Edmonton·RED DEER BUREAU

Vacation property market heating up in central Alberta

Experts say more central Albertans are buying recreational property due to the pandemic.

'Lots of people are just reshaping their lives and looking for reasons to find their happy place'

One of the central Alberta vacation homes Alair Homes is building in 2021. (Submitted by Alair Homes)

CBC Edmonton and CBC Calgary have teamed up to launch a pop-up Red Deer bureau to help us tell your stories from central Alberta. For the next month, reporter Heather Marcoux will bring you the news from Red Deer and the surrounding area. Story ideas and tips can be sent to heather.marcoux@cbc.ca.

With travel plans on pause and campgrounds booking quickly, more central Albertans are buying vacation properties closer to home. 

Real estate agents and home builders say the demand for recreational properties in central Alberta is red hot. 

"It seems like they're flying off the shelves. Things are selling at a rapid pace compared to last year," said Lindsay Olver, chair of the Central Alberta Realtors Association. 

Olver said sales of recreational units in the region are seeing "at least a 20 per cent increase" across the board.

She said Gleniffer Lake, southwest of Red Deer, saw 27 properties sell this March, compared to just one sale in the same month last year.

Spectrum of price points, few properties 

Properties under $300,000 are going the fastest, but all price points are selling, Olver said.

Real estate agent Kim Fox has multiple listings at Pine Lake, where buyers can get everything from a simple lot to put an RV on for $70,000, to a multi-storey luxury home for $700,000.

According to Fox, the recreational market has been going strong since November and she's already sold more vacation homes in 2021 than she did in 2020.

"Everything is changing in the world around us right now, and recreational properties are the things that people are looking for most often because they know they can't travel any longer," said Fox. "Lots of people are just reshaping their lives and looking for reasons to find their happy place." 

Buying and building

Nate Rempel, co-owner of Alair Homes Red Deer, said he typically builds 10 luxury homes in central Alberta per year, with only one or two of them vacation properties. This year, half of his builds will be vacation homes. 

Most of the projects are being built on lakes, including Sylvan Lake, Buffalo Lake, Jackfish Lake and Gull Lake. 

A private boat launch at Wispering Pines resort on Pine Lake. (Heather Marcoux/CBC )

Building costs are high right now, but interest rates are low, making building a luxury vacation home more attractive to Albertans who are looking for a place to relax, close to home as the pandemic continues.

"We've had a kind of a tough couple of years in central Alberta with the oil, and economy, and some government changes. I think people have been really been holding tight and sitting on sitting on their nest egg and waiting for the economy to turn around. And this is just sort of a tipping point," Rempel said.

"People are not going to Phoenix for the winters. And people need that escape. So they're really looking to our own backyards."

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