Eager buyers ready and waiting to snap up BC’s cabin properties

Sunday, March 14th, 2004

Four buyers waiting for every cabin owner thinking of selling

Lena Sin


Why leave home to vacation when you can go home to do the same thing?

More and more British Columbians are taking a liking to this logic and are getting into the recreational property market.

It was estimated that for every cabin owner who was planning to sell in 2003, there were four Canadians looking to buy, according to last year’s Royal LePage recreational property report.

Ownership levels have increased 80 per cent since 1977, even though the market still represents a fairly small segment (only eight per cent of Canadians own recreational property).

Still, low interest rates and tight inventory have helped spike demand and Royal LePage estimates that six per cent of Canadians are likely to buy recreational property in the next three years.

Baby boomers continue to drive the market up, but B.C. is also attracting the international jetset. While Ontario had fewer international buyers last year (likely due to SARS), B.C. by contrast gained according to Re/Max’s recreational report released last summer.

Below is a list of areas in B.C. where recreational property is heating up:

Qualicum Beach/Parksville

Thanks to WestJet launching direct flights from Calgary to Comox, Albertans are starting to colonize this little idyllic town. But what our neighbours next door are just discovering is something we’ve known for ages.

Qualicum Beach/Parksville got its start as a summer getaway in the 1930s, popular with those from elsewhere on Vancouver Island. Today, it’s a destination town attracting folks from all around B.C.

Who’s buying? Other than Calgarians, this area has always been popular with residents of Victoria and the Lower Mainland. Those on the verge of retirement have a particular penchant for property here.

Anyone famous? Jazz darling Diana Krall and figure-skating champ Victor Kratz.

What money can buy: A luxury waterfront home can fetch between $600,000 to $800,000.

Something more affordable: The average single-family home, which includes recreational property, jumped from $192,000 in Jan. 2003 to $218,000 in January 2004.

Sunshine Coast

Where did all those dot-com yuppies go? Well, they took their money and escaped up here. Roberts Creek is just as popular, though mostly with accountants, according to realtor Alan Stewart.

“There are a lot of buyers from England. But we’re also getting a lot of people just coming for the weekend because we’re only a couple of hours away from Vancouver.”

Also making a buzz is Pender Harbour. This town of 2,000 people started attracting private yacht owners in the 1920s for its seclusion and protected waterways. After the Second World War, the town expanded with numerous marinas and yacht clubs and continues to attract visitors today.

Who’s buying? Software analysts from

Vancouver, university professors close to retirement.

Anyone famous? Joni Mitchell and singer Terry Jacks, best known for Seasons in the Sun. Mideast millionaires have also been known to vacation here.

What money can buy: Anything over $500,000 is a pretty big deal, said Stewart. But luxurious waterfront homes can cost between $800,000 and $1 million.

Something more affordable: A small cabin is priced about $250,000.


Here, you’ll find the highest starting prices for oceanfront property at close to $1 million.

The big draw of this island is its laid-back attitude mixed with plenty of festivals and culture such as art galleries and theatre.

Again, it’s the baby boomers flocking here who are thinking of recreation now and retirement later, said realtor Derek Topping.

Who’s buying? Buyers are coming from Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and the U.S.

Anyone famous? Valdy, Bill Henderson, Robert Bateman, Stuart Margolin and Randy Bachman.

What money can buy: A view home will cost between $550,000 to $600,000. Waterfront property starts at $800,000 to $900,000.

Something more affordable: The average-priced home is around $300,000. Dig a little deeper and you might find some deals between $180,000 to $250,000.


From lakeside property in Kelowna to ski-hill condos in Big White, property in this part of B.C. has soared 60 per cent from 2002 to 2003.

Prudential Kelowna Properties realtor Harry Pettit says property in Big White has caught the attention of buyers from Japan, Germany, Venezuela, Singapore, Australia and Scotland. Oh, and don’t forget our neighbours down south, they’ve been snatching up ski condos, too.

Who’s buying? In addition to people from abroad, Pettit says families from the Lower Mainland have been buying as well. The big attraction? Cheaper skiing and boarding than Whistler.

Anyone famous? Local politicians such as Stockwell Day and former premier Bill Bennett.

What money can buy: A mountain-based chalet costs $600,000 and up.

Something more affordable: A three-bedroom home in Kelowna starts at $350,000. A condo in Big White averages $250,000.

Hemlock Valley

This sleepy ski hill is just beginning to wake up with a new 50-year plan recently signed with the government to expand ski lifts and runs.

Tucked away in the Coast Mountains between Mission and Agassiz, Lower Mainlanders are looking east for a cheap recreational getaway.

Who’s buying? Mostly families living in Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Surrey, Abbotsford. “It’s just a broad cross-section of people,” says realtor Stewart Green. “You’re getting doctors, lawyers, actors.”

Anyone famous? Nope, not yet. This place is for those no-fuss types who can do without shopping and dining out on caviar. The great thing about Hemlock Valley is that even your average blue-collar family can afford it, says Green.

What money can buy: The most expensive property sold in the last 12 years was a four-bedroom log cabin for $211,000.

Something more affordable: Single family building lots are going for between $89,000 to $98,000. There’s also a cabin up for grabs right now for $180,000.

Honourable Mentions

Fernie and Kimberley in the Kootenays are attracting buyers from the U.S. and Alberta. A standard condo at the mountain base in Fernie goes for $160,000 to $225,000, while a chalet ranges from $450,000 to $525,000.

The most expensive recreational property can be found on Salt Spring Island where we’re talking millions.

In Invermere, the starting price for a three-bedroom winterized waterfront home reached $600,000 last year.

© The Vancouver Province 2004

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