A house by the ocean with 2 acres for £135,200
A house by the ocean with 2 acres for £135,200 - at Moneyweek.co.uk - the best of the week's international financial media.
Canada is beautiful, accessible and awash with cheap property in prime locations, says Emma Thelwell perfect if you're looking for a holiday home abroad
Canada is a prosperous country with vast open skies and spaces, natural beauty, impressive mountain ranges and charming yet cosmopolitan cities, and it is also an ideal hunting ground for those seeking a holiday home, particularly given how cheap it looks to English eyes. The average house price in Canada is a mere £112,000. But that price is pretty meaningless. Canada is so huge and so diverse that it isn't possible to generalise about the market.
Take Vancouver. This waterside city is currently in the throes of a housing bubble. Prices are dangerously overvalued, and the price/rent ratio is now higher than it was at the top of the early-1980s housing bubble, says Chad Skelton in The Vancouver Sun. Everyone expected to see a slowdown this summer, but it never came: instead, in Greater Vancouver a detached house is up 11.8% and an apartment is up 16.5% from a year ago. Still, a slowdown is definitely coming, economist Robert Schiller said in a recent television interview, and Vancouver will be hit hard. "Beautiful place, west coast, ocean view. It can kind of make investors a little bit flighty. They think everyone wants to live here. And they think there is no limit to price. But there is always a limit to price." Skelton agrees, comparing Vancouver to Sydney, Australia. The two cities are similar in terms of both popularity and economics. When Sydney's housing bubble "simply popped", it came without a big spike in interest rates, or a weakening economy. It just happened.
Still, Canada's a lot bigger than just Vancouver. Over on the east coast, Hollywood power couple Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas think prices look all right: they have just splashed out £1.2m on a 1,000-acre forest site alongside Lake Desmarais in Tremblant, Quebec. This is a fantastic area. It is close to the number one ski resort in the east of North America, Mount Tremblant, there are six championship golf courses in the area and the Laurentian Mountains offer kayaking and mountain biking in the summer. Twenty minutes from Tremblant is Blueberry Lake, where three to five-bedroom houses go for £170,000 to £310,000. Montreal, the area's big city, is worth a look too: the local authority is pouring £22m over five years into St-Laurent en bas (SLEB), the city's equivalent of London's Soho and flats are currently going for around £110,000.
A popular province for foreign buyers is Nova Scotia on the southeast coast, which is currently attracting many Germans and Americans. Even by Canadian standards, it's cheap. Peter Simpson of The Vancouver Sun gives an example of a "jaw-dropping gem" a period house on two acres with 400 feet of low-bank ocean front, just outside historic Lunenburg, for £135,200. The picturesque World Heritage town of Lunenburg hasn't gone unnoticed by the British, particularly as there are cheap flights (£89) to Nova Scotia, a mere five and a half hour journey away.
One of these Brits is David Lobb, who picked up a three-bedroom holiday home in Lunenburg for £91,000 in January 2004. It was not a buy-to-let investment, Lobb told MoneyWeek, but if it were, it could bring in £1,862 in monthly rent in the summer months. Instead, it was the lifestyle that clinched it for Lobb: the pretty coastal town has a huge variety of activities there is fishing, diving and horseriding, plus a small ski resort only half an hour away. Private beaches don't exist in Canada, so there are plenty to go to and crowds are never a problem. Since buying last year, Lobb has decided to emigrate to Lunenburg with his wife and after being particularly struck by the inexpensive labour costs, he is setting up a new branch for his company, a specialised glass-design group. And there's been no trouble with his visa: Canada has welcomed him with open arms (see below).
Blueberry Lake, contact Savills, 020-7016 3740; Montreal SLEB, contact Colliers, 020-7935 4499. Flights to Nova Scotia with Zoom Airlines, 0870-240 0055
Why Canada wants you
Traditionally, Canada has been a difficult country to emigrate to, but increasing shortages in skilled workers have forced the government to relax the rules. Emigration is granted on a points system, and to qualify you must be awarded a total of 67 points, which are based on factors such as age, education and, most importantly, work skills. Tourism is a growth industry, so travel agents, hotel workers, catering staff and those with adventure skills are in high demand.
Similarly, the construction industry is currently experiencing a dearth of welders, electricians and builders highly evident in Greater Vancouver, where construction has fallen dramatically due to a lack of skilled workers. As a result, residential building costs doubled over the last two years, and the number of new housing starts fell 12% in the first six months of 2005.Medical staff are also in short supply. For more on emigrating, go to www.canada.org.uk.