B.C. has its own Wild West

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - STEVEN THRENDYLE

With rat­tlesnakes un­der the rocks and the hot desert air per­fumed by Pon­derosa pines and sage­brush, the arid tri­an­gle formed by Hope, in the south, Lil­looet in the north and Mer­ritt in the east rep­re­sents a B.C. land­scape right out of a John Wayne west­ern.

Vis­i­tors are also in the wild west when it comes to pur­chas­ing recre­ation prop­erty.

This is not the place for faux lake­side Arts and Crafts town­homes or pala­tial re­tire­ment homes along the fifth fair­way of a cham­pi­onship golf course.

Rather, it’s land that ap­peals to do-it-your­self out­door lovers and ad­ven­tur­ers of all kinds.

Fish­er­man can wet a line in the many trout lakes that run all the way from Ni­cola Lake to the south to the Thomp­son plateau near Kam­loops.

Dirt bik­ers can roam at will across a vast net­work of old log­ging roads and game trails above Lil­looet.

Towns don’t get any more wild west than Mer­ritt — which boasts Canada’s largest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val each July — and there are also op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hope, at the far end of the Fraser Val­ley and B.C.’s “gate­way to hol­i­day­land.”

Real es­tate in this rugged coun­try­side is less about “recre­ation” and more about “re-cre­at­ing” your work­ing life.

Al­ways yearned to run cat­tle on range­land?

Don yer Stet­son and head for the Ni­cola Val­ley, pard­ner.

Want to grow wine grapes on a sun-blasted hill­side for a frac­tion of the price of land in the Okana­gan? Check out the bench­lands on High­way 12 north of Lyt­ton.

Care to take over a restau­rant with a loyal clien­tele and proven cash flow, and live in a house on the same lot?

Look at Lou’s Restau­rant in Lil­looet. The $499,000 ask­ing price also in­cludes a four-bed­room house on the same lot as the restau­rant on Lil­looet’s main street.

Start­ing our jour­ney in Hope at the junc­tion of High­ways 1, 3, and 5, long­time real­tor Hans Jeschek says the town of about 7,000 at­tracts peo­ple who are drawn to smaller com­mu­ni­ties so that they can get to know their neigh­bours and be­come in­volved in a much more ac­tive way than in a large city or sub­urb.

“Our neigh­bour­hoods are very mixed; pro­fes­sion­als and busi­ness own­ers live along­side peo­ple of more mod­est means, and every­one gets along well to­gether,” he says. “If you go to the lo­cal li­brary twice a week, you’ll likely meet most of the peo­ple in town at some point.”

Jeschek likes the new Sil­ver Ridge de­vel­op­ment where 70 units in a strata-ti­tle sub­di­vi­sion are be­ing pre­pared for sale later this sum­mer.

For $299,000, buy­ers get a level 45 by 90 foot lot and a two-bed­room, 1,500-square-foot house with no base­ment.

From a purely recre­ation point of view, there are cabins at Jones Lake and in the Sun­shine Val­ley east of town. De­spite its name, buy­ing in Hope is not for spec­u­la­tors looking for a quick flip. “Prices don’t fluc­tu­ate that much from one year to the next,” says Jeschek.

From a sum­mer recre­ation stand­point, it would seem that Lil­looet has it all.

With a sum­mer cli­mate that would dry out the moss and mould from the most rain-drenched Van­cou­verite, Lil­looet has enor­mous po­ten­tial, that fi­nally, af­ter years of on-again, off-again in­ter­est, seems to be bear­ing fruit — quite lit­er­ally.

Real es­tate sales surged al­most six­fold be­tween 2004 and 2007, from about 20 in the first year to more than 120 in 2007.

Af­ter at­tend­ing uni­ver­sity in the Fraser Val­ley, Lil­looet real­tor Chris Gra­ham re­turned to his home town to sell real es­tate in 1998.

“Most of the list­ings here are re­sales,” he says.

“The de­vel­opable land is very rugged and much of it is in the Agri­cul­tural Land Re­serve. A lot of peo­ple who come from out of town are looking for some­place cheap to use as a base camp for their recre­ational ad­ven­tures.

“I can put them in a mod­est three-bed­room rancher in town for un­der $190,000.”

What’s re­ally ex­cit­ing, Chris Gra­ham be­lieves, is the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop com­mer­cial vine­yards sim­i­lar to those found in the Okana­gan, but for a frac­tion of the price.

“A cou­ple from the Nether­lands re­cently pur­chased over 80 acres (32 hectares) just out­side of town for un­der $500,000 and they will be plant­ing much of it in grapes,” he says.

In­deed, re­cent agri­cul­tural stud­ies have in­di­cated that the re­gion holds plenty of po­ten­tial for com­mer­cial grape grow­ing, some­thing the lo­cals have been do­ing on a small scale way for more than 40 years.

Gra­ham re­it­er­ates that peo­ple con­sid­er­ing a move to Lil­looet should be pre­pared to em­brace the com­mu­nity, due to its rel­a­tive re­mote­ness.

How­ever, all of the ma­jor po­lice, fire and health care ser­vices are avail­able.

Over in Mer­ritt, the “real es­tate blowout” phe­nom­e­non has spread from trendy Yale­town con­dos all the way over to the shores of Ni­cola Lake.

Cen­tury 21 real­tor Doug Beech re­ports that water­front lots listed for as high as $500,000 were re­cently auc­tioned off by Ritchie Broth­ers for $350,000 and $310,00, re­spec­tively.

“The buy­ers did very well there,” he says, with some lake view lots go­ing for as low as $118,000 — a re­duc­tion of al­most 50 per cent from a year or two ago.

For the en­tre­pre­neur who wants to com­bine a pas­sion for out­door ad­ven­ture with a vi­able busi­ness, the Cor­bett Lake Coun­try Inn is for sale, with Col­liers In­ter­na­tional as the list­ing agent.

Cor­bett Lake is one of the Thomp­son-Ni­cola’s most pro­duc­tive trout lakes and ac­cess to the lodge is bet­ter than ever due to the re­cent twin­ning of High­way 97C (the Co­qui­halla Con­nec­tor) be­tween Mer­ritt and Peachland.

You can pur­chase just the lodge, lake and 10 cabins on 24 hectares for $1.745 mil­lion, or 98 hectares across the high­way for only $750,000.

Beech says the land is well suited for sub­di­vid­ing into mul­ti­ple-acre lots, which he says plenty of peo­ple are show­ing in­ter­est in. “We’re get­ting quite a few re­quests for 10acre (four-hectare) lots from out of town, from peo­ple who want peace and quiet,” he says.

Right now, Beech is list­ing 2.6 hectares right on the Ni­cola River — a four-bed­room home and two out­build­ings — for $620,000.

It’s re­fresh­ing to see a part of the prov­ince where peo­ple are more in­ter­ested in the trails they will hike or the fish they’ll catch than the money they’ve made or lost on real es­tate.

If you’re plot­ting an es­cape from the tread­mill of ur­ban life, give this ruggedly beau­ti­ful area a close look.

Cour­tesy, Col­liers In­ter­na­tional

In­clud­ing a lake, the Cor­bett Lake Coun­try Inn is priced at $1.7 mil­lion.

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