Bugging out: COVID-19 concerns in urban centres fuel interest in rural and recreation properties

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      Not too long ago, it was a bit dicey to talk about things like having a bug-out location in case things went sideways.

      That could get one dismissed as a wacko.

      It was more fashionable to chat about having a lakeside cabin for vacations with family and friends.

      A recreational property is a status symbol.

      A waterfront cottage is a marker that one has made it in life.

      Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened and made almost everyone an amateur survivalist.

      Now having a place in the country to escape the city is serious talk among folks who have spare change lying around.

      This partially explains why realtor Richard Osborne’s days have been hectic of late.

      “I haven’t been this busy since 2005,” Osborne told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Osborne is the cofounder and president of LandQuest Realty Corporation, a New Westminster-based company that specializes in rural properties.

      According to him, people are looking for properties outside urban areas because of uncertainties.

      “I’ve heard people say that. I’ve also heard people say that…having the cash in the bank is not a good idea in times like this, or in times of, you know, looking towards future recessions, depressions, hyperinflation, whatever is coming,” Osborne said.

      “I mean, people are worried,” he continued. “It’s crazy, and there’s so much uncertainty. But they want a place to go.”

      In addition to simple relaxation, people typically want rural properties because of the many recreational activities they can access. Hiking, fishing, and hunting are among the most popular.

      The coronavirus pandemic gives yet another reason to consider buying a tract of land outside the city.

      “Certainly, the ability to have a place to get to out of the city is a big one,” Osborne said.

      Recreational properties cover a wide range and can include farms and ranches.

      “They don’t actually have to be a farmer to have the enjoyment of the property, and they can make some income from the sale of hay or grazing cattle on their ranch, so that certainly qualifies,” Osborne explained.

      When Osborne granted the interview, he was at his family’s cabin in Sidney, a town on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island.

      “I spent the first two months of COVID here, and it was absolutely wonderful,” he said. “Then we had to go back home, but we’re back over here and it’s amazing.”

      Among Osborne’s recent deals was a 259-hectare property in Rock Creek, a former gold- and silver-mining town in the South Okanagan region.

      The property was listed on April 1, 2020, and it generated the most calls Osborne ever had on a single listing.

      It sold full price for $995,000 less than a month later.

      A brochure described the property as a “wildlife masterpiece” and a “habitat for the elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, moose, bears, bobcats, lynx, cougars and blue grouse that inhabit the property”.

      It has a 914-square-foot two-storey cabin with four bedrooms.

      Osborne also noted that visitors to LandQuest’s website have almost doubled since the pandemic started.

      “That’s a direct COVID response,” Osborne said, noting that there’s “all these captive audiences at home on their computers, and they’re not spending their time driving.

      “They’re shopping for real estate or looking at real estate and also buying it. So it’s fascinating, and it’s absolutely COVID-related.”

      There’s also another thing happening that Osborne hasn’t seen before.

      “We’ve had multiple offers on numerous places, which is very unusual for our world,” he said. “You know, it’s not like the city, where you get a whole bunch of people lined up to buy a house. [Yet] we’ve had multiple offers for ranches.”

      A check with LandQuest’s site shows that one doesn’t have to travel half a day or more from Vancouver to get a recreational property.

      As of Monday (July 13), there was a listing for a half-hectare oceanfront lot up Indian Arm. It’s seven kilometres from Deep Cove in the District of North Vancouver and can be accessed by boat only. It’s selling for $315,000.