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Albertans top buyer of B.C. real estate

Alex Frasier-Harrison, Calgary Herald, June 15, 2008

Albertans continue to be the top non-resident buyers of real estate in British Columbia, outstripping the US and other provinces.

And despite the economic slowdown, this doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon, says the head of a company that tracks these statistics.

“We’ve had no indication of any slowdown of Albertans buying in BC,” says Rudy Nielsen, president of Landcor Data Corp., which puts out regular reports on the state of the province’s real estate market (Nielsen is also president of NIHO Land & Cattle Co.)

“I watch the figures on a weekly basis, and I haven’t noticed any slowdown. If you look at the sales here (Albertans) have spent more than $2 billion.

“Albertans love B.C. because we have so many recreational uses, with good golf courses, good fishing, you can still go to the Queen Charlottes and catch a 30 pound salmon,” says Nielsen. “The summer comes earlier than in Alberta, and the fall comes later.”

Nielsen says although the US sub-prime crisis has caused some to rethink their investment plans, “it only ‘killed’ some of the US. We’re still getting Americans- I recently sold a piece of property for $1 million to an American,” he says.

Overall, BC’s secondary real estate market continues in boom mode, Nielsen says. “A few years ago, we had 90,000 sales and $19 billion sold in all of BC, last year we had 166,000 sales for $63 billion. Even if we dropped down to 150,000 sales, we’re still in a big boom period.”

The majority of Albertan buyers in 2007 were from Calgary, says Nielsen. Calgarians bought just under $1.6 billion worth of BC properties last year, though Nielsen says Edmonton buyers are starting to pick up speed (they bought just over $435 million in properties in 2007.)

The Okanagan continues to see growth. Landcor statistics place it as the No. 1 BC market in 2007 with more than $825.5 million in properties sold.

The rise in popularity of fractional ownership is helpings, says, Brenda Moshansky, director of communications with the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board and a realtor with Coldwell Banker.

“We’re starting to see fractional ownership sales which we’ve never really had,” she says. “Many years ago we had timeshares, but fractional is now in demand and we’ve had a few developments based on that premise.

“The appeal is wanting to have that second home without the big investment.”

Moshansky says many buyers purchase property in the Okanagan with the mind of renting it out now and moving in full time as their retirement properties later.

She says despite the economic downturn elsewhere, “to a degree we’re insulated because the Okanagan will always be a destination for second-home buyers and a destination for retirees.”

There are also still bargains to be found in terms of property prices in up and coming areas of the province. For example, Nielsen says, the Yellowhead Highway corridor through Prince George to the west is just being discovered by investors.

“There are lots selling on Francois Lake, the second longest (natural) lake in BC for $55,000 to $75,000, with water-view and waterfront lots for $95,000,” he says. “It’s still very affordable in the Interior. And interest is growing.”

Top regions for Alberta buyers of B.C. properties in 2007:

Okanagan: $825,555,915
(2,102 properties purchased)

Kootenay region:
$540,936,803 (2,049)

Vancouver Island:
$506,358,381 (1,201)

Greater Vancouver:
$214,233,382 (408)

B.C. Northern and Northwest:
$66,541,821 (422)

Fraser Valley:
$44,020,006 (137)

How Albertans rank against other out-of-province buyers of B.C. properties in 2007:

Alberta: $2.2 billion (58% of total)
Ontario: $449.8 million (12%)
Rest of Canada: $475.8 million (12%)
USA: $380.55 million (10%)
Other Countries: $317.9 million (8%)

Source: Landcor Data Corp.