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Getaway Prices Go Way Up

Frank Luba, Vancouver Province, May 2, 2007

Lots of baby boomers have lots of money and they're buying lots of recreational property for, you guessed it, lots more money.

That's the bottom line in the 2007 RE/MAX Recreational Property Report issued yesterday.

The realty company surveyed 39 markets from Newfoundland to B.C. and found starting recreational prices topping $500,000 in 31 of those locales.

Just seven of the markets surveyed had waterfront property available for less than $250,000.

Upper-end sales are affecting recreational-property values across the board, particularly in Western Canada. The driving force in the boom are the boomers, that segment of the population born between 1946 and 1965.

According to the report, the boomers represent one-third of Canada's population and control about 45 per cent of the nation's wealth.

They have $230 billion in real-estate assets and a net worth of $530 billion.

They also appear to be looking for somewhere nice for a little recreation and have made B.C., Alberta and Ontario the most expensive markets in the country.

In Invermere, which tops the RE/MAX list, the starting price for a three-bedroom, winterized recreational property on a standard-sized waterfront lot is $2.5 million.

That level of luxury in Kelowna costs $2 million, with Salt Spring Island next at $1.2 million and Whistler at $1.1 million -- although that will only get you a three-bedroom winterized home off the mountain.

Sylvan Lake in Alberta and Penticton are next on the list at $1 million.

It's not all high prices, of course, because Royal LePage put out a report yesterday that revealed 10 "hidden gems" where waterfront cottage properties can be found for $250,000 or less.

Like RE/MAX, Royal LePage indicates the East Coast offers the most options for the least money.

At George's Lake, a 20-minute drive from Cornerbrook, Nfld., a 50-year-old, seasonal waterfront cottage can be had for $75,000 to $90,000.

Of more use to British Columbians is the Stack Lakes area near Bridge Lake in the South Cariboo. Year-round recreational cottages are available there on two-hectare to four-hectare lots for $200,000 to $250,000.

Recreational prices may be high but there are still plenty of opportunities, according to Elton Ash of RE/MAX.

"The key is to be patient," said Ash, regional director of the company in Western Canada. "Be willing to take the time to look around.

"B.C. is a huge province and there are opportunities and the chance to own a getaway at an affordable and reasonable price," he said.

Veteran recreational property expert Rudy Nielsen of the NIHO Land and Cattle Company suggests Lower Mainlanders consider something like a quarter-share in a unit at a resort on Gabriola Island, which you can even get to as a foot passenger.

The cost would be $150,000 to $200,000.

"They just aren't making any more land," said Nielsen. "Waterfront is getting very, very dear and very expensive."

Get the right property, he said, because "10 years from now you're going to double your money."