BC Market Insights
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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

New Float Plane Flights from DT Vancouver to Comox Harbour

As I opened up the local paper this morning I was excited by the news that a new float plane service is going to be offered between downtown Vancouver and Comox Harbour. The service, which will offer 6 flights M-F and 2 flights daily on weekends is going to be offered by West Coast Air and is scheduled to begin April 1st.

I can tell you as a Comox Valley resident, this service is definitely needed. Many times I have wished for this service with friends coming to visit and/or needing to be in Vancouver for business. The question is, will the price tag of $149 one-way be the right price to make the service fly when harbour-to-harbour flights are available from Nanaimo at nearly half the price? Only time will tell, but hopefully it catches on!

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B.C. Recreational Market Heating Up for Summer

The beginning of March marked a noticeable increase in inquiries to our sellers and traffic on the site, signalling a continued demand for B.C. waterfront property in 2008. Despite higher prices and a fewer sales of waterfront province wide in 2007 than 2006, traffic on the site has almost doubled since last year and shows no signs of slowing. The stats listed below show unique visitors to our site last January, February and March as well as this year's numbers:

January 2007 - 5, 862

February 2007 - 6, 601

March 2007 - 7, 405

January 2008 - 9,861

February 2008 - 9,323 (leap yr)

March 2008 Forecast currently 12. 000-13, 000

Furthermore, email inquiries have picked up and sellers are reporting increased interest from serious buyers in the last few weeks.

Despite the real estate slowdown in Alberta, we are still seeing 23% of our Canadian visitors originating there, over 50% of who are from Calgary. This is exactly the same statistic as last year during the same time period, so there is obviously still pent up demand for B.C. waterfront in Alberta. In addition to these numbers, the percent of US (yes, US!) and UK visitors has increased slightly year over year.

Although I am no psychic, I expect the market to be more balanced this year than in past years, with buyers in the million plus price range taking more time to choose their property. The sense I get is that there are a lot of buyers out there with anywhere from $300, 000 up to about $$650, 000 or 700, 000 to spend on a second home that they will retire to and when the right properties come available in this price range they are snapped up quickly.

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Going in for Surgery Tomorrow

Some of you may have noticed I did not write a blog last week. I have been "under the weather" since November and am going in for surgery to hopefully fix me tomorrow! I will try to write something next week, pending a speedy recovery. Cheers!
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New! View Virtual Tours Directly from Search Pages

Yesterday, one of our members requested a new function on the site. She asked that we place a link to any virtual tours available for properties on our site directly in the search results.

Results from a site poll taken last year showed virtual tours as one ofthe most popular ways of viewing properties so I had been contemplating how to incorporate them onto the site. The initial thought would have been to provide virtual tour production as an extra service and host them directly on our site: quite a big undertaking considering most of our members already work with virtual tour providers and have their tours hosted online through these companies. We have always allowed our members to post links to these tours from within the actual ad content; however, until yesterday, it had never ocurred to me that we could easily make these more visible with a quick change to the site.

So we decided to add the new feature "View Virtual Tour" with a direct link to these tour as a special feature. Now, when buyers are searching the site, they will see the list of properties along with the thumbnails and basic information (price, city, etc...) and a direct link to the virtual tours (if available). 

Please keep in mind, that at the time I am writing this, most of the properties will not have this link as it has just been implemented, but you should sart to see this option more and more as time progresses. Happy house hunting!

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Nakusp An Affordable Kootenay Gem

   

As I sat down to decide what my blog would be about this week, I took a look at the stats from 2007 and filtered out some of the more affordable places in the province to buy waterfront. The list includes places such as Ashcroft, Prince George, Port Clements, Smithers, Trail, Kamloops, Merritt, Zeballos and Nakusp. Although many of these places may be worth more investigation, the one that I noticed immediately was Naksup. I had been there for a wedding a few years back and found the picturesque countryside and quiet serenity of the lakefront a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Last year, we featured an investment project on Arrow Lakes (Galena Shores) on our site. The developer, from Alberta, received many inquiries about the project and over-subscribed his project quickly, so I knew there was demand out there for property in the area. Within reasonable driving distance from Calgary/Edmonton and with waterfront prices sometimes half (or even 1/3) of what they are at Lake Invermere, who wouldn't take a closer look at this area? 

