More than just Ice Hockey – Unique Homes Magazine

Elmsbridge Archive

Unique Homes Magazine
July 2007

Excerpt:

Humber Valley Resort, on 2,200 acres on Deer Lake and the Humber River in Canada’s eastern-most province, Newfoundland, is finding great favor with Europeans. The newest, in Newfoundland, is creating quite a buzz in Europe. Famed Canadian course guru Doug Carrick designed the 18-hole River Course. Owners and guests also can spend the day pursuing whatever the season has to offer—from heli-skiing and hunting to fishing, sailing, water rafting or relaxing on the sandy beaches of Deer Lake—and at night return the resort’s five-star pampering. Real estate offerings include three-bedroom chalets that begin at $600,000 and a recently launched collection of luxury homes designed by U.K.-based architects MAKE, priced between $800,000 and $3 million. Approximately 54 percent of current owners are from the United Kingdom, 33 percent are from Ireland and 12 percent are from other parts of Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada. A twice-weekly charter makes the six-hour trip from Gatwick to Deer Lake.

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Mention waterfront or private islands, and chances are Canada isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Like the proverbial girl next door, America’s northern-most neighbor’s laid back persona tends to obscure the hidden gems that lie within its borders.

In fact, Canada lays claim to a string of superlatives, including being the second largest country in the world, after Russia, in land area. So, it’s no surprise that Canada also has bragging rights to the most waterfront with 151,485 miles of coastline, the longest in the world, a number that includes the shoreline of the country’s 52,455 islands.

With white sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, historic seaside villages and shipbuilding centers, rocky shores, islands of all configurations, condos on city piers, new resort developments, even red sand beaches, the opportunities to live on or near the water in Canada seem almost as unlimited as the coastline itself. Still, the country’s most expensive waterfront property, a 14-acre estate with more than 1,000 feet of waterfront and a private pebble beach listed for more than $40 million CDN, is located not in a coastal enclave but along the Great Lakes in Oakville, Ontario. “The Greenwich of Canada” is the way Christopher Invidiata with RE/MAX Aboutowne in Oakville describes this Toronto suburb. With miles of coastline and two harbors, Oakville easily could be considered the jewel of Lake Ontario’s Gold Coast.

Excellent restaurants and upscale boutiques haven’t diminished the small-town ambiance of this former sum-mer refuge of Toronto’s industrial tycoons. “It is truly a quaint little town; the whole town feels like a neighbor-hood,” Invidiata says. With miles of shoreline and two harbors, it’s no surprise that values, particularly for properties along the water, continue to climb. Adding to the demand are international buyers and ex-pats relocating to Canada’s financial hub. “Toronto has the highest housing prices in Canada and the values in Oakville are even high-er,” says Invidiata.

The most dramatic waterfront might be found in British Columbia, which also has Canada’s highest concentration of luxury properties. “I still catch my breath when I see some of the viewscapes” along the coast here, observes Mark Lester, senior vice president of Colliers International in Vancouver. “It’s just an amazing place. What’s happened over the last couple of years and what will continue to happen is that people from places such as Sydney, Frankfort, London and New York are looking at British Columbia and discovering that real estate values are very cheap compared to other places in the world.”

Sitting just to the east of Vancouver Island on the Georgia Strait, the city of Vancouver, touted as Canada’s gateway to the Pacific Rim, is Canada’s fastest growing metro. Demand for luxury properties here is just as like-ly to come from outside the country as it is inside. “Our market is 20 percent American and 40 percent Asian with the rest driven from within,” says Beverly Kniffen, president of Cascadia Pacific Realty in Vancouver. “There is a lot of wealth (in China) and it is very easy to get here. Also, there are strong similarities between Vancouver and Hong Kong.”

“The demand from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China is huge,” acknowledges Frank Saniuk, owner of Four Sails Realty in West Vancouver, who compares Vancouver to La Jolla, Calif. Part of the allure for international buyers is Canada’s laid-back persona. “It’s very low key. But when people get here, they are surprised with what they see. They are surprised with the level of development and the degree of sophistication,” says Saniuk.

In the 1990s, Vancouver caught vertical fever, and waterfront condos in upscale areas such as Coal Harbour and Yaletown comprise some of the city’s best addresses, offering spectacular views of English Bay, marinas and cityscapes. Shopping, bistros, restaurants as well as the 1,000 acres of Stanley Park, Canada’s largest urban park, are nearby. Prices for a penthouse in the most exclusive buildings easily range from $7 million to $10 million CDN.

Demand for condos remains strong, particularly from Asians and Americans. “We have a huge American second-home market here. I’ve sold a number of very high-end condos on the water to Americans, many of whom want to hedge their bets and have properties outside the U.S.,” comments Kniffen.

The most desirable and most expensive waterfront can be found in West Vancouver, minutes from downtown, where upscale homes line the water’s edge, offering sandy beaches, docks and spectacular city and sunset views. Originally developed as a cottage colony, West Vancouver still has the occasional waterfront cottage offering. As in Vancouver proper, prices here are some of the highest in Canada. Fifty feet of waterfront in a lovely location will fetch at least $4.5 million, according to Saniuk.

