Thursday 19 December 2019

Looking Forward to 2020

(As this is our last blog post of the year, here is our look ahead to next year as sent out in our year-end newsletter.)

With buyers interested in a wide range of recreational and remote properties, we are looking to increase our inventory. If you are thinking of listing a recreational or remote property but aren’t sure of the timing, give us a call and let’s talk!

The speculation tax and increased property transfer tax implemented in the larger urban BC areas is having an impact on surrounding markets, but it is an unsettled one. On one hand, we expect to see buyers who are now avoiding those areas turning to other regions to invest. On the other hand, sellers in those areas who had wanted to sell and move away are perhaps re-thinking as they are not selling at the higher prices of a few years ago. Campbell River is poised to appeal to both groups, as we are an affordable and attractive community in a spectacular coastal location with great amenities. Our northern Gulf Islands and more remote recreational properties appeal to those buyers who may have been looking for investment land or properties on the southern Gulf Islands.

We will continue to work to promote our coastal lifestyle to out of town buyers. Although a large percentage of our buyers are regionally local, there are buyers further afield who are looking to invest or relocate in a coastal region. To this end we are looking at some target-specific publications as well as targeted marketing in social media venues.

With two boats between them, Ed and Shelley are looking to get boots on the ground more often at our remote and recreational properties as well as still spending the time in the office that helps build relationships and bring deals together.

Our BCO Team looks forward to serving you in the new year, and we wish all our clients the very best in 2020.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 12 December 2019

What Is That? Recreational, Rural and Remote Real Estate Terminology

Buying a remote, rural or recreational property is quite different from buying a municipal property. When talking about these properties, there are terms that we might think are common that in reality are not in most people's general vocabulary. Here are four things that get mentioned regularly in our office!

Perc Test: a percolation test is a test to determine how quickly fluid is absorbed by soil. This is done to determine if a septic system is possible, as good percolation is required for a leach field (to absorb liquids). Simply stated, these tests are done by digging a hole (usually by auger either hand or machine) to a specified depth and then filled with water to time how quickly they drain. Perc tests are required before a septic system can be installed and can tell you where, or even if, a septic system could go on the property.
a perc test pit 

Dug Well vs Drilled Well: A dug well is a well, generally 10-30ft deep, that is dug out by hand or by backhoe. It is generally lined to prevent collapse and has a large diameter. A drilled well is constructed by a drilling machine and can be as deep as required to reach water. Often it is only seen as a capped pipe on the surface.

drilled well cap

Survey pegs: It is generally easy to determine where the boundaries are on a city lot and city staff can come investigate when there is a dispute or discrepancy. But on rural or remote properties that are generally larger and less developed, it can be difficult to determine boundaries. If the property has been surveyed in the last 20 years or so, it should be possible to find what are called survey pegs. These are placed by the surveyor to mark corners, road crossings, etc on a property. With survey in hand, if you can find one pin you can then generally use measurements and compass directions (or the trusty GPS) to find the other boundary markers. On older properties that may have been surveyed 50-150 years ago, it is still possible to find markers but not as likely. Instead of the white pegs favoured by most surveyors today, these pegs are just as likely to be metal (making them harder to see in the west coast undergrowth).
typical modern, white survey peg

WETT inspection: Any home with a wood stove or fireplace will likely need this for an insurance provider. WETT stands for Wood Energy Technology Transfer and an inspection will be done for all wood burning appliances and fireplaces. Sometimes an insurance provider will accept one done previously (say by the previous owner for their insurance) but sometimes they want a new one done. Inspectors need to be WETT certified to be able to provide the report.

If you hear Ed or Shelley say something, or see something in one of our listings, that you aren't sure about - ask! Questions are always welcome.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 5 December 2019

Late Fall Weather on the West Coast

The wet west coast is a common phrase out here, but as with any cliche it isn't always true. This year has been drier than average through most of the fall. While this is very nice for anyone who works or enjoys spending time outdoors, it does have repercussions. No one is concerned about watering their gardens, but the local ski hills are concerned that they won't be opening on time (no rain at lower levels means no snow at higher levels) and the local conservationists and river watchers know that less precipitation in the fall can mean lower water levels and drier forests come spring and summer next year.
 views over the coastal mountains are not so common in the fall, but this year they have been stunning!

