A popular B.C. area to live, vacation and invest, the Okanagan area continues to rank as one of the best real estate markets in the country.
For capital gains, many might have wished they'd bought an Okanagan home a decade ago when prices were nearly half what they are now. But for investors and those who just love the area, there's still a great opportunity in the B.C. region.
The demand has certainly not let down. Students, golfers and skiers make up a near-perfect mix for property owners looking to rent out either part of the year or year-round.
In the past 10 years, both South Okanagan and Okanagan-Mainline rank in the top 15 for average home price gain, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Both have jumped nearly 150 per cent in that time, reaching $315,000 and $380,000 respectively.
But there's reason to hope for even more going forward. Businesses are relocating here, university enrolments are rising, and more people are still discovering the area.
"This is the place everyone wants to come," says Bert Chapman, owner of Premier Canadian Properties. "It's where a lot of Canada vacations, and as people age, they invest their money in places they liked."
He says the unique and beautiful surroundings will always make the area attractive to visitors.
"We're a desert with lakes," he says. "I don't know anywhere else in the world that you'd find that."
Vernon is another top Okanagan investment option. The city's slogan is "More than just wine, golf and ski." The area is certainly known for its numerous golf courses minutes away, including Predator Ridge Resort.
There's also Silver Star Ski Resort, and there are roughly 100 wineries through the valley. But Vernon is also a prominent year-round community, both to retirees and families.
A diversified economy has helped Vernon stay strong even during the recession. There's already a lumber, agriculture and tourism industry, as well as Okanagan College. Plus the local brewery is expanding, there will be a new five-storey hospital expansion, and work on another office building is expected.
At the same time, the community is focused on remaining both family and environmentally friendly by preserving the walking trains and waterfront neighbourhood.
Home prices remain attractive, at about $365,000 compared to $460,000 in Kelowna, says Sookarow. The average home price rose 6.1 per cent over the same period last year in Vernon.
Market activity itself is near where it was before the 'big rush,' says Sookarow.
Especially homes priced $325,000 to $400,000 are attracting buyers. Adult condominiums have also been strong.
As with the region in general, higher priced luxury homes have had little demand, but Sookarow says she sees that picking up.
"Out-of-province buyers for lakeshore homes are beginning to visit now that the sun is here and right now, there is a good selection to choose from on both lakes with prices as low as $1.1 million," she says.
Choosing where to buy in Vernon really depends on your budget and interest.
"There is a neighbourhood for everyone," Sookarow says. "Buyers can choose their preferred area based on proximity to schools, college, lake or ski hill access, view, size of yard and age of home."