Located in the West Kootenays, in south central BC, Nakusp offers numerous recreational opportunities including hot springs, boating, hunting, swimming, hiking, camping, ice fishing, golfing, skiing, etc...With a population of approximately 1, 600, the community has an arena, a small hospital, a waterfront boardwalk and even high speed internet!

Ironically, as I sat down to write this blog last night, I opened my latest weekly email from Jurock.com and one of the main stories was specifically about Nakusp and the affordability of waterfront there compared to other areas of BC. One thing Ozzie pointed to in his article was the millions of dollars going into upgrades in nearby Revelstoke and Fairmont Hot Springs, which should benefit the Nakusp area. Ozzie states that it could be the "sleeper market in the Kootenays." I was glad to know I was on track with one of BC's biggest real estate gurus, but hope he doesn't think I'm stealing his story ideas (!) Although we currently don't have any properties on the site in the area (lakefront listings are scarce), the Kootenay Lake Village on nearby Kootenay Lake has been generating quite a lot of interest. More about Kootenay Lake in a future blog!

 

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Increased Interest from UK, German Buyers in 2008

Towards the end of last year, I received a couple of phone calls from large property websites in the UK looking to add some Canadian properties to their offerings. Apparently, feedback from their site visitors indicated that they wanted to see more properties in Canada. When looking at our site stats, I have also noticed an increase in visitors from the UK and well as Germany recently.

From Jan 30, 2007 until today, the percent of UK visitors to our site was 3.3 and Germans made up 1.7%. If we look at the stats for January of this month; however, UK visitors are have increased to 4.6% of our visitors and Germans to 2.9%.

Freddy Marks, our member real estate agent who works in the Cariboo, reports that many of his buyers are from Europe. In fact, he estimates that 35% of his business comes from Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. We have also received direct inquiries recently from UK buyers asking about specific properties for sale on the site.

Anecdotally, my mom has a rental property and her last two tenants have been from overseas: a family from Scotland who recently immigrated here and a couple from England who have moved here to teach skiing. It only took a quick Google search to find this recent article in the Independent promoting the virtues purchasing of Canadian resort property.

A recent survey of British and Irish property buyers done by business research firm Datamonitor showed an expected annual growth rate of 13% for the overseas property industry. While Spain, France and the US were the top three countries of interest for these buyers, Canada was amongst the most popular locations. Moreover, the study showed that most of these buyers were paying cash and buying for lifestyle.

Why Canada? Our high standard of living, natural beauty, the strength of the real estate market and rising values over the last few years, as well as the favourable exchange rate make it appealing as an investment and lifestyle choice for international buyers.

While we are still seeing a tremendous amount of interest from Alberta and the Lower Mainland on the site, we will be keeping an eye on the stats to see if this international interest continues to increase.

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View All BC Assessment Values Free Until January 31

Ever wanted to see how much your neighbour's house is worth? Or find out the values of homes in a neighbourhood you are interested in? Until January 31st, you can do so for free by visiting BC assessment's website at: http://www.bcassessment.bc.ca. New to the site this year, you will also be able ro view recent "sold" prices; a nice bonus if you are looking to buy. Property owners who wish to appeal their assessments (to lower taxes), may do so but the appeals must be filed by midnight PST on Jan 31, 2008.

 

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Busy Start to 2008 Waterfront Market, 2007 Highlights

If our site statistics prove correct, 2008 could be a busy year in the BC waterfront market. Typically, unique visitors to our site increase every month from January until August and then slightly decline until the end of December. Our current forecast for this month is for approximately 10, 000 unique visitors, which is similar to our numbers at the height of the season for last July so this warrants well for 2008 waterfront sales.
In addition, inquiries going through the site have increased and some of our member Realtors are reporting a busy start to the year.

Although we haven't received the final stats for 2007 yet, we anticipate the results will show that 2007 waterfront sales were down slightly over the record-breaking 2006 sales, but that prices were up in most areas. Judging by the number of inquiries going through the site , two "sleeper" areas to note (although already gaining in popularity) were the lake country north of Kamloops (where prices are lower than other resort areas in BC) and the Cowichan Lake area on Vancouver Island.

