Cottage Industry: Okanagan, “Million Dollar Market”

Rising prices, bidding wars, blind bids – the search for seasonal properties has become a battleground. Tales from 10 of Canada’s hottest holiday towns.

In the July issue of Maclean’s Magazine, and every week here online, new buyers reveal what they need to do to get their dream homes: pool the family money, send relatives to watch, hop on their first post-bubble trip to Atlantic Canada, or buy an unseen spectacle, Sometimes thousands of kilometers away.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Average leisure real estate prices (2021): $1,302,750

market: With its sunny climate, access to ferries and a plethora of golf courses, British Columbia’s vast Okanagan Valley is a tourist’s (and retiree’s) dream. The recent wave of tech companies setting up shop in Kelowna has also attracted a large number of young professionals, and with them comes the desire to snap up coveted vacation properties in the valley. Between these two groups, the competition for huts and cabins is tight. In 2021, average prices for waterfront properties in the Central Valley were $2.3 million; To the north, they netted in excess of $1.3 million each. Buyers are now hard-pressed to find lakeside stock listed under the million dollar markā€”but more often than not, they’re out of luck.

Buyers: Ted Swan, 37, a garlic grower and lighting entrepreneur, and his wife Laurel, a 37-year-old human resources consultant.

Laurel: My grandparents, Jane and Haimo, immigrated from Finland to Vancouver in 1924. Every year, they ski at Silver Star Mountain Resort, which is 30 minutes northeast of Vernon. I went there with my parents and younger sister, Lisa, when I was a kid.

Ted and I now live in Vernon with our four-year-old daughter, James. We used to visit SilverStar almost every weekend, and in the winter we would rent an old A-shaped cabin on the grounds. At the beginning of the pandemic, Ted and I thought about buying a vacation property. I knew that Lisa and her husband, Eric, who lives in Toronto, were interested in buying a country house in Ontario as an investment. I asked if they would be interested in buying a cabin at SilverStar with us instead. They liked the idea.

Related: Cottage Industry: Invermere, “Best Kept Secret”

We wanted a place with at least two bedrooms and planned to spend between $500,000 and $850,000. In February, a 1960s A-frame went on sale, which is a rarity. The same family owned it for 32 years. It had three bedrooms, a balcony, an open kitchen with wood-panelled walls and a fireplace, all for $669,000. It was also at the foot of an elevator, so it was a place to ski. We saw the booth at 10am the day it was listed and FaceTimed with Lisa and Eric while they were there. You really did feel at home.

We noticed business cards from four other real estate agents on the table, which means that four more shows took place just that morning. On the date the show was collected a week later, we made $750,000. There were seven more shows, and I was surprised there weren’t more.

Read: Homeowner’s Worst Nightmare

One buyer included a clause that he would pay $5,000 above the higher bid, but the owners rejected it because he wanted to make the cabin a full-time rental. We planned to put it on Airbnb, but we wanted to use it too. Choose our offer. I think our family’s association with the resort helped us win.

We acquired the site in March, and Eric and Lisa traveled to help us with the renovations. We posted the cabin on Airbnb soon after, naming it “Heimo Haus” after our grandfather. Reservations were slow at first, but Once we got a few reviews, I booked the cabin Until the remainder of the ski season, which ended on April 1. We plan to add outdoor storage for bikes and skis and to install a second bathroom upstairs and a hot tub in the near future. James, Ted, and I spent about nine days there this spring, just skiing, snowboarding, and snowboarding, enjoying dinner on the town, and playing board games by the fireplace. We always leave SilverStar with hearts full.


This article appears in the July 2022 issue of Maclean magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here, or buy the issue online here.

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