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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, in this blog we try 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.

Life & Real Estate on Denman Island: A Haven of Beaches, Bees & Butterflies

When my husband and I first moved to the Comox Valley twelve years ago, my father-in-law had just purchased a waterfront acreage on Denman Island. The five-acre property was well-treed and the house itself (a vacant "fixer-upper") was situated in a sunny picturesque glade at the end of a long driveway. The true highlight of the property, however, was its location on Morrison Marsh, which gave it both privacy and unparalleled access to mother nature.


b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_8990.jpgOur private, sunny retreat in the forest on Denman Island. 


My father in-law immediately began the work of bringing the property back to its glory. He fixed up the interior of the home, cleared some land, built a chicken coop and then planted an organic vegetable garden. When we visited, we enjoyed taking it all in. Even coming from Courtenay, it felt like a real getaway from the city. We would sit by the garden on the sun-dappled patio, enjoying the buzz of hummingbird wings as they zoomed past or venture out to canoe on the marsh, where we would see a wide range of wild birds and even a beaver dam or two. It was the perfect retreat: A private and peaceful homestead with bountiful gardens, in a close knit community of creative and conservation minded people. The ability to enjoy this type of lifestyle is a large part of what makes Denman Island such a popular place for the influx of young urban homesteaders and active retirees moving there today.


b2ap3_thumbnail_lonepine.jpgLone Pine Farm, Denman Island: Rich in agricultural history, Denman Island is popular with young families involved in the clean food movement. 


If you are considering moving to one of the Gulf Islands, you are probably aware that each island has its own vibe. While neighbouring Hornby Island is known as a popular tourism destination, Denman keeps a low profile when it comes to tourism (according to a recent study, 85% of visitors to Denman are friends and family of residents). Denman enjoys hugely diverse settings of natural beauty with many forests and endless beaches that surround this long and narrow shaped island made up from a range of different geological substrates. The defining features that draw people to Denman (apart from being one ferry ride less than going to Hornby) are its rich agricultural history, pristine swimming lakes, and a year round active and vibrant community. Life on Denman is like stepping back into an era when time moved slower. It truly is a “slow island” and young and older newcomers alike have moved to Denman to enjoy a safe and peaceful place so “close to everything, but away from it all”.

b2ap3_thumbnail_imgres.jpgI recently spoke to our member agent and area real estate expert Bente Pilgaard, Managing Broker of RE/MAX The Islands, the longest serving real estate office on Denman Island,  about what it's like to live and work here.  I found out some very interesting facts about the island and its current real estate market.

To find out more, check out our Q&A with Bente below: 


1. What is the average price of a typical single family dwelling, lot or waterfront property on Denman?


The big market news for 2016 is that the market is showing signs of recovery after a slow 7 year period with about 2 sales/month average in the last 3 years. So far this year 11 properties have already sold, and we have seen a large increase in inquiries and office drop-ins here at RE/MAX. Offers are being written at near asking price and the island market has a great selection of still well priced properties for sale with its total 82 listings of accumulated inventory.  


Denman Island Real Estate Statistics for 2015

TOTAL SOLD 2015:    23  (lots and single family dwellings)

Average Sales price – Non waterfront

12 SFD $359,833

4 LOTS  $168,000  

Average Sales Price – Waterfront

7 SFD $620,623 
No waterfront lots sold in 2015. 


Denman Island Real Estate Statistics for 2016 

TOTAL SOLD  (As of May 1, 2016):    11  (lots and single family dwellings)

Average Sales price – Non waterfront

7 SFD $349,940

Average Sales price – Waterfront

3 SFD $721,333 

1 LOT  $286,000  


b2ap3_thumbnail_DSCN5703.jpgSpectacular ocean views at sunset from Denman Island. 


2. Can you tell us a bit about demographics? What is the typical profile of someone who lives on Denman year-round and where are buyers from?


Denman Island is home to 1100 full time residents of still active professionals, young and old farmers, IT consultants with a portable career, artists and retirees together forming a very robust community of old timers, newcomers and everything in between.

Located in the rain shadow of the Beaufort Mountain Range on Vancouver Island, Denman Island enjoys optimal conditions for gardening and growing food; some areas even have a Mediterranean style climate to support a more exotic range of crops like peaches and kiwis. In recent years we have seen many young families settling here to start small organic farms as their way of life and to support the local food security movement so rapidly developing in this fertile coastal area of BC. A great effect of this is the growing school population so welcomed after many years of declining numbers of students in our once 120 school children strong community school.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Chickadee-Lake.jpgChickadee Lake is part of Denman Island's large watershed and a popular summer swimming destination.


