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A Home Away From Home

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Exterior patio – Bighorn Meadows. Photo courtesy of: Bighorn Meadows Resort.

Living in Alberta has many advantages, including being in close proximity to the mountains and lakeside vacation spots. In the winter, Albertans enjoy taking advantage of the snow with weekend getaways to the mountains. In the summer, they enjoy the warm weather by escaping to nearby destinations that have water, fun and sun. Popular resort locations include Canmore, Sylvan Lake, Invermere/Windermere and Kelowna.

Owning vacation property certainly sounds ideal; who wouldn’t want a place to run away to when city life gets chaotic? The idea of sipping wine near a warm, cosy fire with a ski-in/ski-out option sounds luxurious. Wakeboarding or jet-skiing on the lake in the summer sounds idyllic. But for Albertans considering purchasing recreation or investment real estate, it’s important to understand the pros and cons as well as deciding on condo versus single-family home living.

Kelowna real estate professionals Sherry Truman and Jane Hoffman of Jane Hoffman Group say, “Choosing a condo or single-family home as a recreational property is a very personal decision and often comes down to investment tolerance and lifestyle. With single-family homes, people are going to want more space and more privacy and are generally prepared to do the maintenance themselves.” Many Calgarians make the trek to Kelowna because of its warm Okanagan climate and proximity to water and sand.

When considering purchasing vacation or investment property, whether condo or single-family, it’s crucial to crunch the numbers and do the math. While it may sound affordable in the beginning, potential buyers must think long term and what it will cost to maintain the property year round. Even if the property is part of a rental pool, will it be rented out consistently or will there be periods when the unit/home is vacant?

Condo living is considered maintenance-free living, a lifestyle some are willing to pay condo fees to enjoy. Truman and Hoffman add, “With a condo, it is more of a lock-and-leave lifestyle. Sometimes there are amenities available with a condo community and owners can share in maintenance costs.”

Radium Hot Springs condo owner John Go purchased a small one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo back in 1991. “At that time, the condo complex was managed by Radium Resorts Hotel,” he says. “As my unit was a part of a condo pool, it was always being rented out when we were not using the unit. This was very handy in terms of offsetting the cost of owning the unit. Fast forward to today, the unit is now paid off and my family and I continue to enjoy quick weekend getaways together – something you can’t put a price tag on. Purchasing the condo was a great decision, in my opinion. I plan to will it over to my kids, so that they can enjoy it with their families for years to come.”

Go says he purchased in Radium Hot Springs because it was close enough to Calgary, where he lives, but not as close as Canmore, for example. “I didn’t see the sense in purchasing 45 minutes away from home, especially since we don’t ski. Radium offers winter and summer activities and the short two-and-a-half-hour drive makes it seem like a real vacation.”

Susan Smith and her family purchased in Canmore for the very reason Go did not. Smith explains, “Our family consists of two adults and two children, all of whom ski and hike. Canmore is close to home and offers the best of both worlds for our family. We don’t like spending too much time in the car, so Canmore made the most sense for us. We decided to purchase a single-family home, since we spend almost every weekend in Canmore and wanted the feeling of privacy and seclusion in a larger home.”

One of the other considerations when purchasing is whether the property is situated in a gated community. “Whether they are single-family homes or condos, there is a feeling of an extra layer of security with a gated community that provides additional peace of mind,” says Truman and Hoffman.

Luxury Resorts West, located in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., is an experienced team of professionals who specialize in developing, marketing and selling their own fractional real estate resort properties. One of their projects, Bighorn Meadows – located between the Rocky and Purcell mountain ranges in British Columbia – is situated on an expansive nine-acre site surrounded on three sides by the prestigious Springs Course in the Village of Radium Hot Springs. Bighorn Meadows offers luxury, maintenance-free living with amenities such as concierge service, fitness room, playground and free wireless Internet, just to name a few.

Has the downturn in Alberta’s economy affected sales in the recreation and investment real estate market? Luxury Resorts West director of sales and marketing Valerie Bracken says, “Year to date, stats show a slight decline in the region versus 2018. However, at Bighorn Meadows Resort, we have seen strong interest in our resort community. Our records show that 83 per cent of the interested parties that are looking at our show home come from Alberta and 69 per cent specifically from the Calgary area, typically due to our close proximity. In our development, the majority are vacation home owners.”

Bracken adds that Bighorn Meadows caters to a variety of budget types. “Our resort community not only offers whole ownership, but also one-eighth shares, so that owning a vacation home becomes very affordable to different budget types. This allows for the upkeep, maintenance, and not to mention, the initial cost to be shared with seven other owners, which makes it affordable for almost all to own a vacation home.”

She goes on to explain that their demographic is mostly professional couples who realize the health benefits of staying active and enjoying the outdoors. “Many of our owners are retired or close to retirement but we also have young couples with young children who enjoy spending summers exploring hiking/biking trails, beaches, fishing and many other outdoor activities in the valley or learning to ski in the winter.”

When it comes to contemplating condo versus single-family home, Truman and Hoffman say, “The individuals that benefit from condo living are part-time owners where they can feel confident that the amenities are being taken care of. The day they arrive, they can enjoy their property without worrying about becoming a maintenance manager. Their time is totally focused on enjoying their seasonal stay.”

Purchasing a single-family vacation home, on the other hand, typically costs more from the get-go than condo living. Depending on the size, the cost to maintain a single-family home per month is usually significantly more than condo fees. Something to consider when deciding to purchase vacation property. Will you have the means to keep the property running, even when you’re not there?

As for where to purchase a vacation home or investment property, Bracken says, quite simply, location, location, location. “Bighorn Meadows Resort, for example, is quietly situated between the ninth and tenth fairways of the Springs Course. So, not only are there beautiful views from every direction, but it’s also very peaceful in summer or winter. The resort community is located in the Village of Radium Hot Springs, so everything is close by and within walking distance. Radium is also central to 15 golf courses and six ski hills, all within a one-and-a-half-hour drive.”

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