April 19, 2024

On British Columbia’s Coast for $2. 5 Million: House Hunting in Canada

This four-bedroom, three-bath home sits on nearly five hilltop acres in Halfmoon Bay, a coastal village in British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast region, just west of Vancouver. The 4,300-square-foot house, completed in 2020, overlooks the Salish Sea and various islands in the Strait of Georgia.

The sellers, William and Shirley Van Esch, said that while readying the hilltop for construction, they discovered “a place where the rock dipped down, and we thought, hey, wouldn’t that make a nice wine cellar,” Mr. Van Esch said. They gave that instruction to their architect, along with a request for a top-floor kitchen, an elevator to the wine cellar, and a guesthouse connected to the main house by a breezeway.

They also preserved a small, natural pond on the property, building a ramp over it that leads to one of the home’s entrances. “Every spring we get this cacophony of frogs — we love it,” Mr. Van Esch said.

The main entrance is a single blue door on the ground floor of the guesthouse, where there is also a two-car garage. Stairs lead to the window-lined breezeway, with a water view on one side and woods on the other. The breezeway connects with the upper floor of the main house.

The open living area in the main house has peaked ceilings of fir with skylights, as well as fir posts, burnished concrete floors, a free-standing fireplace and large ocean-facing windows. The kitchen has a nine-foot island and counters made of Dekton, a highly durable material that requires minimal maintenance. Glass doors from the living area open onto a large deck.

A pull-down stairway in the kitchen leads up to a loft space, which the sellers call the “away room. ” It has a cozy window seat overlooking the water.

A Four-Bedroom on Five Acres Outside Vancouver $2. 54 MILLION (3. 499 MILLION CANADIAN DOLLARS)

Off the living area, the primary bedroom suite has a custom-built platform bed and a private deck. “When we wake up in the morning, without even lifting our heads we can see straight out across the Salish Sea to Vancouver Island,” Ms. Van Esch said.

A walk-in closet behind the bed is accessible via hallways on either side. The en suite bath has a soaking tub, shower and a wash station with a trough sink and a two-sided medicine cabinet suspended above it.

The ground floor of the main house, which can be accessed from outside via the ramp over the pond, has a covered front porch, an office, a family room with another free-standing fireplace, and a second bedroom and bath.

The wine cellar has a wooden bar made from a chunk of cedar found on the property, Mr. Van Esch said. The guesthouse, above the garage, has an open living area with a kitchenette, and a loft bedroom with a bath. The suite has its own entrance and can be locked off from the main house and used as a short-term rental, said Gina Stockwell, senior vice president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, which has the listing.

Rural Halfmoon Bay is on the southern end of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, adjacent to Secret Cove, which has a marina and a resort, Ms. Stockwell said. This property is within a 20-minute drive of the municipality of Sechelt, which has supermarkets, restaurants and a hospital. The Sunshine Coast is accessible exclusively by ferry or float plane. The ferry terminal at the coast’s southern tip, in Langdale, is about a 50-minute drive from this property; the ferry ride to Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay is 40 minutes. Float planes from Vancouver land in Sechelt.

Market Overview

The Sunshine Coast, nestled in the southwest corner of mainland British Columbia, stretches for 110 miles from Howe Sound up to Desolation Sound. The area includes the traditional territories of the Squamish, Sechelt, Sliammon and Klahoose nations, and has a population of roughly 50,000.

The region’s mountains, lakes, coastline and inlets make it a paradise for those seeking outdoor recreation. “It used to be Vancouver’s best-kept secret,” said Aliese MacKenzie, a sales agent with Re/Max City Realty. “About five years ago, we saw a real uptick in foreign buyers. That’s when prices started shooting up. ”

The pandemic further enhanced the region’s desirability, as Vancouver residents “who were stuck in condos fled to bigger properties and the ability to have a home office,” said Sue Scott, a sales adviser with Engel & Völkers Vancouver.

The median sale price for a detached home in the Sunshine Coast region was just over $1 million Canadian ($726,000) during the first half of this year, a 22 percent increase over the same period last year, according to a market report from Re/Max Canada. That price — which makes the Sunshine Coast one of the more affordable regions in the Vancouver metro area — typically buys a 1,500-square-foot home with an ocean view in a more built-up location, like Sechelt, Ms. Stockwell said.

Since the beginning of 2022, prices have flattened in the area despite “the downward trend in the Greater Vancouver housing market,” according to the report. That’s due in part to a steady rise in interest rates this year, which is cooling the market. Sales of detached homes in the Greater Vancouver area were down across the board through June this year, though not as much in outer areas like the Sunshine Coast (down 25 percent) as in more cosmopolitan pockets like East Vancouver (40 percent), according to Re/Max Canada.

Proximity to the ferry in Langdale dictates prices, which makes the neighboring town of Gibsons the most “elite area,” Ms. MacKenzie said.

The region is currently dealing with a housing crisis, with a shortage of rentals making it difficult for business owners to find enough workers. “A lot of businesses are struggling and, if they have the means, they are buying housing to house their employees,” she said.

Inventory in the Sunshine Coast region, though still relatively low with 277 active listings, did climb 73 percent from last September to this September, according to data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Who Buys on the Sunshine Coast

Foreign buyers represent a very small share of the market in the area, agents said, as the majority of buyers are from Vancouver.

Most foreign buyers are from the United States, they said. Ms. MacKenzie said the area also attracts buyers from China seeking business investments.

Buying Basics

The Canadian government plans to institute a two-year prohibition on home purchases by foreign nationals come January. The ban is part of an effort to relieve pressure on housing prices from foreign investors, according to the government’s finance department. Temporary workers and international students are exempt from the ban.

Currently, foreign buyers in most areas of British Columbia must pay an additional 20 percent tax on home purchases. However, purchases on the Sunshine Coast are exempt from that tax, agents said.

“I’ve had buyers from California come up and purchase here specifically because there is no foreign buyers tax,” Ms. Scott said.

Buyers and sellers hire their own lawyer or notary to handle the transaction. Because the majority of properties on the Sunshine Coast are not connected to a municipal sewer, purchases require a septic system inspection, Ms. MacKenzie said.

Languages and Currency

English, French; Canadian dollar (1 Canadian dollar = $0. 73)

Taxes and Fees

All purchases are subject to a property transfer tax. The graduated rate starts at 1 percent of the fair market value up to $200,000 Canadian ($145,000), and rises to 3 percent on any portion of the value over $2 million Canadian ($1. 45 million). An additional 2 percent is due on any portion above $3 million Canadian ($2. 18 million).

The annual property taxes on this home are 6,301 Canadian ($4,575), if it is classified as a second home; the rate is less if it is a primary residence, Ms. Stockwell said.

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