A large segment of our community are retired professionals, who are very active in the conservation efforts on the island. In 2002, 5% of the island was under protection, but today 25% of it has been set aside for conservation due to the tireless efforts of the Denman Conservancy Association as well as a local family, who recently organized 2000 acres of the island to be put under protection.  1700 acres of these form the new Denman Island Provincial Park surrounding Chickadee Lake near the Northlands.  

There is a lot of work being done in other conservation projects as well. Local volunteers have already built kilometres of beautiful trails in some of these park areas for all hikers and cyclists to enjoy for many years to come with more being planned every year. Outdoor pursuits are a common thread in island living on Denman with its abundance of recreational opportunities. Also, it was recently discovered that the island is home to a special kind of rare butterfly called the Taylor Checkerspot and now 10 hectares of parkland have been dedicated to develop the population and encourage breeding.


b2ap3_thumbnail_800px-Taylor_checkerspot_butterfly_on_yellowish_flower_euphydryas_editha_taylori.jpgDenman is home to this rare butterfly the Taylor Checkerspot and conservation efforts are in place to encourage breeding. Photo: Wikipedia Commons


Island living is not for everyone, but once settled in here on Denman, perhaps as a renter at first, many people find that this unique island becomes a truly meaningful place to call your home, a place where you belong and can make significant contributions to your community.  With today’s options of portable careers, and due to the advances in internet mobility, a fixed work place is no longer a necessity.  

For those looking to purchase here, our buyers are mostly coming from BC’s urban centres like Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver, with a growing number of US buyers taking advantage of their strong US dollar.  Albertan buyers are returning to Denman after many years of absence. They all share a desire to escape the hustle and bustle of city life with its noise and pollution, and to simplify their lives whether full time or part time. We see a lot of doers and dreamers, empty nesters and young idealists, Intellectuals and business people all here mixing and contributing to a multi-faceted fabric of island character, so easy to fall in love with.


3. What type of jobs are available for people who live on Denman year-round?


Traditional employment opportunities are scattered throughout the island. The ferries, the school, and the shops all employ a number of locals. As with many small communities, a good number of people are self-employed. Tradespeople, home support workers, consultants, and craftspeople, and the aforementioned farmers, form a large part of the work force. Those with IT experience are able to telecommute, though the proximity of Courtenay allows for a more traditional commute to a larger range of opportunities in virtually any industry.  


4. What are the popular waterfront neighbourhoods and beaches on Denman?



In the area around Fillongley Provincial Park, which features Denman Island’s only campground and main sandy beach, there are an extremely limited number of homes on ½ acre lots. This neighbourhood has a pronounced family-friendly feeling. 


The Northlands (THE POINT and THE PARKLANDS) 

At the north end of the Island is The Point Project, an 8 lot development with some newly built homes along the Komas Bluffs (3 large lots unsold), and just a little further south, the Parklands Project offers 13 new lots on sweeping acreages of recovering forest, having been logged 15 years ago.  Due to covenants protecting the area’s sand-dune ecosystem, including the bluff forest, people access the beach through a set of sturdy stairs at Morning Beach Park, another of Denman Island’s sandy, well-kept secrets. Largely undeveloped, this area is ideal for those seeking sweet isolation, but not too far from the village.


b2ap3_thumbnail_ArrowsmithAerialPhotography_Lot-7-10.jpgSand Bluffs at The Point / Morning Beach Park, Denman Island.


East Rd and “Little Burnaby” 

Anyone who has ever travelled to Denman’s sister island, Hornby, has passed through this charming area of homes on their way to the ferry. In reality, the area bears no resemblance to Burnaby, but is so nicknamed because of the denser population on smaller lot sizes relative to the rest of the island, typically around ½ acre.  Homes range from modest seasonal cottages to deluxe designer show homes, and the advantages of living in the area include an abundant water system, and close-knit community, a “talk-to-your-neighbours-over-the-fence” kind of feel. Prices of homes in this area tend to be lower, as they reflect the smaller property sizes.  


b2ap3_thumbnail_Lot-6-2.jpgThe area nicknamed "Little Burnaby" on Denman.


The West Side  

The West side of the island is all about watching the sun set over the Vancouver Island mountains. Beaches along this side might be shale or crushed oyster shell, pebble or fossil-studded rocky coastlines. With large acreages and warmer microclimates, this area lends itself very well to gardeners and hobby farmers alike.  Several waterfront homes are available here in all price brackets, some with brand new deluxe homes.


