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Guts, Motivation & Maps

Frank O’Brien, Western Investor, May 2008

Legendary recreational land investor Rudy Nielsen, president of NIHO Land & Cattle Company of New Westminster, who has probably owned more raw land than most small countries, has published a handy guide entitled The Secrets to Investing in Recreation Land. We will publish Nielsen’s top tips in this and the June issue of our annual recreational property investment report.

In this issue, we focus on Nielsen’s tips on motivation and the use of maps and online aerial photos to research property.

Get Started

“Over the years, I have learned that no matter how good a deal a property appears to be, you need guts to make it happen,” said Nielsen.

The best way to gain that confidence, he said, is to do the necessary research on the investment in which you are interested.

Nielsen, who also owns Landcor Data, which tracks every property title and sale in British Columbia, provides some facts to motivate investors.

The average sales price of recreational land has increased 157% since 1998, while single-family dwellings in BC have appreciated 118% in the same period.
In the past 10 years, the average sales price of waterfont recreational land has increased 237%.
Between 2000 and 2008, recreational land in the Peace River region increased by 424 per cent. The Okanagan is second with a 406 per cent increase, followed by the Kootenays with 374 per cent increase.
In 1989, NIHO purchased a recreational property in northern BC for $18,000. The same property sold recently for $1 million.

Using Maps

Key to your research are maps and new online aerial photos that together can provide detailed information on any recreational land in BC.

Depending on your plans some of these will be more relevant than others.

Pre-emption Map – This is the most important map. It gives you the big picture – crown vs. private land, roads, railroads, power lines, rivers, creeks, mountains, towns and much more. If necessary, you could find a property using only this map. If you have difficulty locating a pre-emption map, an easy substitute is to use online cadastre.

Online Cadastre – The BC government has an Internet-based interactive map site for viewing cadastre on your computer. These maps provide the same information found on a pre-emption map, but the cadastre maps don’t distinguish between crown and private land. This system is free and easy to use. Visit

Contour Map – This map shows you if the property is hilly, steep or swampy as well as any access trails. These maps can also be viewed on online cadastre by turning on the contour layer.

Plan – If the property has been subdivided, you can order a subdivision plan for the property from BC Online at or at a Land Titles Office. This will give you the size and measurements of the property and tell you where the roads are located.

Survey Notes – You can request these notes from the Surveyor General’s office. Use the original survey notes to determine where the cornerstones of the property were originally set and re-walk the property lines. This level of detail is only necessary for larger rural properties, not for subdivisions.

Agricultural Land Reserve Map – Phone the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for a copy (some regions available online). This map will determine if all or part of the property is in the agricultural land reserve, which will have a significant bearing on what you can do with the property.

Aerial Photos or Orthophotos – Aerial photos can be obtained through Land Data BC, giving you a view of the property from the air. These are useful for identifying roads, timber and water on the property. An Orthophoto is similar, being a corrected and geo-referenced aerial photo with cadastre lines on top. Orthophotos can be viewed on online cadastre by turning on the orthophoto layer. Google Earth is another tool for aerial imaging that is free and easy to use.

Fish Wizard – This free and easy online resource tells you the depth of lakes on or near the property and the type of fish found within it. This information can be found at

Zoning Map – To find out the zoning and permitted land use for your property, contact your regional district and request a zoning map.