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Albertans making B.C. land grab

Shawn Ohler, Calgary Herald,  August 27, 2006

Cash-flush Albertans are taking advantage of their province's recent oil boom by snatching secondary properties from their westerly neighbours at unprecedented rates, according to a real estate research firm.

Albertans have purchased 2,219 properties in B.C. worth more than $650 million in the first six months of 2006, ahead of the 2005 pace, and drastically more than buyers from elsewhere in Canada and the United States, according to Landcor's recently released property sales report.

Albertans were also on a real estate shopping spree in 2005, according to Landcor, buying 4,320 B.C. properties, worth almost $1.2  billion.

Ontario  ranks second with 381 properties worth more than $200 million, followed by California (188 properties, nearly $82 million) and Washington state (98 properties, more than $47 million).

Landcor president Rudy Nielsen, a veteran B.C. landman now hawking acreages on the northern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands, said Alberta's appetite overshadows all others.

"Ten years ago, the Germans came in to buy a lot of recreational land. If you look at what Germany's buying and what England's buying and what Alberta's buying -- it's Alberta. We've become the playground for Alberta money," he said.

Edmonton businessman Jay Champigny owns a 2,350-square-foot house on a 7,000-square-foot lot worth $1.75 million in the relatively undeveloped Pender Harbour on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, but he's never actually seen it.

"I've seen pictures, but I've never been there," said Champigny. "I bought it sight unseen. But I know B.C. and I know property, and the feedback I got from people I trust said Pender Harbour is it."

Often, Nielsen said, Albertans aren't content to stop at single properties, and Champigny is proof. Before securing the Pender Harbour unit, Champigny bought a vacation home in Vernon's Outback resort, and is about to nab a third at Lakestone, between Kelowna and Vernon.

"I'm spending money now because it may not be affordable 10 years from now, and I'm quite happy to spend my six, seven weeks a year out at those properties," said Champigny, who expects Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics will boost the value of his Pender Harbour property to $3.5 million- plus.