris says recreational buyers who are looking at lakefront generally come from other areas on Vancouver Island or Vancouver, while saltwater buyers are generally from Alberta. He also mentioned that activity from US buyers is also picking up again, particularly in Bamfield as it is so well known internationally. 


5. Value Properties

Finally, here are a few well-valued properties Chris has for sale:


Extensively Remodelled Pristine Sproat Lake Home with Dock and Walk-on Lakefront Living $799, 000  



Modern West-Coast Bamfield Oceanfront Home with Private Dock $625, 000


I hope we have given you a good overview of the different waterfront real estate opportunities in the Alberni Valley, one of the most affordable communities on the Island! Thanks to Chris Fenton for the interview and all of the detailed information.

For more information about the area, you can check out Chris' websites here:

Sproat Lake Website

Bamfield Website


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23496 Hits

5 Dream Homes Your Vancouver Real Estate Dollar Can Buy Elsewhere in B.C.

If you read this blog regularly, you will have seen my last post about how my husband and I managed to escape Vancouver, sold-out and moved to the small but vibrant community of the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Here, we purchased a nicer house with a much bigger lot and still managed to have some cash in hand (albeit no jobs...).  


Having been settled here for over 8 years now, we are well established, have our own businesses and will never look back. We love it and our standard of living has gone through the roof from what it was in Van city. Although we miss some of the perks of urban living, we have traded them in for a less stressful way of life, a close-knit community, extra family time, a huge yard with an organic garden and fruit trees and nature at our doorstep.


And do you know what?

If you really want to get out of the city and currently have equity in a Vancouver house it's likely that...

...you can do it too!

(check out my last post for more on how we did it)


The bottom line is, if you own real estate in Vancouver, you could currently be in possession of a sort of treasure trove...one that can buy a lot more real estate in other parts of the province! OR....If you love city living, but want to buy a weekend retreat to "get away from it all" once in a while, it might not be completely out of your reach.


So without further ado, I'll show you some drool-worthy dream homes your Vancouver real estate dollar can buy in other parts of the province. But first, a hat tip to Vancouver blogger Melissa Carr of the Thirties Grind, for sparking this idea with her "Absurd Vancouver Property." Check out her blog to see Vancouver properties like this one:



Photo of "Absurd Vancouver Property" from Melissa's January Post - Listed at $2, 250, 000


According to the latest statistics released by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, here are the housing prices for Greater Vancouver based on stats from January 2014:

  • Benchmark price for a single-family detached home $929, 700.  
  • Benchmark price for attached properties $457, 700.
  • Benchmark price for apartment properties $371, 500. 


Now that you have an idea of what real estate costs in Vancouver, I'll show you what kind of amazing digs you can purchase around the province for similar prices:


1. Nice West Side Detached Home on City Lot


Grand Oceanfront Residence on 8.7 Acres on

Hornby Island 

(featured in Architectural Digest, Western Living, and City & Country Home). 


So let's start off with a bang! If you own an average single-family detached home on the West Side of Vancouver (which is West Of Ontario Street all the way to UBC), the benchmark price is a whopping $2, 144, 200.


Let's say you own a decent home on the West Side, something a bit above average. If you look at the current inventory there are approximately 538 listings on the West Side over $2, 500, 000. Homes around this price point are mostly either newer single family dwellings (SFDs) on a standard city lot or older bungalows that have been updated.


On Hornby Island, for approximately the same price, you can get this waterfront spread: a 3700 square foot, stunning architectural masterpiece that has been featured in several magazines and is located on 8.7 acres of private property bordered by over 250 acres of pristine undeveloped rainforest. It overlooks the white sands of Tribune Bay (arguably one of the nicest beaches in BC) and is zoned for a second home, which could be situated mid-bank directly on the bay.



Stunning post and beam oceanfront residence


Pool anyone (or is this biilliards)? 


Private oceanside outdoor fireplace and entertainment.


2.  West Side Bungalow


"The Moorecraft" Ocean View Private Estate on 3.1 Acres near Nanaimo


Or how about this one to impress your friends? At $1, 675, 000, priced almost half a million dollars below the benchmark price of  a west side single-family detached home, you could trade up for this spread and have some cash in pocket (or a lower mortgage). Here's what you get for substantially less than your west side bungalow: a 3.1 acre gated ocean view estate including a Georgie Award winning luxury home with..."beamed and vaulted great room with dining area, large wood framed windows, floor to ceiling stone surround gas fireplace, bamboo flooring & wine cellar. An open kitchen boasts copious solid wood cabinetry, granite, eating island & butler’s pantry." Basically, you get all the bells & whistles, plus a three-car garage and guest quarters. 



