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Buying into BC's Winter Warmth

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 07 March 2000 00:00

As spring fever begins to grip Canada, those in British Columbia's lower mainland have a head start on the rest of the country. During my late-February visit to Vancouver, I saw blossoms galore at the BC Home & Garden Show where I was speaking and the first flowers of spring along the city's streets. The rest of Canada is tantalized by warm spells and frustrated by ice and slush under foot, followed by March blizzards.

This contrast started me thinking about a move to Vancouver, where few things shut down for winter.

"You can golf, ski, sail and cut the grass all on one winter day in Vancouver," said ex-easterner Bob Marando, Director of Marketing & Sales for Vancouver's Georgian Court Hotel , explaining that this European-style hotel attracts many who come to tour the city. "In the winters we get a lot of rain. If you visit and it rains all week, that's terrible. But if you live here and it rains for a week, you know it will be fine next week. I hated the cold back East. In my mind, here, when I am through November, I am through winter."

The Georgian Court Hotel is an independent, wholly-Canadian hotel owned by a limited partnership of about 700 shareholders, most of them based in Vancouver. It houses the respected William Tell Restaurant, a thirty-five year landmark.

While other provinces record thriving real estate markets, British Columbia is in a slump, which can make it a great time to buy. The economic Asian flu hit hard and the "wet condo" scandal further undermined the real estate market. If you are looking for work, Vancouver may not be high on your list. However, if you want a great place to retire or to start a new electronic venture, BC may be the place.

Don't expect fire-sale prices but this is a real estate market that favours buyers. Vancouver prices are on par with the Greater Toronto Area so in choice neighbourhoods it is $250,000 and up for a detached home. But there are huge variations of housing style and prices across the urban area and a high apartment vacancy rate. Both cities are more expensive than most Canadian centres so this isn't bargain-basement buying but it is a good time to consider neighbourhoods which might have been out of reach before. If city living is not for you, buyer's markets in other BC communities offer a wealth of real estate opportunities in a range of prices.

Unless global warming does away with winter, BC will become a Canadian retirement Mecca and then try to buy something.

For more on British Columbia: see: .

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