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Recreation is booming

Ashley Ford, Vancouver Province,  August, 20, 2006

B.C.'s recreation market is as searing as the urban residential sector.

While much of it is being propelled by "aging baby boomers," there's plenty of action coming from younger buyers and so-called "lifestyle" buyers intent on grabbing their piece of paradise.

According to RE/MAX of Western Canada, "never before have those aged 50-plus been such a strong segment of the recreational property market."

"Some [baby boomers are] selling housing in major centres and making their way north, south, east and west for their retirement years, but others are keeping their homes and buying vacation properties for themselves, their children and future generations," Elton Ash, regional vice-president of RE/MAX of Western Canada said in their latest recreational property survey.

Rudy Nielsen of NIHO Land & Cattle Company and Landcor Data Corp. of New Westminster has specialized in the recreational sector for four decades and is the acknowledged expert in the field.

He says he has never seen the sector as active as it is now. "In particular I have never seen so much demand for recreational land."

And, with prices rising sharply, buyers are prepared to move further afield to find their piece of heaven.

The latest hot spot?

Without hesitation, he says the Queen Charlotte Islands. "Sub-divisions are popping up all over the province but in the Queen Charlottes there is the most magnificent land with ocean-front imaginable in the world."

Two-hectare, 200-metre ocean- front parcels cost between $295,00 and $395,000.

While prices keep marching upwards, Nielsen doesn't believe they are out of line when compared with other parts of the world.

The rule of thumb on prices is the closer to a major urban centre, the higher the cost. The majority of buyers seek a four-hour driving distance from a bigger town. Nielsen calls it the "golden circle."

But, he says, if you are willing to raise that drive to six to eight hours, the land becomes a whole lot cheaper. For example, half-hectare lots west of Prince George in the Cluculz Lake area sell for approximately $45,000 plus. By comparison, smaller lots in Merritt, within the "golden circle" of Vancouver, fetch $450,000 plus.

Islands are still available, but at a price. Hanson Island just off Prince Rupert was recently listed for $495,000.

RE/MAX agrees $1-million-plus properties abound in places like the Gulf Islands, Whistler and the Okanagan Valley.

But it says careful buyers can find value if they are prepared to look. For instance, woodframe condominiums in Penticton start at around $175,000.

If you are prepared to "rough" it a little more, a three-bedroom property at Harrison Lake sits at $275,000. The drawback is these properties are only accessible by boat.

Again in the popular Shuswap Lake area some properties are in "nosebleed" territory but condominiums can be found from $250,000