In speaking with many Realtors throughout the year, we noticed a trend toward a quieter waterfront market in areas previously bolstered by US buyers- in particular southern regions of Vancouver Island outside of Victoria (Sooke) and the Southern Gulf Islands. Watch these areas in Spring for a possibly emerging buyers market.

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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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Global Warming Concern Creating Niche Market for B.C. Riverfront

Most of the inquiries that go through our site go to our sellers; however, we also receive direct emails from buyers asking for advice about where to buy or asking us to keep an eye out for specific types of property for them. When we first launched the site, I had an email that read something like this:

"We are looking for a place to build an off-the-grid, sustainable living home. We would like to purchase a few acres of land with riverfront or a stream to create micro hydro power."

Although I knew of a movement towards sustainable living, I was surprised to see an inquiry like this so soon after the site launched; however, the percent of inquiries like this that come through to us have made me wonder if we could set up some kind of a search for these properties (although I imagine this might be quite complicated!).

All of this interest got me wondering what I didn't know that these people knew, so I delved a little deeper into the reasons for their desire to live off the grid.

The reasons all seem to come down to the same thing-attempting to make less of a footprint on the earth while having your own means of creating energy in a possible future of global warming and a certain future of higher energy costs. Here is a citation from a recent email from a buyer from "down-south," who references the film www.whatawaytogomovie.com to qualify his statement:

"I (only) passed through there (Vancouver Island) on the way to Glacier Bay, Alaska in '05 while investigating the effects of climate change, the results of which are one of the reasons I am relocating. The other reason being that the entire informed and concerned population of North America seems to be headed your way for the same reason, so I should be in good company regardless."

After doing a bit of research on global warming, it seems that many areas of B.C., while they will be effected to a degree by global warming, may be a safer bet than areas such as the southern States (particularly parts of California, Florida, Georgia & Alabama) and large cities in Asia and India. I even managed to find this web site www.droughtscore.com, which informs people looking to relocate in the US on where to live to avoid drought (!) and another article about lack of water supply and the problems it is causing in Georgia, Florida & Alabama. The owner of www.droughtscore.com, Bert Sperling even lists the areas most at risk for being affected by global warming in the US on his web site www.bestplaces.net. Click here for article. Click here for US Drought monitor.

Although riverfront land may be at risk of increased flooding from warming, it seems the trade off (energy and water availability) is more than worth the risk of living somewhere with no access to either. The key with this type of property would be to build at a safe distance from the riverbank to protect your buildings and ensure you are also protecting the ecosystem by creating a good environment for salmon spawning.

While there is some concern about large scale micro-hydro initiatives in B.C. (click here for article), it seems most of the buyers who email us are looking to create small versions for themselves of what the energy giants are tapping into with the government's recent focus on "greener" energy initiatives.

It is not just in our area of the real estate industry that people are becoming more aware of eco-friendly ways of living. A recent survey by Royal LePage showed that almost 75% of Canadian homebuyers are looking for a "green-improved" property in their next home and that 63% would pay more for an environmentally friendly home. Certain players in the building industry are already responding with more eco-friendly development practices. Home Depot now produces the "Eco-Options" magazine to highlight its "green" products and the latest edition of "This Old House" to arrive at our door was titled "Save Money, Save Energy, Build Smart: 53 pages of products and projects for a safer, healthier home."

Some real estate brokerages are even going green including one in Vancouver, MacDonald Realty, which has recently launched a program called MacGreen. The program is a carbon-offsetting plan (free to buyers and sellers) whereby the real estate agents can donate carbon credits as part of the real estate transaction. In an industry where driving is a necessary part of the job, this is one way the agents and brokerages can contribute to the health of the environment.

(If you are interested in buying or selling a waterfront/view property in the Lower Mainland and partcipating in this program, please contact our member Realtor and environmental lawyer, Patricia Houlihan at 604-376-7653 or visit her website at www.waterfrontvancouver.ca.)

 

 

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Seven Imperial Oil Marine Fuel Stations Face Closure in BC

An article in yesterday's Vancouver Sun caught my eye as it mentioned the impending closure of two of Imperial Oil's Esso marine fuel stations used by recreational boaters and commuters in Vancouver. The stations in question are at West Vancouver's Fisherman's Cove and in False Creek; two critical locations to boat owners in the area as there are currently no other marine fuel suppliers at these locations. According to the article, the closure is causing a panic amongst boat owners, who are loading up on fuel by hand and creating a potentially dangerous situation in the process. 

