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Calgarians flock to B.C. getaways

Alex Frazer-Harrison, Calgary Herald  July 16, 2006

Albertans are always on the lookout for good recreation property, and many head west to British Columbia for its varied climate and geography including lakes, mountains and sea-coast.

When it comes to determining the location of rec property "hot spots" for Calgarians, one person suggests all you need to do is grab a map and a ruler.

"My theory on hot spots, everything I've based it on in the last 15 or 20 years, I go by driving and recreation time," says Rudy Nielsen, president of NIHO Land and Cattle Co and Landcor Data Corp. Nielsen says properties within a four-hour drive of a major centre such as Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary are likely to be in high demand.

"The four hour limit is when you can put kids in the car on Friday night, head off to your recreation property, and come back Sunday night having spent a worthwhile amount of time there," he says, adding property costs are generally higher within this radius.

"If you're willing to look six, eight or 10 hours away, the land becomes cheaper, but you can't really go there for the weekend anymore unless you fly," Nielsen says. "Now you need to take extra days off."

An example Nielsen cites is Cluculz Lake, 67 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.- and far more than a four-hour drive from Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver.

"They're selling one-acre lots there for $45,000, as opposed to Merritt (a three hour drive from Vancouver) where similar lots are $450,000."

Nielsen says the Kootenays fall well within the four hour threshold for Calgary, and will continue to be a recreation property hot spot.

Increased coverage of B.C. by West Jet has also opened up new areas for development that, including flying time, fall within the magic radius.

"It's now possible for a person from Alberta to jump in a place and land in Courtenay-Comox on Vancouver Island, have a car there, and drive for a hour or two and be a their recreation place," says Nielsen.

Nielsen's Landcor Data Corp recently compiled statistics for Albertans buying residential properties (including recreational properties) in B.C.

"Albertans did 2.6 per cent of the total (residential property) sales in B.C. in 2005, or about $1.1 billion," Nielsen says. "By comparison, Californians purchased only $239 million worth of B.C. property."

More than 50 per cent of the Alberta buyers came from Calgary, as opposed to only 13.5 percent from Edmonton and just over 36 per cent from other parts of the province.

According to Landcor's findings, of the 4.320 properties purchased by Albertans in 2005, more than 22 per cent were located in the East Kootenay region, with Kelowna being the next most popular location with just under 12.5 per cent of properties sold."