Clear and cold weather near the ocean often leads to thick marine fog that can come and go all day, generally clearing off at night. As the sun is further south in the sky it also makes for some beautiful soft lighting. Sunsets and sunrises have been quite beautiful.
gorgeous sunsets and sunrises

More moisture is supposed to be heading our way in December and everyone knows that it can snow at any time on Vancouver Island. It may not last long but a lot can fall in a very short period of time, creating a magical winter wonderland.
beautiful dusk colours

Rain and grey may be the norm that lead to the moniker "the wet west coast" but that doesn't mean we don't see a great variety of weather in late fall and through the winter.
getting outside into the green woods

The one constant is that it is always beautiful on the coast, no matter the weather, and that true west coasters will get outside in anything!

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 28 November 2019

Vancouver Island City Living

Living on Vancouver Island you have easy access to lots of rugged wilderness, large trees, amazing beaches and vast spaces. While these are definitely a big part of the appeal of island living, what people don't realize are just how many amenities Vancouver Island offers as well, making it an ideal place to live with the best of both worlds at your doorstep.

looking at downtown Victoria

The four main urban areas on Vancouver Island are (in order of population) Victoria (the Capital Regional District includes a number of smaller cities and municipalities which most visitors refer to collectively as Victoria), Nanaimo, the Comox Valley (including Courtenay and Comox) and Campbell River. All of these centres have major hospitals (Victoria has two), including new hospitals in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River, and vibrant downtown districts.

Vancouver Island has two universities and numerous colleges. The University of Victoria has been around for over 50 years and attracts students from across Canada as well as many international students. It is also a popular choice for students on Vancouver Island.  Vancouver Island University is based in Nanaimo. It was originally Malaspina College, and in 2008 was granted full university status under its new name. All the urban centres have local colleges as well as private colleges.

The Save On Foods Memorial Center in Victoria regularly features high profile music acts. The MacPherson and Royal Theatres in Victoria and Port Theatre in Nanaimo attract major stage and dance productions, while the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay and the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River provide a nice variety of live entertainment for those communities. Victoria also boasts the world-class Royal BC Museum as well as an art gallery. There are many other places of culture, history and creativity throughout the urban centres and even on the smaller islands near Vancouver Island.

Empress Hotel, Victoria Inner Harbour

Both Victoria and Nanaimo have a number of indoor shopping malls, including The Bay Centre and Mayfair Mall in Victoria, and Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo - all very popular with island residents. All the urban centres have a wide variety of shopping available.

Thanks to the mild climate, world-class sporting facilities and excellent recreation centres can be found on the island. Golfing is almost a year-round sport here, with a PGA tour stop in Victoria every year.

Westbay Marina across to Victoria's Inner Harbour

One of the appeals of living on Vancouver Island is that you really can have it all. Anywhere you live on the island offers amazing coastal beauty, while all the amenities needed or wanted are also available.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 21 November 2019

Southern Vancouver Island Trees

Vancouver Island is home to a number of different eco systems. Some of the most distinctive on Vancouver Island (and the Gulf Islands) are the Garry Oak and Arbutus forests on southern Vancouver Island.

A Garry Oak in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria

Garry Oak eco-systems are becoming quite rare, and are protected in many places on the southern islands. The system likes dry, partially meadowed areas, often along the seashore or on rocky hillsides. There are a few pockets of this eco-system on some of the more northern gulf islands, for example Hornby Island. The southern gulf islands have many of these meadow systems.

Arbutus trees are very common south of Nanaimo but they too have had stress, and in recent years have suffered from diseases that threaten to do serious damage. In smaller quantities arbutus are found in small pockets as far north as along the cliffs of Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park and on some residential properties in Campbell River and Courtenay/Comox.
Garry Oaks and Arbutus sharing space along the Westway walkway in Esquimalt

Both of these trees and their respective eco-systems are part of the magic that is the natural beauty on Vancouver Island.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 14 November 2019

A Typical Real Estate Day with BCO

When we try to explain to people, especially colleagues, what a typical BCO day is like, we often find ourselves at a loss to convey just how different our days are - even though we are selling real estate.

