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Strata-lot market expands as RV sales explode across Canada

Frank O'Brien, Western Investor, July 4, 2022
A huge increase in recreational vehicle owners has expanded a niche selling rather than renting RV camping spots

RV sites have been offered for sale in lakefront parks from Cultus Lake to the Cariboo and in the Thompson-Okanagan, such as at Mara Lake and Shuswap Lake, for many years.

But the boom in RV sales since the start of the pandemic has created a surge in the creation of parks specializing in RV real estate. In the U.S., massive RV campgrounds have emerged, such as the 2,500-pad, 700-acre gated Port Susan Camping Club in. Tulalip, Washington, where memberships start at US$34,900.
The Canadian RV Association reports demand for new vehicles outstripped supply over the first six months 2021 — Canadian dealers sold 30,376 vehicles, while U.S. manufacturers shipped another 30,102 north of the border.

In the U.S., RV retail sales are on a record pace, according to RVBusiness magazine’s most recent market report. In 2020, the U.S. industry sold 520,075 vehicles, while in the first six months of last year 325,032 units sold.

In pre-COVID 2019, the U.S. RV industry sold 463,941 units.

The industry is expecting another surge in 2022, as effects of the pandemic linger and ­newcomers to RVing consider trading up their vehicles.

Prices for Class A diesel motorhomes start at $350,000, according to the Canadian Recreation Vehicle Association, but new smaller Class B and C units sell from $60,000 and used units sell from $10,000. New fifth-wheel trailers are priced from $50,000 to $160,000.

Today the average size of an RV on western roads is 40 feet long and 13 feet wide – twice the size of such vehicles two decades ago – and they are often rigged out with furnishings, TVs and complete kitchens.

The problem is where to park for the average 4.5 annual camping trips that owners use them. While there are public campgrounds, about 25 per cent of owners wheel into private campsites, and this is where recreational real estate investors can make money.

“RV units are getting better, made with more conveniences and there are great finance plans to purchase. Lots of units are being sold every day,” said Rudy Nielsen, president of the Niho Group, which includes LandQuest Realty that has been involved in selling B.C. recreational land for decades. “You might have an RV unit, but unless you book well into advance a place at a private or government campsite in summer you have nowhere to go.”

Shane Styles, president of Epic Real Estate Solutions in Kelowna, has seen the rising sales of RV’s, mostly large fifth-wheel units, and he says the demand for purchasing a permanent RV camping spot is a natural progression. He explained that a lack of rentable camping spots, record high prices for fuel, the cost of seasonal storage of an RV and an opportunity to recoup the cost of an RV investment are all playing into the demand for RV strata lots.
He said owning a strata site in an RV park allows the unit to stay securely in one place year-round and to be rented out when not in use. In some cases, people have made a large RV their permanent residence.

One of the largest and newest RV parks in B.C. is The Shores, a 389-pad RV resort being developed at Old Town Bay at Sicamous on Shuswsap Lake in the eastern Okanagan. The RV resort will be equipped with a swimming pool, community centre and a waterfront beach location, all part of a 210-acre development that includes separate parcels for single-detached and strata homes.

The “five-star” RV resort has access to Shuswap Lake and the Eagle River, according to real estate agent Zane Bouvette, who is working with developer Gary Tebbutt of Compass Developments on the project.

Bouvette said the RV strata lots at the Shores are priced from $185,000 for a 2,600-square-foot pad and up to $225,000 for a lot of around 3,400 square feet.

There is also the potential for investors to purchase existing campgrounds and convert some of the land to strata RV lots.  In some locations, such as Kamloops and the North, there is the potential of renting strata RVs to resource construction workers as well as tourists.  An example of a listing is a 60-pad RV park at Charlie Lake near Fort St. John in north east B.C., the centre of Canada’s liquefied natural gas industry.

“Contract and construction workers ensure income in the low season,” noted Kathy Miller of Re/Max Commercial, who has the campground listed for $8.8 million.

3AGroup Re/Max Nyda, of Agassiz, B.C., has a 98-acre RV park and campground, which includes a store and gas station, for sale at Baker Creek, B C. in the Cariboo for $1.37 million.