Home & Land – August 2015 Issue

Retirement Made Easy
Living Golden On Vancouver Island

It seems that retirement and the West Coast have always been synonymous. With Canada’s mildest climate, high quality of life and stunning natural scenery, it’s easy to see why British Columbia continually ranks top among retirement destinations. Still, those looking to make the move west have a number of options to wade through before settling down.

Among the most popular retirement destinations in BC, Vancouver Island remains at the top. A list of ‘The Best Places To Retire’ published by MoneySense Magazine in 2013 named the island’s capital Victoria as number one, while Saanich was listed as number two. Lists such as this take into account many livability factors: affordability, access to health care, weather, low crime rate, good public transportation and low property taxes. Yet there are additional reasons for spending one’s golden years on the island and away from larger cities.

With an influx of foreign money pouring into Vancouver from overseas, it has become a major obstacle to obtaining housing at an affordable price. Many will recognize this as simple supply and demand: a reduction in supply drives prices up, which developers then pay top dollar for. In the end, it means homebuyers wind up paying exorbitant prices far above the property’s actual worth. For retirees who need to stretch their dollar further and ensure their wealth lasts through retirement – the financial investment is not always realistic.

Outside of Victoria, a number of smaller towns and cities on Vancouver Island present excellent options for retirees. In part this is because the opportunity for growth (and therefore an increase on property investment) can be greater. Smaller regional communities with robust economies present more chances for development, say in retail or the service sector. Typically these markets are more affordable, yet still have dependable infrastructure and amenities. A few areas that could easily fit this description include the Comox Valley, Chemainus, Ladysmith, Qualicum Beach, and Sooke; as well as more remote locations like Tofino and Ucluelet. Salmon Arm – a town of 17,000 nestled on the shores of Shuswap Lake in the southern interior – is yet another local spot that’s appeared on a number of “best of” lists recently.

It would be misleading to say there’s anywhere on Vancouver Island where nature isn’t a headliner, but there do remain standouts. More than anything it’s a question of personal appeal – storm watching in Tofino or winemaking in the Comox Valley? If retirement is about spending more time doing what you love, then proper research is key to finding a good fit. Once future retirees begin to narrow down the options, many real estate agents suggest spending a month or two trying out the location first before taking the plunge. Now on Vancouver Island for almost a decade, Ontario native Mare Brown did just that before committing to buying a home. “The first year I came out to BC, I spent two months during the winter. My second year, it became three months; and by the third year, I was looking to purchase real estate” said Brown.

With census reports revealing a majority of Canadians already giving thought to where they wish to retire, it would be hard to beat the attributes Vancouver Island has tallied in its favour. A sure and steadfast option, the big island promises retirees a new chapter made easy.

Homes & Land Volume 10, Issue 11 – August/September 2015

Retirement Made Easy [PART II]
Living Golden On Vancouver Island

In an age when people are living longer and better than ever before, a new generation of retirees—both physically and socially active—is quickly forcing us to redefine what retirement means. Coined “active retirement,” those who fit this moniker are looking for a place where they can enjoy a high quality of life and be as active as possible, while seeking out a good return on their investment. With these features in mind, one would be hard pressed to find a better fit than Vancouver Island.

Its sizable retiree population aside, Vancouver Island remains Canada’s number one retirement destination. A special report put together by the BMO Retirement Institute discovered that 85% of Canadians over the age of 45 hope to remain in Canada when they retire. And if they do go in search of milder climates, the overwhelming choice is Vancouver Island. Released in 2011, the report is still very much reflective of Canadians’ general attitude towards retirement and serves as a window into what the real estate industry can expect over the coming years.

Along with more traditional retirement homes, Vancouver Island offers its sizable retiree population a number of appealing options for this age and stage of life. Developments such as Arbutus Ridge, which describes itself as an “active adult retirement community,” have been established specifically to cater to this segment. Whereas existing communities, which include Sidney by the Sea, seem to be positioning themselves as hubs for retirees.

A particularly good example of a place that has it all, Sidney by the Sea offers an excellent existing infrastructure and a convenient location close to the airport and ferries. With its scenic environment amidst the Gulf Islands, this seaside town is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island on the Saanich Peninsula. A refreshing 20-minute drive to Victoria’s inner harbour, the local bus service is efficient and reliable, servicing all areas of the Peninsula and downtown. Local realtor, Georgia Wiggins of Remax Camosun Realty in Victoria, reflects on the area. “I would argue that Sidney is now the most popular seniors’ community on the island,” Wiggins says. “The streets are flat and easy to maneuver and you can find every necessity here. A lot of young retirees from Vancouver and Alberta are purchasing waterfront property,” she adds. With a new Sidney waterfront property on the market, Wiggins fully expects her buyer to be from one of the two western provinces.

It can be said that much of what Sidney boasts—culinary tours, spas, wineries, kayaking, sailing and the like—can also be found among numerous other communities on the island. But there are other factors to consider as well. This new age of retirees wants to remain active, and therefore has ushered in a culture of dedicated philanthropic ventures and volunteerism. Whether it’s an opportunity to volunteer at a local theatre, or through non-profit organizations like Volunteer Nanaimo and the Vancouver Island Crisis Society, there are several possibilities to facilitate personal growth and transformation through the power of helping others.

Retirement can be a stimulating time of life when one has the ability to take part in activities and events a full-time work schedule won’t permit. Not only does Vancouver Island provide a multitude of real estate choices for savvy retirees, its close-knit communities and spirit of giving back ensures those who make the move are rewarded with a full and meaningful retirement.