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Paradise is Pricey All Over Province

CanWest News Services, Victoria Times Colonist, June 16, 2005

Vancouver Island residents looking for recreational property are quickly becoming aware of the cost of a piece of paradise. But it's no different across the province, where costs are soaring as well.

"Today is the hottest recreational market it 40 years," says Rudy Nielsen, the fit 64-year-old founder of Niho Land & Cattle Co, Ltd., a recreational firm specializing in B.C. recreational property. "I've been through ups and downs, but I've never seen this much demand for recreational land."

"Nobody realizes that 95 per cent of B.C. is owned by the government," Nielsen says from a rustic office adorned with cattle hides and snowshoes. Take away residential, commerical and industrial lands, and what have you got, he asks, just 250,000 to 300,000 recreational properties in B.C.

Ontario has its definable cottage country: lake-studded landscapes that include the Muskokas, north of Toronto; the Haliburton Highlands, farther east, The Lake Huron shore, known as Ontario's West Coast; and closer to Toronto, Georgian Bay; and in eastern Ontario, the Land o'Lakes.

In B.C., it's not that easy. Recreational property might be located at a ski resort or golf course, on a coastal island or stretch of waterfront, or perhaps a remote mountain-fed river or lake.

The options span the range of ecosystems, too, from semi-arid grasslands to coastal rainforests to sub-alpine mountain meadows. B.C. would seem to have it all; it's just a matter of finding what buyers want and what they can afford.

(One exception is the Sunshine Valley, just east of Hope, where, just down the road from the Hope slide, prices remain affordable: as little as $40,000 for a building lot, $80,000 for a small cabin.)

Statistics on raw land sales for recreational property, calculated by Nielsen's Landcor Data Corporation, reflect the market trends regionally across the province:

Vancouver Island: sales increased to 1,722 properties in 2004 from 931 in 2003; the average value increased to $124, 941 from $108,717.

Okanagan: 1,357 sales, up from 799, average value of $89,725, up from $75,707

Omineca (Prince George): 237 sales, up from 112; average value of $43,001, up from $34,777

Peace River: 171 sales, up from 114; average value of $48,304, up from $41, 826.

In the Northwest region, declined to 48 properties from 65, while the average price increased slightly for $56,179 from $55,226.

Prices actually dropped in two other regions: the Kootenays had sales of 466 properties in 2004 up from 352, whereas the average value of 496,916 represented a drop from $108,363; the Cariboo had 292 sales, up from 200, but a decline in average values to $42,565 from $45,429.