There are of course in-town real estate days where we tour with clients in the city or the small surrounding communities visiting houses for sale, or where we are listing a local residence. We love  Campbell River and very much enjoy being a part of this market. But then there are the other days, which are just as common and which are each so different. Some days it is driving all the way to the north end of the island to visit lakeside acreages at Alice Lake. Other days it is chartering a plane on the west coast to visit some remote properties with a buyer. And still other days it is getting in one of our boats to visit a coastal property on an island or even the on the central coast mainland.

Take the day last week as an example: it started with getting in the boat before the sun came up and heading north up to Johnstone Strait and into the islands off the coast of north-eastern Vancouver Island. We arrived at the property we were viewing for a potential listing with our gear in hand - gear that included tape measures, clipboards, cameras, bagged lunches and a rifle. Yup, a rifle. The owner had warned us that a grizzly bear was hanging out on the property near the dock, and we needed to be prepared for it. So Shelley had her rifle on her shoulder the entire time we were on the grounds.

We didn't see the grizzly, but we certainly saw evidence of it being there in the dug up ground (at this time of year they are hunting for grubs and roots, anything to add to the fat layers for winter). The caretaker and neighbouring property owner also told us of the bear.

After working on the property - taking photos, taking measurements, writing lots of notes - we left a sign behind (because making a repeat trip to put up a sign if and when we list the property is not an efficient use of time when the property is this far). After a bit more reconnaissance of the area we then boated back, arriving home in Campbell River on the boat around sunset.

We call this a "typical" BCO day, because any given day can find us out there at properties like this. We know that it is different to what anyone else does and certainly isn't what people think of when we tell them we are a real estate team. It is the very thing we love most about this job we have chosen and created for ourselves - the diversity and challenge of the properties we serve.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 31 October 2019

Inspections and Due Diligence

You've found your dream property, you've had a look at it and you've had your offer accepted. What comes next?

There is a lot of paperwork involved with buying property, but there is also a lot of due diligence involved. Whether the property is local or remote, residential or recreational, there are things about the property that you may want to have checked and/or verified before you commit completely to purchasing.

Due to the diverse range of properties we sell in the BC Oceanfront office at Royal LePage Advance Realty, we have a wealth of resource information when it comes to the various inspections a property may require and who might be available to perform those inspections.

These could be:
  • For properties that aren't on a city sewer system a septic inspection could mean having someone come out and check the system, as well as verifying with the local health authority that the system has a valid permit.
  • For properties that aren't on city water, a water inspection insuring that water lines, wells or other domestic water sources are all in healthy, working order.
  • Building inspections, for all properties with improvements on them. If wood stoves are involved then certain certifications (WETT) are required of the building inspector so they can also check the wood stove system.
  • Docks and moorage for oceanfront properties, to insure all is in safe, working order.
  • Electrical systems - this can require an electrician for a basic wired system or an alternative energy systems company for off-grid power systems.
These are just some of the onsite inspections our office arranges for clients. Many of these require Ed or Shelley's attendance, and some properties can require several days of inspections depending on the complexity of the systems.

When you work with the BC Oceanfront Team, you are benefiting from a group experienced with the logistics and inspections required for all types of properties - and we put that expertise to work for you.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 24 October 2019

Archaeological Sites on Private Properties

Archeological sites are a common topic with coastal properties these days (the majority of these are sites with cultural and/or historical significance), and even make the news every once in a while. They can be controversial, but they are an essential part of developing property these days on the coast of BC so it is important to know what needs to be done.

Some properties have already had investigations done and have marked archeological sites on them. Understanding the implications of these sites is important, as an owner, or potential owner, needs to know what can and can't be done with the property. A small site can simply mean making sure you do not disturb it when creating development plans, while a large site can mean further action is required.

example of an identified site in an arch report

You can first determine if there are any known sites on the property by contacting the provincial government through their Archaeology Branch. This is something that we at BC Oceanfront, a part of the Royal LePage Advance Realty team, do on most of our listings. We have found the Arch. Branch to be very easy to deal with, and the forms required are straight forward to fill out. We submit directly from online.

