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Business is booming in interior B.C.


Lake Windermere. Statesman Group of Companies.

If you list it, they will come. That’s the ongoing message from the interior B.C. recreational property market, which continues to heavily favour sellers.

And while demand has started to level off from record highs in 2021, real estate experts predict that without drastic increases in supply, sellers’ conditions will persist for much of 2022 and likely longer.

From Salmon Arm to Sparwood, Revelstoke to Radium and just about everywhere in between, the blistering pace of interest and activity in the recreational mecca located just across the B.C.-Alberta border has been an unexpected byproduct of the pandemic.

Garth Mann has had a front-row seat to the action over the past two years and counting.

The CEO of Statesman Group of Companies has noted plenty of new interest in B.C.’s Columbia Valley, including the company’s Pineridge Mountain Resort.

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for change in the values of many Canadians … whether they are planning for retirement or have young families. They are contemplating changes based on their desire to focus on what’s important in their lives,” says Mann.

“We hear it in Alberta. We hear it in Ontario. After two years of living in the confines of the pandemic, buyers are asking themselves, ‘how do we want to live?’ As a result, that’s really changed the character of a lot of things that are happening in this area.”

Located in Invermere, B.C., overlooking Lake Windermere, Pineridge itself has seen increased interest from buyers of all types, with most coming from Calgary, Red Deer and other centres in southern Alberta, says Mann.

Of note, within the past year, he’s been surprised to see more buyers coming to Pineridge with younger families. That’s in addition to continued interest from so-called traditional recreational property buyers who are looking to retire, either part or full time, in the community’s choice of cottage homes, vista chalets and mountain villas.

He notes Pineridge is already more than 65 per cent sold, with many residents already moved in.

“It really is an idyllic destination where nature is predominating. It’s an all-weather place where Canadians can get away yet not be too far away from the big city,” says Mann.

“People don’t have the same feeling about living in the city like they used to. We’re hearing they want to escape from the stuff that makes them feel less secure, and live in areas more in line with nature, mobility and healthy living.”

On the resale residential side of the housing market, some areas of the interior B.C. region have seen slowdowns to start 2022. Yet that hasn’t been due to lack of interest. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, say local real estate experts.

In the Kootenay region – which includes popular recreational property markets such as Invermere, Radium, Golden, Cranbrook, Kimberly and Fernie – resale residential sales activity dropped by nearly 21 per cent to start the year, compared with the same time in 2021.

The culprit? After more than a year of dwindling supply, the region saw another 10 per cent drop in new listings during the month.

And what’s being listed is moving quickly. In the popular multi-family category, for example, average days on market to start the year was just 55, down from 115 at the same time last year. Similarly, the single-family category has seen days on market drop from 116 to 95 days.

All of this has led to sellers’ conditions, with the average MLS residential price at $494,608 – a 17.8 per cent rise from $419,647 – to start 2021.

Bruce Seitz, a realtor with Royal LePage East Kootenay Realty and director with the Association of Interior Realtors believes the market is catching its breath after a frantic pace to 2021 that saw peaks in March and September/October drive record numbers across the region.

“March 2021 kicked off a good year all around – a busy time for all of us,” says Seitz, pointing specifically to the Kimberley alpine resort that saw a 31 per cent increase in units sold in 2021 compared to 2020 and prices increase 48 per cent to just over $277,000. Similarly, the average residential price in Kimberley, overall, was up nearly 20 per cent to more than $357,000 in 2021.

“But since that peak in September/October, we’ve seen a continuous downward slope in activity to what has been a very slow start to the year.”

While acknowledging the winter months typically see a decline in sales activity, Seitz says this feels different. In particular, he points to popular recreational property areas such as Kimberley that are just not seeing enough listings to match buyers’ demand.

“We’re just not seeing that much new listing activity, which I recognize is happening across Canada. The low inventory is really hurting all markets right now,” he says.

“I know there are a number of sellers holding back, waiting to see what’s going to happen. But with the low inventory as it is right now, it’s really an ideal time to be listing. If those number go up, that will help drive the market for the rest of the year. But if they don’t, it could end up being very tight.”

As for who is behind this demand, Seitz echoes Mann, noting it’s shifting to younger families that want to be closer to recreational opportunities, and have flexible work arrangements that allow them to live anywhere.

“Kimberley, for example, is a very recreational community, so there definitely is a younger demographic of people who have moved into the area recently,” he says. “It’s a four-season recreational area that has the infrastructure to support it.”

Meanwhile, both listings and sales to start the new year in the Shuswap and Revelstoke areas were virtually identical to the same time in 2021, with 118 units listed and 76 sales – compared with 117 and 78 in 2021, respectively.

However, the pace to those sales have quickened year over year, with it only taking 79 days to sell compared with 135 in 2021. And like the Kootenay region, active listings have been down, sitting at just 338 as of the end of January, compared with 517 the year prior.

Not surprisingly, the average residential housing price in the Shuswap and Revelstoke areas has subsequently shot up to $624,919, a 12.3 per cent increase when compared with the start of 2021.

Association of Interior Realtors president Kim Heizmann acknowledges that tight market conditions in interior B.C. are creating challenges for stakeholders on both sides of the table.

“The persistent lack of inventory on market makes for challenging times for buyers and sellers,” says Heizmann. “Not only are new buyers frustrated at finding a home, but sellers are frustrated at the lack of active supply hindering their ability to move on to a new property as well.”

In turn, finding the right property might be more difficult – as will navigating potential bidding wars, which are inevitably more commonplace in these types of markets.

“The value of working with a professional real estate agent really does make a difference in navigating the complicated buying and selling process, under any circumstances, but especially during these challenging conditions,” says Heizmann.