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Albertans snap up B.C. vacation properties

Shawn Ohler, Victoria Times-Colonist,  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.

Ontario, in comparison, 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.

Courtenay online entrepreneur Sharleen K. Whiteside lists lakeside and coastal properties at Waterfront, and draws 200 hits a day from Albertans despite never advertising in that province.

"Everywhere you go in Courtenay or Comox, you see Alberta licence plates. Since Westjet started flying into Comox [from Calgary and Edmonton], it's boomed," said Whiteside.

James Askew, who sells and markets the Outback properties, said Albertans have become a dominant player in all areas of B.C. waterfront property since 2003.

When Askew sold a 54-home project in Kelowna, 35 per cent of his buyers were from Calgary, 25 per cent from Edmonton.

One-third of his units on the Sunshine Coast and Ucluelet went to Albertans, and of 2,000 people interested in a just-announced beachfront condo in Osoyoos half are from Alberta.

"The economy there is incredible. And, yes, you have places like Pigeon Lake (Alta.) and Sylvan Lake (Alta.), but because there's not many of them, everyone's descending on them in the summer, fighting for land. It's easy to get there, but they're small lakes," he said.

"Those people look to B.C., and they soon learn they can choose from Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Vancouver coastline, the Okanagan lakes, the Kootenays, the Columbia Valley. Both provinces are lucky in certain ways, that's for sure."


The top out-of-province buyers of B.C. recreational real estate, from January 2006 to June 2006:

- Alberta: 2,219 properties worth $651,864,336

- Ontario: 381 properties worth $200,643,238

- California: 188 properties worth $81,914,279

- Washington state: 98 properties worth $47,469,459

Source: Landcor Property Sales Report, 2006 Q1/Q2 update