If you wish to build on a property or make major alterations to a property, then an archeological assessment is generally required. Most municipalities and regional districts will require an assessment during the permitting process. These are done by private companies, and there are often many steps involved in the process, which the company should be able to facilitate.

From the Archaeology Branch's FAQ document, these are two things they see as important to property owners: "The current use of the property is seldom affected unless the use involves significant land alteration. A house on a fully developed lot is not affected by overlapping with an archaeological site. An active gravel pit is a concern, because this current use will damage or destroy a site.
New development, such as changing the building footprint, major landscaping, or installation of an in ground swimming pool, will be a concern, because the new activity may damage the archaeological site. When planning for land use change, ensure that a professional consulting archaeologist is part of the planning process. They can determine if the new development will have an effect on the archaeological site.
In many cases, the archaeological site is not within the development zone. As an example, sites on waterfront properties are usually close to the water and are often contained within zoning setbacks set up to protect other environmental values."

Owning property on the BC Coast is a dream for many, and it is important to have all the information on hand when making those dreams reality.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 17 October 2019

BCO Coastal Gems: Cortes Island

Cortes Island is one of the Discovery Islands between the mainland of BC and the east coast of Vancouver Island. It has ferry service via Campbell River and Quadra Island, which makes it appealing to summer travellers as well as people looking for an island to call home.

Like many islands in this area, Cortes has an assortment of rugged rocky coastline, sandy white beaches and warm summer ocean water. With all amenities and services, including a school for up to Grade 9, Cortes really does offer the best of both worlds - services when needed but the charm and appeal of a small island.

There is a population of approx 1000 on the island, from hippies to retirees and from loggers to fishermen to back-to-the-land farmers. It is this mix of people that gives Cortes its charm.

Lakefront, farm land, residential, rural and spectacular oceanfront are all available on Cortes. There are parks to explore, beaches to walk and community events to participate in. The climate of Cortes is slightly milder and drier than Vancouver Island or the mainland coast, as it is in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island, although it still fosters lush rain forest with its winter rains.

Cortes is a great choice for a summer vacation home or for a year-round residence. Ed and Shelley are frequently on Cortes, with both sellers and buyers. They are always impressed with the beauty of the island!

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 3 October 2019

Fall Means Mushrooms

When fall arrives on Vancouver Island, so do the mushroom pickers. Locals and traveling pickers venture into the local forests, looking mostly for the golden glow of chantrelles.

A late summer and fall such as this one, with some sun and some rain, encourages good mushroom growth. Our temperate rainforest ecosystem is a natural breeding ground for them as well.

Both Shelley and Ed have been out mushroom picking this season. Shelley says walking through the forest on a mushroom treasure hunt is more fun then you'd think it would be, and both Ed and Shelley admit that hunting the chantrelles is addictive.

Every year it seems at least a few mushroom pickers get lost while on the island - usually ones who are not as familiar with the area. It goes without saying that good maps, being well prepared and paying attention to the weather and your surroundings is important. And although pickers are secretive about their locations, do let someone know your approximate whereabouts and what time you intend to be back.

While Shelley was out hunting chantrelles she started noticing all the other fungus formations in the woods right now, so took us on a photo exploration.

We live in a region of amazing abundance.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 26 September 2019

Power Options on Remote and Recreational Properties

When dealing with recreational and remote properties there are considerations that don't come up with regular residential properties. For instance - is there power and where does it come from?

Some recreational and remote properties are close enough to small communities that they can hook into existing BC Hydro power supplies. It can be surprising how many boat access communities, such as Quatsino on the NW coast of Vancouver Island, actually have power from BC Hydro. This is then just like obtaining power for any new property - lines need to be accessed and power brought into the property through coordination with BC Hydro, neighbouring properties and local communities.

For properties beyond the scope of BC Hydro, there are still options for power. Many of the older, more established remote properties will have gas generators of some sort. This involves generators and usually a battery bank to store power so that the generators aren't running all the time. This requires gas to be brought on to the property, and general upkeep on the equipment.

