Ah, summer; the passive-aggressive season

Summer is the I’m-having-so-much-fun-doing-all-the-things-I-don’t-normally-do-that-I-now-realize-I-need-to-make-more-money-so-I-can-live-like-this-all-the-time-and-that-my-life-during-the-other-three-seasons-sucks season.

It has the effect of simultaneously making you love and hate your life. It is the backhanded compliment. It is the dysfunctional fling with the guy you knew was a douchebag – in the beginning it was new, fun and a welcomed change from the relationship before. By the middle it’s hot, heavy, sticky, a bit too intense and all consuming. And by the end your self-esteem is a couple notches lower, you feel sick to your stomach with shame for the poor choices you made and you now have body image issues. For my guy readers, I can only assume it would be like the one night stand with the girl who was super hot but you knew had a lot of crazy in her; major score until reality sets in and you now have to live through the suck that will be your life for the next month or so trying to avoid the crazy.

Summer. The season of denial, shame, and envy.

I had one of these life-is-so-great-right-now-but-I-hate-my-life moments when my husband, son and I went to the lake. Scattered along the shoreline were some beautiful homes. Some obviously cabins, others probably year-round residences.

So like any self-respecting idealist dreamer, I turned to my husband and said, “I wish we could own a home or a cabin or a shack on the water”. His response? “Pfft. Yeah, me too. Maybe when we’re rich” (as we both glance over at our money-pit, er… I mean toddler son, eating sand).

But back at the office I couldn’t let the dream go. So I took to the interwebs and I happened upon Sharleen’s website www.waterfrontwest.com (and by happen upon I mean opened it from my Bookmark folder called Inspiration). Sharleen and I connected on Twitter a couple of months ago and since then I love visiting her website to check out all the fabulous oceanfront and lakefront properties she has listed there.

But this time was different. I don’t know if it was because summer was winding down so it was losing its seductive grip on my commitment to reality, but I started looking more closely at the price tags attached to these beautiful homes and cottages and realized, hey, this might not be just a pipe dream. So of course I got in touch with Sharleen and I want to share with you what came out of that conversation…

Me: We’ve been kicking around the idea of buying an investment property but we can’t even afford a condo in Vancouver. Surely we can’t afford a HOUSE on waterfront property…

Sharleen: The benchmark price of a condo in Greater Vancouver for June 2014 was $378, 000 and while that doesn’t buy you a huge spread in the city, with this kind of a budget, there are many waterfront or view properties in smaller BC communities that would fit nicely into this price range. For example, take a look at this oceanfront home for $329, 9000 on Malcolm Island. If you are up for moving to a smaller community, you can have a pretty high standard of living in that price range. Areas where you can find similar (or sometimes lower) recreational real estate prices include parts of the Cariboo Chilcotin, Northern BC, the islands along the east coast of Vancouver Island (Discovery Islands, Northern Gulf Islands, Malcolm Island) and many other small towns across the Province.  I have also seen single-family oceanfront and lakefront homes on our site for under $400,000 this year in not-so- remote areas including the Southern Gulf Islands and a few communities on Southern Vancouver Island such as Cowichan Lake. You just have to keep an eye out for them to get them before they sell.

An interesting trend that some of our real estate agent clients have noticed in recent years is the movement of  “New Homesteaders” into their communities. As the cost of living gets higher in Vancouver and Victoria, these buyers are seeing the benefits of moving to smaller towns where they can purchase single family homes they wouldn’t be able to afford in the city, often with acreages so that they can work the land. These families see the benefits of becoming part of a small, close-knit community and often grow their own local food and home school their children.

Me: Hmm. Okay, so maybe I can afford a waterfront property in a small town – maybe even smaller than Sooke. But why would I want to move to somewhere smaller that Sooke??