Initially, Imperial had planned to sell the West Vancouver station to Bruce Falkins, the current operator of the station; however, after doing his due diligence and agreeing to upgrade the oil tanks to the required "Enviro" tanks, Bruce was told that Imperial will no longer sell the station but plans to destroy it because of liability fears concerning the structure of the building. According to Bruce, in addition to the inconvenience caused by a closure, the lack of gas in these areas could be a concern to boater safety as the West Vancouver station is used by various emergency service providers. Currently, Bruce is trying to have Imperial reconsider the sale and is asking for any concerned citizens to write to Imperial asking them to overturn the decision. 

Prior to this year, Imperial has sold its marine fuel stations in other crucial areas such as Victoria's Inner Harbour, Gibsons and Deep Cove, so the decision to destroy some of its remaining stations rather than selling them comes as a surprise. It would be interesting to find out what their lawyers have found to cause all of the concern and have them pay to destroy these stations.

I have put a call in to Imperial and will post the other 5 locations in this blog when/if I find out where they are. They may be sold rather than closed depending on the locations and sturctures in question.

Note:

All of this talk about closing gas stations and the panic that has ensued, got me thinking about a documentary I recently viewed regarding the future of oil production and how the lack thereof will effect us. If you're interested, you can click here to link to the movie's web site: A Crude Awakening, The Oil Crash

 

 

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Waterfront Still Affordable around Cowichan Lake/Dunca

After looking at waterfront property around the province for much of the day, I consider a single family lake or oceanfront property under $650, 000 to be a good price on southern Vancouver Island and in the current market. While investigating the market in our 5th area for single family waterfront sales this week (Duncan Rural), I got excited about some of the seemingly good opportunities around the Duncan area. According to our stats from MyLandcor, Duncan Rural includes areas such as Shawnigan Lake , Mill Bay, Cowichan Lake, Youbou, Cherry Point, etc...

Having lived in Victoria most of my life, I remember Shawnigan Lake as a popular destination for summer getaways. In those days, it seemed a long way out of the city but with the recent growth of the Western Communities , it seems you are barely out of the city when you reach the infamous "Malahat." Now it seems these areas are just a hop, skip and a jump from Victoria and with the population of Victoria spilling over the Malahat into areas like Mill Bay, Duncan and Shawnigan Lake I am suprised that the waterfront prices aren't higher. While Cowichan Lake is a little farther away, it is still within a two hours drive of downtown Victoria-not bad as a vacation destination considering Ozzie Jurock considers anything 4 hours from Vancouver a shoe-in for vacation property.

Our member Realtor, Norm deWit, owner of Osborne Realty and www.waterfrontvancouverisland.com, specializes in waterfront on the Island and particularly the area around Duncan including Lake Cowichan, Shawnigan Lake, Youbou, etc...While Norm's office says this year was a bit slower (which our stats reflect-click here for reference), the average sale price for single family waterfront in this region only increased (so far) by just over $65, 000-a far cry from other areas such as the Sunshine Coast, where prices in some areas went up over $300, 000 since last year. A quick search of the MLS "Duncan" region shows lakefront for under $500, 000 and even oceanfront property close to $400, 000 (!)

Who is buying in this area? Norm says they are seeing buyers mainly from Alberta and other parts of B.C. but also some from Europe, the U.S. and even Mexico.

Norm's value pick's for the area are listed below:

One of the last lots in a beautiful waterfront development $415, 000

Cowichan Lake Lot

Lake View Home with access to Dock and Lake $299, 900

lake cowichan

 

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Oprah Purchasing in the Comox Valley?

I know that I usually only write my blogs once a week but after looking through the local paper this morning I felt the need to write a short entry today to keep you all up to date with the latest waterfront news.

For a few weeks now, there has been a rumour going around the Comox Valley that Oprah has purchased the famed Filberg house in Comox, currently on the market for $10, 000 000. I first heard about it from my husband's barber who, as the story goes, had a client who lived next door to the famed house and had been told that it had sold to Oprah. Sounds like a really trusted source, right? LOL

Anyhow, I decided to dig deeper into the story to see what I could find out. The listing Realtor's office said that the property was still for sale, but that the property next door had sold mid-summer. This was around the same time that Oprah sailed up the island on Jimmy Pattison's yacht, apparently stopping to dine just off of Denman Island and visiting the village of Alert Bay further north on the island. The office claims that this is the only way they could have seen the rumour getting started (although I'm sure if a high profile buyer like Oprah had purchased in the Valley the office wuld be mum about it anyhow).

