May 27, 2016

Even outside Vancouver, real estate is sizzling

GettyImages-519748108The Sunshine Coast and the Okanagan are seeing record sales, partly fuelled by Metro Vancouverites cashing in

Out-of-town properties
By  Michael Bernard  

While Metro Vancouver’s red-hot real-estate market is setting new sales records, realtors in other B.C. communities are feeling a warm glow as newly wealthy Vancouverites look for recreational property or a new primary home outside the city.

Topping their destination lists are the Okanagan and the Sunshine Coast, say real-estate agents and developers, followed by the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

GettyImages-507678710“It’s on fire up here — it’s about 150 per cent better than even last year,” says Denise Brynelson, whose firm Brynelsen-O’Reilly Group has been selling real estate on the Sunshine Coast for the last 15 years. The number of homes on the market dropped to about 350 last month from 550 at the same time last year, making it a seller’s market.

Her buyers are 50 and older from the Lower Mainland, she said. “They want out of Vancouver, not just because of the price but also the lifestyle. Up here [the pace] is like West Vancouver and North Vancouver in the old days.”

Brynelson said she is seeing multiple offers for homes for the first time. One home on Gibsons’ waterfront recently attracted 12 bids on the same day, and fetched $100,000 over the $599,000 asking price.

Okanagan realtors are also enjoying a record selling season so far.

“It’s been amazing,” said realtor Darcy Griffiths, a former president of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board. “I think we are going to have our best month [April] ever.”

GettyImages-492358604Figures for March 2016, the latest available, show total sales in the Okanagan of $363.5 million, up a whopping 39 per cent from March 2015. Much of it was fuelled by Vancouverites, who accounted for about 14 per cent of buyers, while economically challenged Alberta dropped from the traditional 20 per cent to less than 10 per cent of all buyers.

As on the Sunshine Coast, Okanagan homes are igniting bidding wars and selling quickly. “Before we were seeing houses stay on the market for 120 days and more and now they are selling within weeks,” said Griffiths.

Meanwhile, a B.C. real estate expert says there is no question that there is a correlation between the hot market and recreational property buying.

“When we see large increases in valuations in Vancouver, we see increases in recreation buying,” says Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association. “Also, the low Canadian dollar is keeping recreation money either in the province or contributing to more international exposure.”

Two former Coquitlam residents, who are among 60 people who snapped up homes at the Skaha Hills resort development in Penticton, say that while the money they made selling their former homes made their moves possible, it isn’t the main reason why they fled to the Okanagan.

“For us, it was more wanting to get out of the city, says Denise Legrand, who with her husband Rudi exchanged a Coquitlam Centre condo for a brand-new, 2,400-square-foot, two-storey lakeview house for $600,000. “If we were to buy this house with a water view in the Lower Mainland, we would be looking at a couple of million bucks or more.”

Friend Reg Kennedy, who lives 10 houses away at Skaha, said he and his wife Nancy were looking to get away from the traffic to a new lifestyle. “As you get older, you have a mindset about the quality of life.” •

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