Boyle Point and South of the Hornby Ferry 

Further along East Rd, beyond the Hornby Ferry and on the way to Boyle Point Provincial Park, the road turns to gravel and one enters a forested area. With larger acreages, virtually no traffic, and houses set back from the road amidst the trees, it is sometimes difficult to believe anyone lives here. A few pebbled beaches are interspersed with rocky coves and calm swimming waters overlooking spectacular sunrises and views to Hornby Island.   


“Downtown” Denman 

Within walking distance of downtown Denman are properties ideal for retirees, with easy access to shops, the library, community hall, restaurants and the medical clinic. Virtually all homes in this area are located on moderate-sized, low-maintenance lots, and residents can enjoy the bustle of both pedestrian and marine traffic in the area. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_Nixon-beach-2.jpgLocated on the West Side of Denman not far from downtown, Nixon Beach features stunning sunsets overlooking the ocean & Vancouver Island.


5. What are the medical and elder support options on the island?


Denman Island has a full-service medical clinic with Doctors on call. The nearest hospital is 30 minutes away in Courtenay, and well-trained paramedics and first responders are available 24-7 in the event of an emergency.  

We have a very high profile dentist (a reconstructive surgery expert) who runs the dental bus between Denman and Hornby Islands.

A large number of other health professionals, including a Registered Massage Therapist, and an Acupuncturist and Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine, make their home and practice here, and excellent home support services are available to the island’s elders.


6. What about educational facilities? 


Denman Island Community School serves grades k-7, and high school students are taken by bus to Vanier in Courtenay. Many adults of all ages choose to further their education at North Island College in Courtenay, a short commute from Denman.  There is also a pre-school on the island. 


7. What do kids do for fun?


As in most waterfront communities in the summer, kids can be found playing in the water and along the shore of Denman’s many beaches and two lakes. The playground is a popular stop for local and visiting children, and the easy access to trails and parks arounds the island offers endless opportunities for nature walks.


b2ap3_thumbnail_DSCN7613.jpgResidents of Denman can choose from a multitude of water based activities in summer.


The Community School is the centre for children’s activities on the island.  It offers a number of after-school, evening and summertime activities including team sports, self-defence, crafts, and day camp. On Friday Nights, the school is dedicated to the very popular Teen Night. A couple of adult facilitators and our youth outreach worker help to organize a series of free-choice activities – the computer lab, gym, multi-purpose room are all available for sports, art activities, and cards or other games.  

The proximity of Courtenay/Comox means that high school aged children can participate in after school sports, band, and other extracurricular activities.  It also means that the movie theatre, swimming pools, and ice rink are available for child and youth enjoyment. 


8. How do you find living on the island and what are the transport options to Vancouver Island?


When I first moved to Denman, I knew it would be a big change from city living and I kept commuting to Vancouver for my semesters teaching at Emily Carr University. I spent 4 days in the city and 3 days a week on Denman until I realized that the island had everything I could ever want or need. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2016-05-12-at-12.58.17-PM.pngThe Denman Village Square in downtown Denman.


Activities abound on Denman. Culturally, Denman is a hopping place with a summer art gallery series and a concert series year-round. Locals in the know might be able to direct you to a house concert. In addition to outdoor activities such as hiking swimming or kayaking, residents keep active throughout the year by community organized Nia, badminton, or Sunday Soccer. 

For foodies, Denman offers three great eateries. The Café-Pourium, located in a cozy vintage nook in the back of the Hardware Emporium, offers great espresso drinks and light lunches. The café at the Guesthouse often features live music, art openings, and other evening events, while the seasonal Chuck Wagon can simply not be beat for alfresco burgers with an ocean view. 

There is a General Store for food and other necessities, the Hardware Emporium for building and gardening needs, and Abraxas supplies books, stationery, gifts and art supplies.

We have the ability to take a 10-minute ferry ride to the white beaches on Hornby for summer fun and Friday Jazz nights, or a 10 minute ferry ride in the opposite direction to Vancouver Island (approximately $20 return trip with discount card). The ferry runs almost hourly, from 6:40 am until 9:45 at night, so the access is one of the best in all the Gulf Islands.  

Today, a day in town is a fun outing, but not a necessity.

A hard place to leave once you are here” says Bente. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2931-1.jpg"Tree" Island Paradise, Just off of Denman Island. 


I will leave you with one other little known Denman Island gem. The Provincial Marine Park named Sandy Island (locally known as Tree Island) is located just off of the northwest tip of the island. At low tide, you can walk miles of sandy beach to get to this amazing little paradise. There is a beautiful community built staircase from Morning Tree Park which has made the area more accessible to locals and the public. 

Thanks to Bente for all of her information and fabulous photos.

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