I didn't realize how fast the story got around until I opened up the local paper today to find an article, which basically reiterates what I had already discovered-that it was all a rumour, but alludes to the possibility that it could have been Jimmy Pattison who might have been interested in real estate here.

This brings me to another rumour that has been circulating here, which is that Donald Trump apparently mentioned the Comox Valley as being one of the best places to buy on an Oprah show last year. I have never written about this either, as I have never had proof of it. I even wrote to the show to ask about it but never heard back. If anyone has any proof of this, please drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll look into it.

Finally, a record breaking waterfront sale in West Vancouver. A home on Radcliffe Ave. sold for $30, 000 000-(more than any house in Canada) to a Canadian(!) Annual taxes on the property are close to a mere $100, 000. Click here to see video (watch Thursday news).

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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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Sproat Lake Vacation Homes Hot with B.C. Urbanites

With the recent California wildfires, you may catch a glimpse of our #3 waterfront area on your local news. Located near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, Sproat Lake, which accounts for the majority of waterfront sales in the Alberni Valley is home to the Mars water bombers that are due to arrive in San Diego today. Our member real estate agent Dave Koszegi of RE/MAX Mid-Island Realty and owner of www.midislandhomes.com, gave us the rundown on the waterfront market in the Alberni Valley.

Waterfront (Single Family) on Sproat Lake can range anywhere from around $600, 000 - $1, 500, 000; however, Sproat Lake properties have been listed for up to $4, 000, 000 (!) in the past. Dave says last summer was a busy one for Sproat Lake waterfront. He has had 29 sales transactions for lakefront properties over the course of the season and has noticed (as have some of our other agents) a recent surge of activity again in the waterfront market. Note: I like to think this is due to my recent blog, which recommended that now is a great time to buy waterfront, but I'm sure there are other contributing factors. Perhaps the short summer left us pining for more sun and dreaming of lazy days by the beach.

 

One of the most surprising things that came up in my conversation with Dave was the fact that although the market is extremly busy, he has not seen many buyers from Alberta in the area. This seems to be an anomaly in the B.C. waterfront market. Dave says he has seen some interest from Europeans as well as Californians, but comments that the bulk of the buyers hail from large B.C. cities. Indeed, with it's location on central Vancouver Island, it makes sense that B.C. buyers (particularly from Victoria) looking for vacation property would find Sproat Lake attractive with it's affordable (in waterfront terms) prices and abundance of recreational opportunities.

 

Dave says his hottest properties so far this year have been eight luxury townhouses in a gated community, six of which sold right away, listed between $629, 000 and $750, 000. With the majority of buyers hailing from Vancouver and Victoria and buying primarily for vacation purposes, it makes sense that these would be popular given the low maintenance requirements. Another hot product at the lake is the Dockside on Sproat Lake Community, with only 3 of 8 semi-waterfront lots still available (priced from $269, 900). Links to both properties are available below:

Mya Beach - Lakefront Luxury Town Homes

Mya beach luxury townhomes sproat lake

Dockside at Sproat Lake - Lots

dockside lakefront lots at sproat lake

 

 

 

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Canadian Boomers Driving Gulf Islands Waterfront Market

As I began my research into the Gulf Islands this week, I came up with mixed reports of sales activity. As you will see below, the higher priced markets previously driven by US buyers are suffering, while islands with more affordable waterfront are still busy. Canadian boomers planning to retire in the next few years are keeping the markets active for waterfront property in the Gulf Islands.

I spoke with a few of our member real estate agents about the areas they work including Savary Island, Denman, Hornby and Gabriola Islands. In addition, I spoke briefly to Scott Simmons about the Salt Spring Island waterfront market. Here's the scoop:

Savary Island

Savary is a small boat access only island, located at the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast and is rumored to be the closest thing to a tropical isle you will find in BC. Rick Thaddeus, our member agent on Savary and owner of www.savary.ca says, "since the early 1900's people have come to Savary Island, drawn by its sandy beaches and temperate climate." .

