Ontario wants in: Local, Alberta, Vancouver real estate buyers have new competition

Kelowna rising skyline is attracting an increasing number of buyers from Ontario but that's a phenomenon throughout the region.
Kelowna rising skyline is attracting an increasing number of buyers from Ontario but that's a phenomenon throughout the region.

If you're seeing a lot of out-of-province licence plates on Okanagan or Kamloops streets, they might not be tourists — they could soon be your neighbours.

A growing part of the real estate boom in recent months is coming from buyers from around the country finally realizing what Interior B.C. has to offer. 

“What we’re seeing is what I call the migration story,” Richard Deacon, a realtor with Engel and Volkers Okanagan in Kelowna told iNFOnews.ca. “That’s folks coming from Vancouver, from Toronto, from other jurisdictions where they see themselves being priced out of those bigger cities and-or they recognize the lifestyle.

“I have, this year, done three or four times as many deals as last year from Ontario. I would say, this year, we would be looking probably at 25 per cent of my clientele out of Ontario, 25 per cent Alberta and 50 per cent Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.”

His firm has a number of outlets in Ontario so he gets referrals, but also promotes the Okanagan lifestyle in Ontario.

“You could sell a home in Burlington for a couple of million dollars and it might be a nice, larger home but it wouldn’t have views and it certainly wouldn’t be close to the lake like it is in Kelowna and the lifestyle wouldn’t be nearly as good,” Deacon said.

And he’s not just talking about properties worth $1 or $2 million. He’s got one Coldstream home going to auction in June with an asking price of $13 million.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: $13M asking price on world class North Okanagan estate

That proportion of Ontario buyers is not the same for all realtors or all areas.

Brendan Shaw, owner of Brendan Shaw Real Estate in Kamloops, has seen some of his agents sell million-dollar properties to Ontario buyers but estimates 60 per cent of buyers are local with 35 to 40 per cent from Vancouver.

Two highrise towers in Kelowna called One Water Street saw 50 per cent of buyers being local, 40 per cent from the Lower Mainland and eight per cent from Alberta.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Kelowna’s One Water Street penthouse could be yours for $10 million

Those towers are nearing completion which means most units were sold before the COVID-inspired work-from-home phenomenon opened the door for that home to be outside major cities.

“I’ve seen a bit of a phenomenon, accelerated by COVID,” Deacon said. “I think people are pushing the button on their lives and saying: ‘Instead of waiting five years, if we’re going to work a little bit less or we might sell our business, let’s get that property in the Okanagan or the Shuswap and we might not move there full-time just yet but we see the market rising and we see the time we want to spend with our families due to COVID and I think we’re going to pull the trigger on getting a place and moving there.’ That’s primarily from Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Alberta but I would say Ontario has really found out about the Okanagan.”

Developers of large scale projects are marketing to that huge Ontario marketplace. According to a recent news release, Orchard Park Properties is working to build three towers in downtown Kelowna, including the city’s tallest at 42 storeys.

ACE Project Marketing’s Chad MacTavish says his firm is getting 100 to 150 inquiries about that Water Street by the Park project every few days, with maybe 40 being from Ontario.

“The pandemic has forced people to work from home, demonstrating to millions of people that they don’t need to live close to their workplace to have productive careers, and giving companies the option of hiring people who live almost anywhere,” the news release states. “Eliminating that commuting constraint has encouraged homebuyers, especially those from Canada’s largest cities, to seek a bigger bang for their real estate buck in smaller Canadian cities that can still provide the amenities urbanites have grown accustomed to.”

It says 4,000 people have moved to Kelowna alone from outside of B.C. in the last two years and that pace seems to be accelerating rapidly.

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