Ocean View Estate (less than your average West Side SFD)


Vaulted Ceilings, wood floors...basically all the bells & whistles.


Not a bad view at the end of the day either.


3. Average Single Family Detached Home


Lakefront Custom Built Home on Vancouver Island


If those haven't tempted you, how about this lakefront south-facing custom built beauty featuring gym, private dock, media room, games room and infrared sauna on Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island? For just slightly more than your average Greater Vancouver home, you could have it! (Price $999, 000)



Ahhhh the tranquility!


A living room fit for a King (or Queen).


A "WOW" factor kitchen.


4. East Vancouver Townhouse


Close to 3000 Sq Ft, 3-Bed, 2 Bath Ocean View Home in Craig Bay, Parksville ($489, 900)


For less than the price of a benchmark townhouse on the East side (which is $518, 100) , you can get an almost 3000 sq ft ocean view home with main level living and a walk-out lower level that provides ample room for a B/I office, media area, bar, gym, guest room with cheater ensuite & storage. The community  also features a Beach Clubhouse including outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, tennis courts, indoor gym, social areas, library, pottery, woodworking, yoga & fitness classes, etc.... You won't get that in your average east side townhouse!



Nice 3 bed, 2 bath home with land included... 


Decent Views


Upscale finishing.


 5. Vancouver Apartment


Okanagan Cottage in Gated Lakeside Community 


At this Okanagan development, you can purchase a detached cottage starting in the low 300s. That's cheaper than the benchmark price for an apartment in Greater Vancouver. The project has 1,800’ of waterfront, a sandy beach, two swimming pools, a 7,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, 20 acres of green-space for all to enjoy, boat slips, walking trails, and many other amenities. Not too shabby if you ask me!


 1800 Feet of Lakefront with Sandy Beach


20 Acres of Green-Space 


 One of the Cottages


I hope you enjoyed seeing the difference in prices between Vancouver real estate and smaller communities in B.C.. To give you a few extra properties to gander at for comparison, I've included some Hot Properties here. These are properties hand-selected by our member agents as being good value in today's market.


1. Oceanfront Home on Pender Island $475, 000


This home, just reduced from $529, 000 to $475,000 can be yours for just slightly more than the benchmark townhouse on the East Side ($518, 100). Private setting, south exposure and fruit tress to enjoy while you sip your coffee gazing out at the ocean.





2. 15.12 Acre Riverfront, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) -  $141,750


Looking for some recreational property at a bargain price? This lot is the equivalent to approximately 120 Vancouver city lots, including over 356 ft. of river frontage on the Sangan River. This fisherman's hideaway provides a combination of privacy, serenity, and adventure unique to BC. The rear 3.3 acres of this property reach the northern border of the Naikoon Provincial Park where the lush rainforest overflows into your own private backyard; a little larger than your average Vancouver one! 15 minutes from Masset and seconds away from the beach. 





3. Lakeside Lots on Sproat Lake Starting at $109, 900


Maybe you want a nice getaway spot or a lakeside lot for your year-round home? Take a look at these lakeside lots on Sproat Lake, Vancouver Island? You can build up to a 1500 sq ft home here. Really inexpensive for a lot these days, let alone lakeside!  Seller is motivated to get these lots sold!




We feature our Hot Properties every quarter on this blog, to get this blog to your inbox, please sign-up to the right!








55174 Hits

Who Else Wants to Escape the Vancouver Grind? 3 Reasons We Left and What We Gained

Back in 2002, my boyfriend and I were spending our days crawling through the Vancouver traffic mess, going to mediocre paying jobs and wondering how we were going to be able to have a family while still maintaining a decent lifestyle in the big city. Don't get me wrong, Vancouver is beautiful, it's vibrant, full of world-class restaurants, a plethora of outdoor activities and enough cultural diversions to keep anyone entertained; however, we were not taking full advantage of any of these things...


....because we were too busy tackling traffic jams and working like mad to pay the rent on a dark and mould-contaminated basement suite on the West Side. 


Over the course of the next few years, we slowly came to the realization that we should move out of Vancouver to a smaller British Columbia community. The decision was not made quickly or taken lightly. Rather, it evolved gradually and involved many factors, the most important of which I have listed below, along with the story of how we did it and what we have gained in return.


