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Rundle Mountain in Banff, Alta. (Jupiter Images)
Rundle Mountain in Banff, Alta. (Jupiter Images)

Magazine excerpt

Mulling investing in a vacation home? Here are Canada’s top 5 markets Add to ...

“The best buys depend on the individual investor’s objectives; price is rarely the only consideration,” he explains. “However, the money that has been made in real estate investment here has been made by way of appreciation over the long term. Most Whistler investments combine the opportunity for cash flow (which usually covers ownership costs), appreciation, and personal use and enjoyment at what is arguably the number one ski resort in North America.”

At present, 65 per cent of the market is comprised of condos and townhouses, while 15 per cent of the market is made of up shared-ownership and single-family housing and the rest is vacant land. However, investors looking to develop may want to consider that the average price tag of a lot is substantial at $802,000.

Whistler Blackcomb is accessible from Vancouver via the Sea to Sky Highway. In addition to being a spectacular drive, it means investors and property managers can be in the mountains in less than two hours. The highway (Route 99) has also undergone significant redevelopment and expansion since 2003, thanks in part to the demand placed on it by the Olympics.

Whistler is home to 10,531 residents year-round and attracts 2.5 million visitors each year. The variety of activities available makes this rental market a draw during both winter and summer, although there are some months that stand apart from others.

“High visitor counts run from December to April and July through September,” explains Kelly. “May, June and October are slower, but we are working very hard with festivals and events to attract people to the resort during these slower months.”

The Real Estate Association of Whistler is quick to point out that the broad range of real estate options in Whistler – from affordable fractional condominium ownership to town-homes, single-family homes and luxury estates and hotel suites – has attracted more than 11,500 second-home owners from around the world.

4) Cape Breton
Peak season: May to October
Best Buy: Cottages

Average rent: $670 a month

Picturesque and historic, Cape Breton has more to offer investors than property with spectacular views. This island region of Nova Scotia attracts tourists year-round, creating a constant supply of tenants for vacation rental housing.

Cape Breton Island has been split into tourist regions, including Cabot Trail, Ceilidh Trail, Fleur-de-lis Trail, Marconi Trail and Bras d’Or Lake Scenic Drive, which became a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in June 2011. The flourishing wildlife and natural beauty are a constant draw for visitors, so when vacation rentals come on the market, they’re quick to be snapped up, says local real estate agent Cathy Harvey. “Property on the Bras d’Or Lake is highly sought after.”

Harvey points to the villages of Baddeck and Ingonish as high-end areas desired by investors and vacationers alike. Likewise, the famous Cabot Trail is attractive to many domestic and international travellers.

Cape Breton’s enduring popularity and variety have made it a strong vacation rental market over the past 10 years, especially in the high season. “There are very few times when there is an empty apartment or rental unit here, so the vacancy rate will be very low,” says Harvey. “The demand is greater than the supply.”

And with everything Cape Breton has to offer, it’s not hard to see why. With views of the ocean as well as scenic restaurants, shops and museums lining its shores, visitors arrive in droves to take in this Atlantic gem. As a result, the demand for seafront properties is high. Cottages on or within close proximity to the sea will yield high returns, especially in the summer months.

“Our peak season stretches from May through October,” says Harvey. “Most seasonal rentals are full during the peak season and tend to be booked well in advance. Our busiest time is July and August.”

With an average price of $150,000 in the region, Harvey notes that some homes are still available for $100,000, although not on the seafront. However, while properties along the water may come with a higher price tag, the enduring popularity with holidaymakers means they won’t depreciate in value.

“Property on the Bras d’Or Lakes is a good, solid investment,” affirms Harvey. The area draws hundreds of visitors each year, many of whom are interested in longer stays to enjoy the hiking, bird-watching, and boating that this area is known for internationally.

The island is best suited to a buy-and-hold strategy. The small amount of inventory can mean properties take a while to sell, and prices continue to appreciate. “People in Cape Breton generally don’t ‘have to’ sell, so they wait it out and get their price in the end, and our values steadily increase. We don’t seem to boom and bust like they do in other parts of the country,” says Harvey.

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