While Savary used to be a destination popular with in-the-know Vancouverites, Rick says Albertans as well as locals from the Sunshine Coast are discovering this little paradise. While beachfront properties rarely change hands, Rick says a few south bank listings sold in a hurry last summer. He has recently listed a new one (details below) and expects a couple more in the near future so stay tuned to the site if you are interested.

Savary Island, South Bank Cabin & Studio

Savary for sale

Denman and Hornby Islands:

Denman and Hornby are located off the East Coast of Vancouver Island about 20 minutes drive south of Courtenay. While many people live on the islands year-round, Hornby is a favorite vacation spot for locals, with fantastic sandy swimming beaches.

Jack Forsyth of RE/MAX The Islands reports that although waterfront prices have increased over the past couple of years (resulting in lower sales volume) the market is strong for waterfront properties priced between $500,000 -$600,000 as well as large waterfront acreages priced up to $1, 500 000. He also says that non-waterfront acreages (5 acres+) with a cottage are extremely popular when available.

Who is buying on Denman and Hornby? According to Jack, the majority of buyers are from the Lower Mainland and Alberta. He noted the popularity of the islands has increased due to Westjet's direct flights to the Comox Valley which make Denman and Hornby easily accessible from Edmonton & Calgary. He has also noticed a decrease in US buyers, most likely due to the falling US dollar, although he says Americans only comprised about 10% of the market in the past.

Two more tidbits from Denman/Hornby:

The office has noticed an increase in serious waterfront buyers in the last few weeks. It seems that people looking last summer are making decisions so they can get ready for next spring/summer or maybe even have their vacation home ready for Christmas.

Most of the buyers looking here are purchasing their properties as vacation homes, although some are considering retiring to the islands in the long term.

Here is a recently reduced value pick from Jack's office (apparently a beautiful property):

Oceanfront Acreage $598, 000

Denman Island

Gabriola Island

A 20-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo, Gabriola provides an alternative for those who want to live on a Gulf Island but be a hop-skip and a jump from a major centre.

Carol Martin of Coast Realty Gabriola and owner of the web site www.gabriolamudgerealestate.com, says that the majority of the buyers on Gabriola are Canadian, coming from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. As in most of our other regions, the buyers are looking for a recreational property to retire to in a few years.

What's hot on Gabriola? Carol says they are seeing quite a few lower priced properties with and without homes being sold. At the other end of the spectrum, large acreages, with and without oceanfront are also hot.

Salt Spring Island

I have been visiting Salt Spring Island every summer for over 15 years and what I couldn't believe this year was how much busier the island is getting. Judging by the crowds, number of vendors and lack of parking space at the popular Saturday market, I was sure there was some sort of event in town. I even went so far as to ask someone if this was the case, but was assured that this was just normal. On a recent second trip in late September, the market was still buzzing so it seems this is a permanent change.

From an outsider's view, this can be seen as a positive thing. My husband and I had friends who bought on Salt Spring a few years ago and decided to raise their family there. They sold when they realized that the commute into Victoria (and subsequent sleep overs at friends' houses) was getting to be too much for them. Now, it seems that there are more community resources to support young families, and possibly more island based jobs on the way with the growing population.

I spoke to Scott Simmons, who writes a blog on Salt Spring real estate and recently posted an article about the "buyer's market" currently taking place in the waterfront market there as a result of the decline of the US dollar. Although it seems things have picked up a bit since this blog post, he still says it's a great time to buy right now with a good supply of listings available. Indeed, a quick MLS search shows 56 waterfront properties available on Salt Spring right now, ranging from $799, 000 to just under a cool 6 million. Scott says US buyers have all but disappeared and for a long time they were keeping the waterfront market active, so now might be a good time to take a second look at Salt Spring if you had written it off.

Summary

After taking a look at these Gulf Island micro markets, here are my conclusions:

  • The majority of waterfront buyers are buying a vacation home which they plan to retire to.
  • Islands with waterfront acreages available under $1, 500 000 and single family waterfront under $600,000 (and even $1, 000 000 IMHO are still seeing lots of interest).
  • Properties (specifically small acreages with cabin) under $400, 000 are a hot commodity.
  • Markets further South (Salt Spring) with higher price points that have depended on US buyers have slowed down (my guess is $2, 000 000+ price range).
  • Lower Mainlanders and Albertans are driving the market, while Canadians from other areas (Ontario, Saskatchewan, etc..) are getting in on the action as well. Europeans are shopping but not the same extent as in the Williams Lake area.
 