 I could probably write a few hundred more words about why we moved, but I have narrowed it down to the three main reasons we felt compelled to leave Vancouver, which I have listed below:


1. All Things Traffic:

Congestion, Commuting and Time Wasted Driving.


According to the 2013  Tom Tom Travel Index,  

Vancouver's traffic congestion is the worst in North America? 

(source: Vancouver Sun article based on Nov 2013 Tom Tom Report) 


By the time we made the decision to move to Vancouver Island, I had worked downtown for over 8 years. I had tried all forms of transportation to get to my job in the Marine Building (in the core of the downtown financial district). These included walking, transit, and also driving and parking somewhere relatively cheap (then walking through some dodgy areas to get to the office). Finally, for the last year we were there, I biked, which was by far the most enjoyable and fastest way to get downtown of all of the options I had tried. Still, I took my life in my hands every day and biking in February was no fun task (although still better than transit).


Don't even get me started about parking tickets in Vancouver...that's a whole other blog post!



First deciding factor for us to get outta town? Traffic! Hands down


2. An Insane Real Estate Market.

Inability to Compete with Flippers and Investors as a Young Couple. 


According to the CBC, a recent survey by Demographia rates Vancouver's housing the second least affordable in the world and claims that homes in Vancouver cost ten times the median income. An acceptable amount is considered to be three times the median income, so that's a pretty big stretch for the average Vancouver family. The Demographia report states that, "Housing affordability is an important determinant of the standard of living, because higher-cost housing leaves less discretionary income," which is exactly what was happening to us. With these kinds of statistics,  I'm just going to go out on a limb here and bet that there are a few Vancouverites, renting or owning (but that's a whole hot other topic) who are currently in the same boat we were...


At that point, in late 2001, moving out of Vancouver was not even a consideration for us, but I realized that with little to no savings, the high cost of living and average paying jobs, we were never going to be able to get ahead financially in Vancouver without some action. That's when I started reading real estate investment books and got the idea in my head that we needed to buy some property ASAP, before we were priced out of the Vancouver (or any) real estate market...forever. Needless to say, my boyfriend was hesitant. After all, even though it was in the plans, we weren't married yet and what about money for the wedding, etc...?


Once I have an idea in my head, it's hard to convince me otherwise (just ask my now husband), so I persisted in gently promoting my idea to him for a few months and got the wheels turning by finding an agent. I looked at the historical numbers and realized that as long as we could afford our mortgage payment through the ups and downs of the real estate market, according to all of the factors at the time (interest rates, upswing in market, etc...) we couldn't really go wrong with owning Vancouver real estate. Hesitantly, my boyfriend agreed and with the help of a generous "donation" of a down payment from my father (who counselled us that we could use the money however we wanted, but made it very obvious that real estate was his preference), we got pre-approved for a mortgage.


Did you know that the

average house price in Vancouver in 1965 was $12,964

and in 1990 $231, 000?

Even though there are ups and downs like any real estate market, over the long run it just seems to keep appreciating at a steady pace. 


At the time, with our measly salaries, we never imagined we would be able to get approved to buy a single family detached home in Vancouver; rather, we thought maybe a condo or townhouse? We wanted to stay close to the city as we hated commuting, so moving to the burbs was out of the question. It was also at this point that the idea popped into my head that we might not be able to afford anything in Vancouver and have to purchase something out of town as an investment or.....for the first time, I thought, maybe a possible future family home?  


Well, shockingly, we got pre-approved for a whopping $250, 000. Yeehaw! 

And can you believe....at that time.....way back when in 2002,

....it was enough money to buy us a HOUSE in our preferred neighbourhood of Main!

Oh, how the times have changed from the good 'ole days of 2002.


According to the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board,

the benchmark price

for a detached home as of Jan 2014 is $929, 700.


Long story short, we bought a little 1911 heritage house right on King Edward. The house featured such highlights as stained glass windows painted over with brown paint which shook every time a bus passed (pretty much every 5 minutes), front porch falling in and a living room which looked suspiciously similar to the photo I found below at UglyHousePhotos.com....but it was solid and strong nonetheless.



This glorious photo is similar to how the living room of our soon to be Vancouver home looked when we viewed it prior to purchase.


Over the next year, we worked tirelessly renovating every detail, stripping paint, fixing up the yard and exterior...with the idea that we would sell it and buy another bigger fixer-upper on a quieter street in the same neighbourhood.....hahahahaha. By the time we were ready to sell, investors and flippers were buying complete dumps in the neighbourhood, sight unseen, for $500, 000 cash and with no conditions so there was no way we could compete.


