Buying a Vacation Home in Alberta? Read This First

Follow these three strategies when looking for a home away from home.

By Brett Surbey | 4 minute read

Apr 5

With fabulous mountain views, gorgeous lakes and rolling foothills, Alberta has incredible scenery, perfect for vacation home purchasers and investors.

If you’re a resident of one of Alberta’s major cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Camrose or Grande Prairie, the sounds of your city getting ready for spring might seem a bit louder than usual. With approximately 72,000 people migrating to Alberta last year, according to StatsCan, finding some peace and quiet may require getting out of the city.

If you’re considering purchasing a vacation home, Devin Stephens, owner of the MaxWell Capital Office in Canmore, knows the ins and outs of purchasing a second property and shares these three tips.



1. Timing Is Key 


“[What’s] most important to consider when buying a vacation property is the market period in which the home is being purchased,” says Stephens. As a REALTOR® with many years operating in the “mountain market,” Stephens has found that the optimal time to buy a vacation home is between November and the end of March. 


“That’s when we see sellers become more motivated on price,” Stephens tells Wahi. Though he believes the spring season to be the most challenging time to purchase a property due to a higher number of buyers, taking stock of current market conditions and considering future changes can open up more opportunities.


Stephens notes that most mountain markets are still experiencing a lack of inventory and even less excitement from buyers.” “There’s a lot of challenges right now with Realtors getting deals done, and sometimes they can be too bullish on future market conditions,” he explains. He advises clients on the potential risks when choosing a time to buy, especially when considering future housing inventory. 


“The best thing buyers can be right now is patient, and not get caught up in the herd mentality. They should wait and find a window where they can enter [the market] based on a clear value proposition for whatever they’re buying,” he adds.


2. Treat it Like an Investment  

“Every vacation home should be looked at from an investment perspective,” says Stephens. Sure, when we purchase a property to enjoy a different pace of life, and we want our home-away-from-home to have characteristics we love, however, Stephens doesn’t think uniqueness should be prioritized overe value. 


“Finding something that has a more traditional layout, for example, can help protect their investment,” Stephens explains. He adds that a better way to purchase a vacation property that will potentially provide a respectable return on investment is to find characteristics that are unique to the area. For instance, a home that has great views, offers extra privacy, or backs onto the water or a highway. These are property attributes that a “neighbour or another community can’t compete with,” he says.


Market changes are another reason why viewing your second property is key. When interest rates rose to levels not seen in over 20 years, vacation property owners who needed to sell their second property but sat on it for months did themselves a disservice. Stephens thinks looking at a property as an investment, which means prioritizing liquidity, can help when the market changes unfavourably. 


“We really want to try to find properties that will have quick liquidation for investors,” he says.


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3. Prepare for the Off-Season

 Buyers looking for somewhere to vacation during the summer months — or cozy up after a long day on the slopes — should think of how they’ll use the property when they aren’t there. For some of Stephen’s clients, that means renting out their vacation home for a period. “[Proper] zoning is critical. If the intent is to rent on a short-term basis, ensure that legally it can be rented,” Stephens advises. “A lot of markets are seeing short-term rental restrictions, especially across British Columbia,” he added. 


In addition to knowing whether a property can be rented out to cover costs and “help with debt servicing,” in Stephen’s view, buyers should also know exactly what they’re getting into. “They should be prepared to understand what their total costs are, and also compare the property’s current performance to anticipated future performance,” he says. 


However, some property owners might not like the idea of letting just anyone renting out their vacation home and would prefer to leave it empty when they aren’t using it. Stephens noticed that these lifestyle buyers who are prepared to absorb costs of not renting may have an advantage when it comes to zoning. “I feel that currently there is better security for your investment in properties that are zoned residential because there isn’t a lot of new, pre-sale supply coming on the market,” he explains. “There’s calmer waters right now.”

Brett Surbey

Wahi Writer

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