One thought does pop into almost everyone’s mind at the mention of Canada, and that is cold—very cold. Here, too, Vancouver—which is temperate enough for year round golf—surprises. In fact, notes Kniffen, “You can golf and ski in the same day.”

Even milder is nearby Vancouver Island, where res-idents of Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) spend February counting flowers rather than snowflakes. Palms, eucalyptus, even some varieties of bananas flourish and flowers bloom all year in the sub-Mediterranean climate. Traditionally a Canadian retirement haven, Americans, particularly during the tech boom, also became enamored with Victoria’s delights.

Thousands of islands are sprinkled along British Columbia’s coast from Washington State to the Yukon Territory, and buyers snapping up rural waterfront on Vancouver or one of the other islands are likely to come from Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary, Canada’s booming oil region, according to Lester, whose particular focus and personal passion happens to be islands.

“Many potential buyers,” Lester says, “fancy buying an island. But you have to be a particular purchaser” to want that lifestyle, particularly those islands without ferry service to the mainland. Prices, he says, may begin at $600,000 for water-front on a ferry-accessed island and go down to$300,000 or $400,000 for a boat-accessed island.

Bowen Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland, has long been a second home retreat for Vancouverites. It is also fast becoming a prized location for a growing number of second-home buyers who hail from any number of global locations. David Sorenson, builder/developer of King Edward Bay, says he likes to think of them as a demographic, rather than from any specific country. Almost all of his recent buyers plan to downsize in square footage, but not quality. Even though retirement might be five years away, they eventually will use their Bowen Island location as a home base.

Some of Canada’s best waterfront values can be found along the inlets and villages of the East Coast’s Atlantic Provinces. Here, prices may be significantly less than those on the West Coast, but options for waterfront real estate are equally diverse, with a wide variety of coast-lines from rugged cliffs to spectacular, sandy beaches. Some homes, according to Mariana Cowan of Coldwell Banker Supercity Realty in Halifax, even offer a mix of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and boat access.

Gaining new attention, particularly from both Americans and Canadians, according to Cowan, is the area around Chester on Nova Scotia’s south shore, which she describes as similar to Cape Cod without the crowds, traffic and sky-rocketing real estate prices. Even though it hosts one of the largest regattas on the eastern seaboard, Chester is relatively free of commercialization. It remains a postcard-perfect seaside village of clapboard houses, white picket fences and gorgeous oceanfront estates.

Near the top of the market here is a local land-mark, the Captains House, an oceanfront home priced at$2.5 million. Second-floor terraces, solariums, and a location perched on the edge of Mahone Bay make this home an ideal spot to capture the area’s legendary sunsets or a summer regatta.

Private islands also abound here. A prime example is Charles Island, one of Nova Scotia’s larger privately held islands with 10 miles of ocean frontage on three islands connected by beaches, currently marketed by Bob Harris of Tradewinds Realty for $2.9 million CDN. Cowan says she is surprised how many prime waterfront properties have been purchased by locals, although international buyers remain an important component of this market. “A new group looking for waterfront has been buyers from the U.K.,” she says, noting that larger lots and more space are a big draw for them. New to Halifax is a condo community of low-rise buildings on the harbor. Although there are other condos around Halifax, Bishop’s Landing is the only one to be located on the downtown waterfront. Significant interest is coming from potential buyers in Europe, China, South America and Bermuda—even Canadians from “out west” are looking for a pied-à-terre in Halifax, according to Carolyn Davis Stewart with Prudential, who is listing the properties. “There has always been a strong tie between Halifax and Bermuda,” she says, noting a common bond of former ties to the commonwealth and island status. Also, finding favor with European buyers and a new concept in Canada are developments such as Fox Harb’r on Nova Scotia’s north shore, which boasts real estate and a luxury resort.

Humber Valley Resort, on 2,200 acres on Deer Lake and the Humber River in Canada’s eastern-most province, Newfoundland, is finding great favor with Europeans. The newest, in Newfoundland, is creating quite a buzz in Europe. Famed Canadian course guru Doug Carrick designed the 18-hole River Course. Owners and guests also can spend the day pursuing whatever the season has to offer—from heli-skiing and hunting to fishing, sailing, water rafting or relaxing on the sandy beaches of Deer Lake—and at night return the resort’s five-star pampering. Real estate offerings include three-bedroom chalets that begin at $600,000 and a recently launched collection of luxury homes designed by U.K.-based architects MAKE, priced between $800,000 and $3 million. Approximately 54 percent of current owners are from the United Kingdom, 33 percent are from Ireland and 12 percent are from other parts of Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada. A twice-weekly charter makes the six-hour trip from Gatwick to Deer Lake.

Although the amount of land is finite, the opportunities for waterfront living in Canada continue to expand.

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