Recreational homes now in bidding wars

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Fiona Anderson

Bidding wars and line-ups of buyers are not just for the Lower Mainland condo market anymore, as British Columbia‘s recreational properties are increasingly in demand.

In the South Cariboo, people are lining up for properties, Brad Potter, a realtor in 100 Mile House, said in an interview. And several are being sold above their asking price.

“I’ve been selling real estate up here for 15 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen [buyers bid over the listing price],” Potter said. “You guys down on the coast are used to that kind of market, but we’ve never seen it around here.”

Potter blames the rush on baby boomers who are looking ahead to retirement within a few years.

And everyone wants waterfront.

“Waterfront is getting very, very scarce. Soon as we put one on the market, it is usually gone in a couple of days,” Potter said. “And of course, we’re putting the prices up because of that activity.”

Prices are rising with almost every new listing, he said.

What makes the South Cariboo so attractive is that it remains affordable, according to a report issued Tuesday by Re/Max. The most sought-after properties are those priced between $150,000 and $300,000. That has put a lot of pressure on the South Cariboo and the Sunshine Coast, the report said.

Where 100 Mile House and the Cariboo have an advantage is price point, Elton Ash, regional vice-president of Re/Max Western Canada, said in an interview. People are willing to travel the extra 30 minutes or an hour to take advantage of cheaper pricing.

Recreational properties on the higher end of the spectrum are feeling less pressure, especially in markets in Ontario, the report said. But prices in B.C. are likely to continue to climb.

“For British Columbia the economic performance of the province is very positive,” Ash said. “[And] because of the confidence in the B.C. economy, people want to get into the market now to hedge against future price appreciation.”

The Alberta influence is also affecting the B.C. market, Ash said.

“Here in the Okanogan all the way to Tofino, there is a lot of interest from Albertans because a lot of money is being made in Alberta right now,” Ash said.

And as the number of millionaires in Canada grew 8.3 per cent last year, many from Alberta and B.C., that means there’s more money to spend on lifestyle, Ash said.

Sunshine Coast realtor Rob Jardine said prices in his neck of the woods have increased 10 to 15 per cent in the past year, with an oceanfront home costing on average about $800,000, while property on the nearby islands are about $550,000 to $600,000. Properties on Ruby and Sakinaw Lakes are so in demand that they don’t even hit the market.

Although high prices have slowed down demand slightly on the coast, a 28-lot development on Gambier Island was sold out in about a day with prices between $160,000 and $280,000, Jardine said.

Its mainly baby boomers from Vancouver that are buying, Jardine said.

The Re/Max Recreational Report covered close to 50 major centres throughout Canada. Prices in Ontario, the most desirable cottage property in Canada with 5 million people in the Greater Toronto Area trying to escape the humidity of Toronto each weekend, has levelled off as the western provinces from Manitoba to B.C. experienced unabated price increases, the report said. According to the report, a 3-bedroom waterfront home in Whistler or Salt Spring Island tops $1 million while the same property in Tofino, Ucluelet, Penticton or Vernon would be $500,000. The only western recreational destination in the $500,000-plus club outside B.C. is Sylvan Lake, Alberta.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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