Solar power has become an attractive option for some, and it is not unusual to see a house or cottage with an array of solar panels on the roof, or as a stand-alone system. These supply a battery bank which stores the energy. Some larger properties have been known to use solar power but keep a gas generator on hand as an emergency back-up system.

Another option for those who have access to a running water supply is personal use hydro-power. This requires a license for the water use, and on a good, strong water source can be a great power supply. There are a variety of set-ups depending on the amount of power required.

All of the options have pros and cons when it comes to upkeep, initial cost of installation and materials, efficiency, etc. It requires some good research both on the options and the property itself. At BCO we have a good deal of information on alternative energy and are always looking out for new and innovative ideas in power for remote/recreational properties.

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 19 September 2019

Winterizing Your Recreational Property

Fall begins this weekend and with it comes the promise of rain and wind and storms on the west coast. Just like you should clean your gutters, unhook your hoses and put away the patio furniture at your residence, you should prepare your recreational and remote properties for the fall and winter seasons.

Water - if you are not going to be using your property over the winter your water supply should be properly shut down. There is nothing worse than burst pipes in the spring!

General tidy up - make sure all the loose items from summer, such as chairs, tables, planters, tools, etc are put away in a secure place. Winter weather can wreck these items, and winter storms can send them flying.

Clean up - make sure that food stuffs are either well packaged, stored somewhere else or thrown out. Mice love a winter meal! Putting linens, towels, dishcloths, etc somewhere extra dry will help keep mould from growing on damp fabrics.

Lock up - make sure the property is closed up properly. Windows and doors should be latched so wind doesn't blow them open and so that critters can't get in.

Docks - make sure the surface is "gripped" or cleaned so that if someone needs to use the docks they won't slip on the slick surface from all the winter moisture.

Trees, shrubs, etc - now is a good time to prune any dead branches or long branches that are getting too close to buildings. These can come down during winter storms doing a lot of damage with no one around to clean up. Better to deal with it now.

A small amount of time spent shutting down, cleaning up and locking up will save time and possibly money come spring. Time to get it done before the big storms come!

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 12 September 2019

West Coast Tuna Fishing

Most people think of salmon, cod or halibut fishing when talking about Vancouver Island. But the people who are serious about fishing out here know that when the right conditions align it is time to fish for tuna!

Tuna like warm water, so those who are waiting for them watch the water temperatures in August and September, waiting for the warm water to get close enough to the western shoreline of Vancouver Island that big boats can get out to the fishing grounds. When that happens the boats take off well in the dark of morning to get out to the fishing areas - often over 20 miles from shore.

A day of tuna fishing can be exciting once you hit a school, with the action coming fast and furious. Tuna like to hit and run, so it can a process to get them to the boat.

Late summer tuna fishing definitely livens up the fishing season!

It's a Coastal Lifestyle ... Live It!

Thursday 29 August 2019

BCO Coastal Gems: Read Island

Read Island sits in the heart of the Discovery Islands, with Maurelle Island to the North, Quadra Island to the west and Cortes Island to the Southeast. There is a large provincial park at the south end of the island and a government dock is located at Surge Narrows.

The census has approximately 80 people as full-time residents of the island, and there are many other part-time residents with summer cabins and residences.

school house

Read Island is home to Surge Narrows School, serving the outlying areas in the Discovery Islands for School District 72. Like most of the Discovery Islands, Read Island has a rich and varied history, having been home to loggers, farmers and homesteaders throughout the years.

Surge Narrows is at the junction where Read Island, Quadra Island and Maurelle Island meet and merges into White Rock Pass. This is a picturesque and protected location with quick, easy access to services and amenities located at Heriot Bay on Quadra Island or the larger centre of Campbell River on Vancouver Island. From here one is also minutes away from the BC mainland and majestic inlets such as Toba and Bute.

Read Island has a network of internal logging roads, which provide access throughout most of the island and to areas such as Surge Narrows, the Government Dock as well as the community hall and elementary school. Rosen Lake and 1550 acres of Provincial Park are both located on the south end of the island.
White Rock Pass

It’s a Coastal Lifestyle … Live It!