Sunday, May 26, 2024

Island Market

Despite US Downturn, Luxury Sales Continue in British Columbia’s Islands

Even with American consumers still mired in an economic downturn, realtors in BC’s island region are seeing robust sales for high-end properties, including luxury private islands.

Scott Island, currently for sale at

The area that surrounds the southeast tip of Vancouver Island is often considered, by residents of less-temperate climes, to be Canada’s answer to Florida. A long-established place for retirees to live out their golden years in (relative) warmth and sun, “The Island”, as it is often known, is also home to some of the highest property values in Canada.

American purchasers drove a large part of this market; on the whole, Vancouver Island was less expensive, had better amenities, and, as a former British colony, offered a more genteel lifestyle than comparable areas on their side of the border. In particular, the seat of BC’s government, Victoria, offers beautiful scenery, quaint shopping and dining districts, and a relaxed pace of life.

When the US financial markets collapsed, it stood to reason that Vancouver Island’s luxury property sales would follow – yet, according to some local realtors, there is still a strong market for upscale residences. In a recent article in the Saanich News, a small Gulf Islands newspaper, local broker Peter Nash says he has seen steady demand for multi-million dollar homes. Nash, who has been in real estate in the area since 1972, said he’d sold two such properties in 2010, plus one spectacular private island.

He did acknowledge, however, some degree of increased hesitancy from prospective buyers. And he said he had noticed a definite decline in the numbers of Americans looking to invest. “There are not as many Americans anymore, although I did sell an island to an American recently,” he was quoted as saying. On Nash’s website, he offers a section for islands and island properties – the two whole private islands, Pylades and Wolf islands, are marked respectively as sale pending and sold.

Randi Masters, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, suggested that the lack of American interest is being compensated for by new buyers from elsewhere, mainly other regions of Canada. Real estate agent Lisa Williams, who has sold two listings over $7M recently, concurred. There was, she said, a marked uptick in interest from Albertans. Her observation isn’t surprising; with a thriving commodity-based economy, Alberta has undergone sustained growth and is home to a rising class of upscale consumers.

Since the early days of the US financial crisis, Canada has slowly been discovering that its economic engines – banking, commodities, real estate and tourism – are capable of existing somewhat more independently of American investment than previously believed. In the case of the Vancouver Island region, there is certainly cause for optimism, at least in Masters’ eyes. “When we see $5M properties going,” she said, “there definitely is confidence in our market.”

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