June 7, 2011

The Okanagan Good Life

Bargain prices and a variety of housing combine to form a compelling reason to consider recreational or retirement home property in an area that offers an abundance of attractions.

BY STEVEN THRENDYLE

As the days grow longer and Okanagan grapes, apples, and peaches ripen under a hot sun, realtors, developers, and second-home purchasers are wondering if 2011 is the year when the region’s undervalued real estate market begins to turn around.

The reasons for owning recreational or retirement home property in the 200-kilometre-long region from Osoyoos near the United States border to Vernon at the north end of Okanagan Lake remain as compelling as ever.

During those cool, wet coastal summers, a trip up into the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains can considerably brighten one’s outlook on life. Dozens of superb golf courses, more than a hundred different wineries, and perfect mornings spent waterskiing, wakeboarding, and wake-surfing on mirror-smooth lakes truly define what locals call the “Okanagan Good Life.”

The variety of housing is every bit as great as the recreational options. Choose from vineyards, horse farms, apple orchards, beachfront luxury homes and condominiums, highrise towers close to vibrant downtown Kelowna, golf course townhomes, age-restricted retirement villas, “starter castle” monster homes, family-friendly suburbs – it’s all here.

And the good news is – it’s all on sale right now at prices that are shockingly low to Lower Mainlanders, fatigued by an inflationary price spiral that takes three jobs to pay even the most basic mortgage.

Derek Martin and his father Charles are family realtors who have been in business for more than 25 years.

Derek says: “Last year, a lot of folks bought new homes to beat the HST. But cool weather and high inventory has created a buyer’s market for both new and re-sale homes. Around 250 houses are sold on average every March and April. This year, the figures were 175 and 150, respectively. The foreclosure market is increasing, and we expect to see further price drops. Right now, there are over 2,000 single family homes for sale, and the ones that are seeing the most action are in the $300,000 to $450,000 range. Most of the purchasers are still from within the Okanagan – Alberta buyers have not returned to the market yet. However, Environment Canada is predicting a hot, sunny summer and so we’ll hope that our fantastic weather will get the market moving again.”

Martin points to two listings that illustrate well the extremes in the market. Located on a scenic bluff in bucolic Peachland, Martin is listing a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that’s a two-minute drive from the town’s fabulous waterfront (a beach that many Okanagan residents think is the best in the region), and it’s on sale for just $349,000. At the other end of the spectrum, horse lovers won’t believe that they can purchase a hobby farm right on Benvoulin Road, across from Father Pandosy’s Mission – the very first residence built in Kelowna. This 23-acre estate is priced at $4.5 million, and needless to say appeals to a very specific purchaser.

There’s no shortage of photos and video-enhanced websites to entice prospective purchasers. However, the best way is to get out there and see first-hand the great bargains and opportunities that the Okanagan Valley has to offer.

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