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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

Will Albertan Real Estate Slump Effect B.C. Waterfront Sales?

Lately I have been thinking about if the downturn in Alberta's real estate market will effect the sale of B.C. waterfront in 2008. Since our launch, our Canadian site traffic has consisted of 20-25% Albertan visitors and many of our member real estate agents report selling their high-end waterfront homes to Albertans. The word is out-Albertans love B.C. waterfront and have been buying it up steadily in the last few years. The question is, will this demand last with the current market conditions in Calgary and Edmonton?

I decided to take a look at our site statistics to see if I could see any changes in our traffic recently. I compared the traffic from Sept. 5, 2006-Dec. 5, 2006 to the exact same period for 2007. The results? Our site traffic has increased substantially and Albertans still comprise exactly 21% of our Canadian visitors. Albertans comprised 17.4% of our worldwide traffic during this period of 2006, while they made up 16.9% during the same period this year-a drop of a mere 0.5%. Interestingly, I don't believe this minor drop reflects a waning of interest from our Albertan neighbours. Rather, I think it is a result of some additional marketing we have done on sites in the US and abroad, which have resulted in an increase in visitors from other countries.

While our stats show that Albertan interest in B.C. waterfront is still strong, some anecdotal evidence points to the B.C. market already being mildly effected. We have some family friends in Edmonton who put their home on the market about 8 months ago hoping to sell and move to Kelowna. Their house still hasn't sold and their plans to buy in B.C. are on hold. In addition, Ozzie Jurock states in his recent newsletter that he expects to see some Albertan investors backing off of the Kelowna area in 2008.

So what is the conclusion from all of this? Judging from our stats, the interest in B.C. waterfront from Albertans is just as strong as it was last year. In addition, many of our member real estate agents report that they continue to see an influx of Albertans looking for waterfront. Apart from the real estate market, the Albertan economy remains strong. I believe that those Albertans who have decided to buy here to make a lifestyle/retirement change are still set on purchasing; however, the continued increasing B.C. prices (forecast by CMHC) and impact of the Alberta slump may make this more difficult to achieve for those Albertans dependent on selling their own homes to buy their B.C. property. The result may be a more balanced waterfront market and more options for buyers in 2008.

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Average Single Family Waterfront Price up $300, 000 on Sunshine Coast

Our #4 area for single family waterfront sales this year (and the one with the most noticeable price increase!) is Sechelt (Rural) While the District of Sechelt has had a number of waterfront single family sales this year with an average selling price of $677, 445, it is the whole area surrounding Sechelt-basically from Gibsons up (but not including the actual Town of Gibsons or District of Sechelt) that is included in these statistics. In addition, this jurisdiction includes Gambier and Keats Islands, Nelson and Hardy Islands and Jervis Inlet. Quite a large area to say the least!

For many years, the Sunshine Coast has been a destination for Vancouverties looking for a weekend place to "get away from it all". Popular waterfront areas on the Sunshine Coast include Halfmoon Bay, Pender Harbour and Robert's Creek to name a few. While the market for vacation homes remains hot here, in recent years, more buyers have been purchasing primary homes and making a permanent move to the area. The Sunshine Coast Regional District had an 8.4% population increase between 2001-2006 and the average age in the District is 47.2 years old according to the 2006 census.

For the last two years, the market on the Sunshine Coast has been balanced with a sales to listing ratio of between 0.5-1 based on a three month moving average. According to the MLS Housing price index, the average price of a single family home on the Sunshine Coast has risen 8.6% over the last 12 months to $409, 740. Permit values in the Sunshine Coast Regional District have increased dramatically since 2001. 2006 reached 73.3 million!

I spoke to Patti Gaudet of Prudential Sussex Realty , Madeira Park and Bruce LaSuta of Prudential Sussex Realty in Sechelt about the Sunshine Coast waterfront real estate market. Bruce says "the majority of our Buyers are from the lower mainland (Vancouver area) but we are also seeing many Albertan Buyers as well this year. The internet and the information it supplies make our jobs as Realtors much easier as we are finding that the Buyers are more informed on the local market."

Regarding the "sub-prime" issue in the States, Bruce says "it is having little effect on us in Canada 'though the Eastern Buyers are dwindling off likely because of the high Canadian dollar that has really hurt some manufacturers, especially in the auto industry. Long-term, real estate is still very desirable and the baby boomers (over 50% of them are over 50 years old this year !) here in Canada are purchasing their retirement homes in anticipation of them leaving the workforce."

Bruce is right on the mark with this comment. If you have been following our blog for the last few months, you are aware of the effect of this mass exodus of baby boomers from larger cities to smaller towns, where they can upgrade their residence to a waterfront, view home or small acreage and enjoy a higher standard of living than they may have had in they city. 

Patti agrees that most of the buyers they see are coming from Vancouver. Interestingly, she says that properties with docks and foreshore leases in Pender Harbour come at a premium (about $100, 000 more than those without she estimates) as Lower Mainlanders who have purchased vacation homes there like to boat up for weekends and avoid the ferry traffic.

