With the soaring price of real estate and the introduction of a 15% tax for foreign buyers, more and more non-residents interested in buying property here in B.C. have begun asking me about their options outside of Vancouver.
Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long.
Overall the rich housing market outside of Vancouver has, until now, remained largely overlooked by non-resident buyers. Benefitting from far lower housing prices than Vancouver or it’s sister, Vancouver Island–even for crown jewels like waterfront or lakeside property–these are just a few of the options I’ve been discussing lately.
THE DISCOVERY ISLANDS
Known as the Discovery Islands, Quadra and Cortes represent, at least in my opinion, two of the best choices for non-residents. Both offer the potential for waterfront living and idyllic surroundings, but also have the benefit of good infrastructure and full amenities you might not find somewhere more remote. Located just off the east coast of Vancouver Island and a short ride by boat from the mainland, last summer a BC real estate agent had this to say about Cortes.
“If you sold your three-bedroom condo on 4th Ave. [in Vancouver] for 700 grand or so, you could go to Cortes and buy a 2.5-acre property…with a house that’s about 2,500 square feet…500 feet of oceanfront, have your own dock and your own moorage.”
Though he was speaking specifically about the increasing number of Vancouverites “heading for the hills” to get away from the northward-bound prices of the city, these are also great communities for non-residents. Particularly for those coming to Canada with strong currencies like the US dollar or the euro, the idea of buying an oceanfront property for the same amount it costs to buy a 2-bedroom loft in Vancouver is already enough to seal the deal.
THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS
The San Juan Islands off the west coast of Washington are known as popular holiday destinations, but also seeing more interest from those seeking to relocate and invest. Easily reached by Seattle and Vancouver via seaplane or ferry, Salt Spring Island is just one of the group’s most famous offspring.
Known for its incredible wildlife, artisanal cheeses, and vibrant local art scene, Salt Spring Island is a haven for those who want to spend their days surrounded by ocean waves and windswept skies. With a population around 12,000, there are acreage properties, as well as a good selection of single family dwellings, condos, and cottages. One recent listing–a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom home just under 2’000 square feet–had an asking price just south of CAD $500,000.
SALISH SEA ISLANDS
With around 1’000 residents, Hornby Island is one of the least populated and more remote locations. But what this island lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in natural beauty. A favourite destination for retirees and artists, this is slowly changing as more and more young families seeking a slower pace of life and safe spot to raise their children have been flocking here.
Hornby Island also sees its share of tourism, mostly over the summer months, when it easily quadruples its population. A local airport (Comox Valley Airport) provides both national and international service, and it is accessible by ferry or seaplane from Vancouver Island. Waterfront lots in Hornby Island average just under $675,000, while you can easily buy a single-family home for under $345,000. In the past, non-resident buyers have come mostly from the US, as well as the Canadian Prairies.
ADDING IT UP
Though there’s no doubt that the price of real estate outside the GVA is attractive, necessities like appraisals can be more expensive. On an island or in a more remote location, general costs will be higher and include everything from conveyancing, home appraisal, inspection, and repairs, if needed.
In terms of a mortgage, even a permanent resident would be limiting their options for a lender by buying in these locations. A non-resident however, has different qualifications and will have no choice but to qualify with the major banks.
For those who are looking, the options outside Vancouver are plentiful. But don’t wait too long or you might miss the ferry.