Frank O'Brien, Western Investor, September 2009
From somewhere in the world – but most likely Western Canada, the USA, or Europe- 16 well-heeled buyers are expected to ante more than $1 million each to share in Canada’s first gated community, now being developed between the East Kootenay communities of Invermere and Radium Hot Springs.
“I know more about recreational real estate in BC than probably anyone else, and this is the best property I have ever seen,” said Rudy Nielsen, president of NIHO Land and Cattle Company whose agency LandQuest Realty Ltd. is marketing the 4,300 acre Ranches at Elk Park.
The massive land holdings, owned by German born developer Fred Schickedanz of Canmore, Alberta, includes 3500 acres divided in to 16 ranches, which range from 36 acres to 480 acres. A working 600 acre ranch, called the Upper Ranch, which offers horse boarding and trail rides, borders the site. Prices for the ranches start at $499,000 and gallop up to more than $1.7 million. Nielsen expects the elite buyers to build luxury ranch houses and outbuildings that could easily top $1 million or more.
Schickedanz purchased the land more than 20 years ago and had been offering ranch parcels but without success. When LandQuest was called in, they immediately dropped the prices by 40 per cent to 55 per cent. The average price now works out to around $13,000 per acre.
Nielsen’s team is selling nine out of the 16 parcels, and he admits that the Ranches at Elk Park represent a niche market in Canada. He pointed to the United States, though, where large ranch land subdivisions are popular with high worth individuals.
In one such ranch community near Denver, Colorado, he said, a dot.com billionaire recently completed a 30,000 square foot house.
In Montana, at the Yellowstone Club, with members such as former vice-president Dan Quayle and golf pro Annika Sorenston, buyers pay a $250,000 entrance fee and must prove a net worth of US $3 million before they can break ground on a building lot costing between US $600,000 and many millions of dollars.
When you start dealing in this stratosphere, the prices at Elk Park seem less eye-popping.
In a four wheel drive tour of the gravel roaded site, Nielsen explained that security is a major selling point. Entrance to Elk Park, less than two minutes from Radium Hot Springs and 20 minutes from Invermere, is through a security gates that accesses the only egress.
As wild turkeys crossed the road – indicative of a wildlife thick area that borders the 350,000 acre Kootenay National Park- Nielsen explained that security is considered paramount for potential buyers.
“The secure access gate means you can build a vacation or permanent home, knowing that your property will be safe,” he said. The security also stops local campers and hunters from entering the property.
The ranches are impressive. All have the potential for view building sites looking out over the Columbia Valley wetlands and the Purcell Mountains. Some back right onto Kootenay National Park. The ranch community includes two small lakes- one man-made- but only small streams cross the development.
Nielsen expects the buyers will likely be a mix of permanent residents and seasonal owners who enjoy hunting, horses, and “gentleman” farming. Residents will also be able to ski a few minutes away at Panorama Ridge near Invermere or west at Fairmount Hot Springs. There are at least 20 golf courses within a half-hour drive, some just minutes away. Schickedanz is also expanding an amenity centre outside the gates, which will include fitness facilities and a private lounge.
None of the lots, which are all in the agricultural land reserve, can be subdivided, but secondary buildings are allowed. Buyers will have two years from the time of purchase to begin construction.
Some of the parcels, such as the 463 acre, $1.75 million Bent Creek Ranch or Spirit Ranch – 405 acres priced at $1.55 million- have large pastures, while others have lake views or streams and are forested.
As a gated community, residents will be responsible for snow clearing on the access roads and will also be requires to install driveways and septic fields. Each lot will be equipped with a water well, and fire protection is provided from Radium Hot Springs.
The market for large rural acreages of 40 acres to 640 acres in the East Kootenays has dropped since a peak in 2005, when more than 120 such parcels were bought. Last year, sales slumped to less than 50, and, for the first half or 2009, there have been only 18, according to Nielsen’s Landcor Data Corporation. Ten of these sales were under 100 acres, and the average price per acre was $4,500 or less than half of the cost at the Ranches of Elk Park.
LandQuest began marketing the Elk Park ranches this month, and Nielsen is realistic about the potential.
“We expect to sell three, maybe four, over the next year,” he said. “This is a very exclusive opportunity.”