As for waterfront prices in the area, Patti noted that some buyers are still under the misconception that they can get a waterfront place in the price range of $400, 000-500, 000 but that this is no longer the case in this busy waterfront market (with the exception of leasehold property). Indeed, based on our October statistics, single family waterfront homes in this jurisdiction had risen by an average of over $300, 000 from $697,628 in 2006 to an average sale price of$1, 007, 366 so far in 2007. Price-wise, anything under $1, 000 000 in the popular waterfront neighbourhoods is hot, according to our Realtors.

Note: Patti has noted a slight decrease in prices in recent weeks . Although typical for this time of year, this is also happening in Vancouver. Click here for Ozzie Jurock's comments on the Vancouver market.


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Top 5 B.C. Waterfront Areas

After posting the newly updated B.C. waterfront and prime view sales stats from MyLandcor in the members area of Waterfront West, I thought I would take a quick look at the areas with the highest number of waterfront sales (so far) for 2007. So without further ado, here are the results (single family sales only):

1. Williams Lake (Rural)

2. Gulf Islands (Rural)

3. (Port) Alberni Rural

4. Sechelt (Rural)

5. Duncan (Rural)

Although these stats don't tell the whole story (some areas have more waterfront than others so they are bound to be higher on the list), they give a good idea of the current action in the market. Other notable single family areas include Salmon Arm (Rural), the Central Okanagan (Rural), Powell River (Rural), North Saanich (District), Courtenay (Rural), Nanaimo (Rural), Kamloops (City), Chilliwack (District) and finally West Vancouver, where the average SF sale price was an astounding $5, 601, 800!

I decided to take a look back at last year's stats for these regions and compare. Although the current stats for 2007 do not include October-December, it looks like sales may be down slightly year over year; however, waterfront single family prices are up a staggering 10-30% in the above 5 regions. The biggest increase of the 5 areas was in Sechelt, where the average sale price went up by over $300, 000 year over year (and number of sales increased to boot)!

Waterfront Sales Statistics Top 5 Areas in B.C. by # Sales (SFD)

We will post more market details in January when the stats for 2007 are complete. If you would like to view the current stats, just register for our complimentary Buyer's Club by clicking the VISA symbol at the bottom left hand side of the site.

Finally, as promised, here is the first recently reduced property you may want to browse. The owner (private sale) of this beautiful riverfront property has just dropped the price of Option B (113 acres with 3 homes, 2 barns, workshop, greenhouse, infrastructure - one mile river frontage) from $850, 000 to $775,000 for a quick sale. The land is in the wide part of the valley with lots of sun and removed from the road by a 100 yard strip of forested land and a 200 foot river (bridge). The property would be perfect for organic farming.

Kettle River Property

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2008 Forecast at Jurock Conference

Last weekend Waterfront West staff attended the B.C. real estate guru Ozzie Jurock's 2008 Real Estate Outlook to find out what he predicts for B.C. markets for the coming year.


For all of the recreational real estate fans out there, Ozzie advised to "go where the boomers go" and B.C. areas he alluded to for future growth in this sector included much of Vancouver Island, as well as some smaller towns in the Okanagan and Shuswap areas.


A recent survey by Angus Reid Strategies showed that one of every four Canadian adults would like to buy a vacation property. Forty-one percent of these buyers were over 55 years old and eighty-three percent of them wish to pay off their mortagages on these properties or have clear title within 15 years of purchase. Furthermore, waterfront properties are most popular with B.C. buyers (39%).

Based on these survey results, the high demand for rec. property, coupled with the availability of extra cash and cheap mortgages is keeping the market brisk for B.C. recreational property. Many of our subscribing real estate agents have reported a surge in activity in the last few weeks of August and beginning of September, and our site stats have shown an increase of anywhere from 500-2500 more unique visitors month over month since January so the demand is definitely out there! Stay tuned to this blog to find out the top 10 recreational areas in B.C. as determined by our site statistics (to be released next spring).

For real estate investors or speculators, the general advice of the day was to make sure you want what you buy. Despite some US markets preforming well (Seattle gained 12% in price this year according to NAR), US headlines are grim in light of the recent sub-prime mortgage debacle. Investors must be aware of the psychological impact of the media on the market. Although B.C.'s economy remains strong, as does Alberta's, Ozzie pointed to the high listing to sales ratio in Edmonton (which he believes is unwarranted) as a possible indicator of the psychological effect the negative media has created.

The other "fly in the ointment" could be a possible debasement of currency and all implications that would have (ie. raised interest rates). Although he believes this is unlikely, he advised real estate investors to exercise caution and make sure to do their due diligence to make sure properties cash flow and/or make sense from an investment perspective. He advised that if you are planning to buy or need any type of loan to get it in writing now as he believes banks will tighten up on lending to avoid loan defaults.

On the upside, for those of us who think against the grain, a little more bad news may cause US markets in select areas to slip further and create some good buying opportunities.

Finally, he says if you are buying for yourself, buy the best you can afford and enjoy it to the fullest!

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