WI Staff, Western Investor, August 2011
Perhaps the strongest evidence of a recovery in the Kootenay recreational market is the sale of ranch-sized acreages at the exclusive Ranches at Elk Park just outside of Radium Hot Springs. Prices range to nearly $3 million – and that is just for the land.
“We have sold two lots, and we have holds on two others,” said Rudy Nielsen, founder and president of NIHO Land & Cattle Company, which is marketing the ranches through its subsidiary LandQuest Realty.
Price roam from $9,000 per acre for small parcels to around $2,100 per acre for 400 acre and larger ranches.
The 3,500 acres at Elk Park, a gated ranch community, and perhaps the only one in BC, are divided into 16 ranches, from 36 acres to 480 acres.
The two lots that sold – one to a retired Edmonton oil executive – are both in the 100 acre size, as are the two with pending sales.
The Ranches at Elk Park are what Nielsen calls a “rare collection” of recreational private estate properties. The ranches are framed by Kootenay National Park and the Columbia Valley and prices range from $390,000 to $2.95 million for 200 plus acres with a lake.
“This is a very exclusive opportunity,” said Nielsen, 70, BC’s most prolific land dealer. In the last 40 years, he’s put together thousands of successful real estate deals, involving tens of thousands of acres, from small plots to ocean island, to town sites and huge farms and ranches. “There’s nothing else like this in British Columbia. South of the border, in places like Montana, similar ranch style communities are far less pristine and their prices are much steeper.”
Calgary based Schickedanz West, the owner of the Ranches project, is adding a comprehensive amenity centre outside the access point with fitness facilities and a private owner’s lounge, Nielsen said. He credited owner Fred Schickedanz for having the vision and the patience to create “one of the best recreational ranch developments I have seen in a long time.”
Nielsen said buyers are a mix of permanent residents and seasonal owners who plan to eventually retire to the property. They share a common appreciation of nature, outdoor adventure, horse-back riding, hobby ranching and getting away from it all, “without going too far or spending too much.” Some of the ranches are lakefront, others have valley views and all have the security and privacy only big money can buy: there is only one access road and it is protected by a controlled locked main gate.
The success of Elk Park is likely cheered by other land and recreational vendors in the Kootenays, especially since it heralds the return of Alberta investors.
In 2007, Albertans were big in the Kootenay area, grabbing more than 2000 residential properties and more than 600 plots of vacant land, with the Columbia Valley figuring large. With the BC/Alberta border so close to Calgary, the Kootenays were a natural lure. Then the oil-fueled global economy stalled and Albertans went quiet; in 2010 Albertan purchases were off by more than 70 percent or 756 sales of residential properties. However, with the global economy swinging back and oil now north of US $100 a barrel, Nielsen expects a resurgence of Alberta buyers into the Kootenays.
“Our sales team says the number and quality of calls coming out of Alberta has increased substantially, compared to anytime from mid-2008 and 2010,” Nielsen said.
A recent survey by the Royal Bank forecasts that Alberta will lead the entire country in economic growth this year and next, and likely into the next decade. One telling stat: the average weekly wage in Alberta is $1,036 a week, almost one-third higher than the rest of Canada.
And Albertans traditionally look to BC for recreational property.
“You can golf, ski, and catch a large rainbow trout, all in one day in the Kootenays,” Nielsen said. He notes that the ski hills of Panorama Ridge near Invermere and the amenities of Fairmount Hot Springs are close by Elk Park, with almost two dozen golf courses within a 30 minute drive.
Nielsen said the Ranches will attract a select type of buyer.
“The price range is for individuals with a pioneering spirit ready to embrace a rare opportunity to own their own private ranch right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.”