3. Perceived Lack of Quality Time with Children

(Note: These are not listed in importance, but rather chronologically otherwise #3 would be listed first:).


With our upcoming wedding and thoughts of kids in our heads...ok MY head, deciding factor number three reared it's head. I was on the phone with my friend in Toronto who had recently had her first child, when she mentioned that with the high cost of daycare in Toronto, after going back to work, childcare costs were taking up almost all of her salary. She had an excellent job but told me that it was barely worth her working full-time as they only ended up with an extra $500-$1000 left after the daycare fees every month, but that she couldn't quit because they needed that extra money. I realized that we would be in the same position if we stayed in Vancouver.  I really wanted to be able to be around for my future kid/s and the idea of having to hire a nanny or have my child in full-time daycare just so I could make a few hundred extra dollars every month was not sitting well with me.


Oh yeah, that...and a teenager was beaten to death in November of 2003 at the school close to our house.... . If you know Vancouver, you'll know that the Main neighbouhood between around 18th-35th is a super trendy and fashionable area of million dollar + homes, fancy coffee shops and clothing stores. It wasn't the most expensive part of the city, but it wasn't like we were living in the "bad" area or something. Needless to say, the beating was very unsettling and solidified our decision to move. 


So....we did some demographic research on smaller communities in British Columbia and settled on the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. After a year and a half of exhausting work, our Vancouver house was worth $401, 000 (how's that for appreciation?!!) and that's what it sold for in a bidding war, in the first week on the market. We had three offers on the day of our open house and buyers came to the showing with their inspectors so they could make "no subject" offers. Yes, it was an insane market! We had hit the jackpot (hindsight is 20/20), but we also realized that there was no way in hell we could buy a bigger fixer upper in the same neighbourhood on a quieter street (and after the above events, we didn't really want to anyways....).



King Edward House, Main Street Area of Vancouver - After we fixed it all up (Sale Price $401, 000)! 


We moved to Courtenay, where we bought a much larger character home on a much larger lot for MUCH less ($155, 000). Our standard of living went up 300%. No more traffic noise, a "big" lot 40' x 120,' a bigger house, uncrowded parks and beaches, a ski hill close by and no more commuting. Actually, no more jobs either....we both started our own businesses.



Comox Valley House - Purchase Price $155, 000 (although this is after we painted and fixed it up a bit)


My husband always reminds me of my famous quote as we were sitting on our back porch with some wine one starry, warm summer evening right after the move. "I think I can hear the hum of the traffic from the highway," I said, to which he responded with one of his characteristic, "You didn't really just say that? Did you?!" smirks.  He actually had a hard time convincing me it wasn't traffic, until he pointed out that there is hardly ever traffic on the Inland Island Highway going to Campbell River, let alone at 10PM at night.  What I was actually hearing was the sound of the rushing water of our favourite tubing and swimming river a 5 minute walk from our new house....d'oh. City girl, slow down and meet country!



Ahhhh, now that's more like it -Summer Night's View from the Back Porch of our First Comox Valley Home


Now, I'm not saying everything is perfect and stress free over here. For sure, there are some things we miss about Vancouver ( old friends, the variety of really great ethnic food at really great prices, our favourite haunts like Bean Around the World ) and owning your own business has it's own stresses. Making a living in a smaller community can be more challenging than having a solid paying, stable job in a larger centre but what we got in exchange was freedom.


Freedom from:

  • Traffic, crowds and commuting.
  • Having to work for someone else.
  • Hordes of sweaty, competitive Lulu and Nike clad joggers, Iphone attached at ears (aka Grouse grind style) on trails  (okay, I admit, we still love our Lulu and Nike over here and are fitness fanatics - it's just not as crowded on the trails...)
  • Having to procure full-time daycare for our son (although we did still get some help from an awesome relative!).
  • Parking fees and parking tickets (so far!).


What we gained was:

  • A small, vibrant and close-knit community with tons of festivals and a fabulous Farmer's Market.
  • New friends!
  • More time with family.
  • Ability to spend time with our son rather than having him in after school care or other programs during the year.
  • A huge lot with a gigantic organic garden (we have since bought a larger home on a larger lot), fruit trees and tons of space for kids to run and play.
  • Nature trails and wildlife galore.
  • Access to a French Immersion School walking distance from our house with no insane wait lists.