Sharleen: I can personally speak to the benefits of moving to a small town. My husband and I sold our Main Street (Vancouver) single-family home and moved to the Comox Valley in 2004. We purchased a home with a small mortgage and with the extra money we had in the bank from the sale of our home, we were able to create our own businesses and work for ourselves. We now have a much higher standard of living (larger house, larger lot, more privacy) and enjoy the same outdoor opportunities we had in Vancouver (skiing, boating, mountain biking, hiking, etc.) with less lineups, faster travel times and for less cost. Our son attends the local French Immersion school, (which I did not have to line up for days to get him into), we go to the local Farmer’s Market almost every week and attend the surprisingly large number of local events held throughout the year. Courtenay has most of the perks of the bigger city such as awesome coffee shops and a cute main street with boutique shopping, but also stores like Costco and Winners and full recreational facilities and services.

Me: Okay… so what’s better then – oceanfront or lakefront?

Sharleen: I can’t really say which is better because they are completely different settings: each type of waterfront is appealing to different buyers for different reasons. A buyer looking for lakefront is more likely to be interested in enjoying the lakefront lifestyle in the summer (ie. warm water swimming, waterskiing and boating), while an oceanfront buyer might prefer salt water activities such as salmon fishing or ocean kayaking, or maybe they just want to watch the ever changing view as the ocean traffic goes by. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Me: Is there more maintenance involved with a waterfront property than a regular house?

In a nutshell, yes, but that depends on your definition of a “regular” house. If it’s a basic single-family home on a city lot, then definitely there are a few more things to keep in mind when owning a waterfront property, but as I have learned, the bigger the property, the more work, whether or not it’s waterfront.

Typically, waterfront homes are going to be more open to the elements.  Winter storms may hit the home with more force, causing falling debris and washing things up on the shoreline. This means you must be vigilant to maintain siding and roofing and keep an eye on any large trees that might be dying on your property. Good quality double pane windows are important to keep the winter cold out. You will also have a beach to “take care of.”  In areas where beach access is public, this might mean cleaning up a bit after other people enjoy the waterfront. Some people go so far as to remove rocks from their frontage or bring in sand to “their” beach, while others build retaining walls to keep the foreshore from eroding. Always check local guidelines and laws before doing any of the previously mentioned changes to a waterfront property. If you have a dock, that will require some extra maintenance as well.

While not maintenance related, there are also special setbacks for waterfront properties and protected riparian areas to keep in mind if you plan to build anything on your lot. For this reason, it is a good idea to make sure you use an agent who is experienced in working with waterfront properties.

Me: So I’m obviously going to have to blog about this now…what would you say is the biggest misconception about waterfront property?

Sharleen: I would say the biggest misconception is price as per my previous answer. You can buy a deluxe waterfront single family home in many smaller cities in BC for the same price or less than your average single family home in East Vancouver.

If you’re really set on living in a city such as Victoria or Vancouver and purchasing oceanfront property, you will obviously have to pay more (and in some cases a lot more) but if you look a little out of town you can still find areas where waterfront is less expensive. For example, you can still get an oceanfront home in a community such as Sidney (30 mins drive from downtown for under $1,000,000). Other areas near Victoria where waterfront is less expensive include the Gorge and Sooke. Near Vancouver, for oceanfront, you can look at areas such at Deep Cove, Bowen Island or Lion’s Bay as opposed to the uber-expensive West Vancouver. Other getaway areas near Vancouver with less expensive oceanfront include boat access cottages up Indian Arm and Keats and Gambier Islands.

So there you have it folks. Summer is on its way out, I’m back to reality, back to regular posting, and on the hunt for my next property – on the water.

Kerry Reid is a Licensed Mortgage Professional with Modern Mortgage Group, a franchise of Dominion Lending Centres, in Sooke, BC. She recently teamed up with Kari Stauble, also a Licensed Mortgage Professional with Modern Mortgage Group, to become the powerhouse team Kerry and Kari, Licensed Mortgage Professionals. Don’t worry. We’re on it. http://www.kkmortgages.com

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