Finally one last property to highlight, and one that looks like a spectacular piece of waterfront to me (I see a lot of photos) although I can't say I've seen it in person.

 

This south-facing Protection Island (just off of Nanaimo) property was just reduced by about $80, 000 and might be worth a look (click photo for details):

protection island for sale

 

 

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Williams Lake Highest Single Family Waterfront Sales in BC

After sharing last week's stats with you, I decided to delve deeper into each of the top 5 areas to find out the scoop about the waterfront sales activity in these regions. Beginning with our top jurisdiction, I had a conversation with our member real estate agent Freddy Marks of LandQuest Realty about the buzzing waterfront activity around Williams Lake.

Freddy was not suprised when I told him that the Williams Lake (rural) jurisdiction had the highest number of single family waterfront sales so far this year. In fact, with it's plethora of lakes, this area is consistently a top performer for waterfront sales in B.C.. Freddy cited the roaring economy, including the current success of Mount Polley mine (copper/gold) in the area and exploration in the area leading to rumors of more to come (Skygold Ventures , Hawthorne Gold ). In addition to the strong local economy, he pointed to out of province and international interest in the area as the drive behind the market. Although waterfront prices have risen in this region (from an average selling price of $150, 078 in 2005 to $278, 276 this year) prices are still a far cry from waterfront prices in other popular areas of B.C., making a little piece of paradise much more affordable to the average buyer.

According to Freddy, the hottest lakes right now are the larger ones including Quesnel and Horsefly Lakes. He says that smaller lakes are popular too but when prime properties come up (easily accessible/private) they are snapped up quickly. Freddy estimates that 40% of his buyers are buying their primary residence for immediate retirement, while the other 60% are investors, buyers who plan to retire in a few years, foreign buyers, vacation property purchasers and locals.

Where exactly do these buyers come from? As expected, many are from Alberta and the Lower Mainland; however, Freddy estimates that 35% of his business is from Europe (Germany, the UK and Netherlands) and mentioned that even with the falling US dollar, American buyers are still purchasing in the area (more on this, inlcuding stats from our site in an upcoming blog).

Here are some of Freddy's value picks for the area:

1. Lowry's Resort

According to Freddy, some of the best (subdividable) lakefront on Quenel Lake.

resort for sale

 

2. Crooked Lake Resort - Motivated Sellers, Prime Lakefront (leasehold)

crooker lake resort

3. Acreage with 500 feet Riverfront

fraser river front for sale

 

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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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End of Summer Spells Super Waterfront Shopping

As the summer fades into the dreary days of autumn and our thoughts turn to work, school and winter festivities, now could be the best time to look back at those waterfront properties you had your eye on over the summer.

If you want to get a jump on other buyers and have your property ready to go for next summer, the time to start shopping is now. At Waterfront West , we had predicted an upswing in site visitors in early Spring last year; however, we were suprised that the jump in visitors to our site began on as early as December 29th . From December to January, our unique daily visitors almost doubled, with no additional advertising on our part. Many recreational buyers want to have their property purchased and useable for the summer season so they start shopping early, very early.

From our experience and talk with industry insiders, the "slow season" (if there is one!) in the B.C. recreational real estate market is October-December. Last year, we noticed a number of price reductions on properties that had been on the market during the high season and not sold. This year, although to a lesser extent, we have noticed the same trend. As many real estate investers know, the best time to buy is when the pressure is off the market so the next couple of months may present some good buying opportunities!

In the coming weeks, we will be featuring some properties on this blog that have been reduced in price and that our subscribing real estate agents believe represent exceptional value in the waterfront market, so please stay tuned!

 

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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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Market Insights - Waterfront Real Estate

Featured Waterfront Realtor

Dave Koszegi Group
RE/MAX of Nanaimo - Dave Koszegi Group

Dave Koszegi is SOLD on Sproat Lake and the Alberni Valley DAVE. For waterfront properties on Sproat Lake, it's the only name you need to know. One of Canada's top-ranked RE/MAX Realtors, Dave was (...)

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