Puntledge River - 5 Minute Walk from our House


Sandy Beaches within 15 minutes


Mount Washington - 20 Minute Drive to Top of the Hill


So, if you live in Vancouver and love it kudos to you! If you own a home there even better! We love it too, but it just didn't "fit" with our family goals any longer. So...if want to get the hell out like we did, why not do your research, check out the demographics, job opportunities and house prices of some other B.C. communities. 


If you already own some prime Vancouver real estate, you're way ahead of the game. You could sell your average single family detached home in Vancouver for around $1, 000, 000 and buy a nice single family home in the Comox Valley, for example, for a mere $348, 233. You might even end up with a home, a small or non-existent mortgage and a nice nest egg to boot. If you own a townhouse or condo in Vancouver, that will buy you a nice 3-bed, 2-bath single family detached home on a decent sized lot in many smaller B.C. communities. If you're nearing retirement, it's kind of a no brainer in my opinion...that's probably why the Comox Valley is becoming such a haven for retirees. This article, from the Globe and Mail,  has some good advice for you if you're thinking of retiring to a smaller community, with a few areas pre-selected to cut down on your homework.


Still renting? When real estate is cheaper, the cost of living goes down and you can probably survive on less income than you do in Vancouver. Why not look into job opportunities in other communities where the cost of living is lower, crunch some numbers and see if you might just come out ahead? Our move allowed my husband to work in a much more rewarding career and allowed me to be home with our son when he was little and still run a business without having the stress of having to make a six figure income to afford our housing payments. 


If you choose to take the plunge, keep in mind that once you sell your Vancouver real estate and purchase a less expensive home elsewhere, it might prove difficult to buy back into Vancouver in the future; however, I'm betting you probably won't want to anyways...


In my next blog, we'll take a look at some places you Vancouver real estate dollar can buy you in other areas around the province.






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Summer Nostalgia: Exploring Gulf and San Juan Islands Heritage by Boat: Part Two

In my previous post about exploring the Gulf and San Juan Islands by boat, I covered my early days as a kid visiting San Juan and Henry Islands and taking in their rich history. What I didn't mention was the inspiration for that post and the property that got me thinking about all the good old days and the heritage of the islands around us.

As you can imagine, I see a plethora of beautiful waterfront homes managing Waterfront West, but from time to time, some of them really stand out to me. Although rarely available and few and far between, when they do come up on the site, I find myself drawn to the old homesteads, the magnificent Arts & Crafts heritage homes with roaming orchards and picturesque fields. These homes elicit in me a nostalgic calm and a yearning for a return to the simple life, when growing and harvesting your own food was your work and nights were filled with laughter, music and games played with others rather than the tap, tap, tap of the keyboard and the constant distraction of our electronic devices. There is really nothing like looking out at the ocean from an old Gulf Islands homestead with the sun shining, an orchard surrounding you and the sound of long grass blowing in the ocean breeze to take you away from the stress of our daily living.



Dreaming of days gone by: Denman Island Historic Home on Oceanfront Acreage $869, 000

This home, located on Denman Island, is one of those rarely available stately heritage homesteads that I dream about. Perhaps it is because my husband and I are in love with heritage homes and currently renovating our third one or perhaps it is because of the scarcity of large well-built Arts & Crafts homes in the Comox Valley (and vicinity), but every time I see the ad for this home, I pause and look wistfully through the pictures...so I decided to find out a little more about its history.

Originally settled in 1878 by the Graham Family, these 56 hectares of Denman landscape remained largely untouched, apart from a small orchard and dairy farm until the turn of the century, when it was purchased by Dr. Frederick Lindsay-Dickson, an Englishman and avid sportsman.

He built a new house in the 1920's for his children, and later grandchildren, who were raised on the property, which he continued to cultivate and successfully farm for many decades. Recently the estate was partitioned for the purpose of creating a 52 ha Lindsay-Dickson Nature Reserve, which borders and provides access to beautiful Graham Lake.



Impressive stairs and old growth clear fir wainscoting original to this 1920s home

The remaining 10 acres is comprised of forest, fields, creek, and a small orchard containing apple, pear and cherry trees. There still stands the original home, sensitively upgraded, but maintaining many original features.

The history associated with the home is unquantifiable - some of the original pioneers in the Comox Valley are represented, as is the architecture of the Arts & Crafts movement. It is an irreplaceable piece of times past.

If you're interested in more information about the home, please click here for more information.



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