Where is the ‘grey wave’ pooling? Our top five B.C. retirement towns

Investors should look at top retirement towns in B.C. – the province that 15 per cent of Canadians in other provinces want to move to in their golden years

By
Western Investor
January 31, 2020





Sechelt Dana
Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast is a 35-minute ferry ride from Metro Vancouver but house prices are at least 50 per cent lower. Seniors now comprise 34 per cent of Sechelt’s population. | Dana Botsis

Canada’s retirement housing industry is on track to top $71 billion within the next two decades; B.C. is where 15 per cent of Canadians in less-blessed provinces want to retire; and B.C. retirees are considered among the wealthiest in Canada, due partly to unsurpassed real estate appreciation over the past three decades. It is estimated that Metro Vancouver seniors alone hold $155 billion worth of equity in residential real estate. 

While the capital city of Victoria is considered the reigning queen of B.C.’s retirement sector, the smaller centres featured have among the highest ratio of seniors in Canada, and may provide an opportunity for real estate investors to share in the grey tsunami at a lower price point.

Here, in no particular order, are our top five investment picks for retirement towns in B.C.

Qualicum Beach

More than 50 per cent of the population in Qualicum Beach is over 65, making the seaside community on Vancouver Island Canada’s most elderly community. European settlers built the area’s first golf course in 1913, and in the 1950s and 1960s retirees began flocking there, attracted by the water views and mild winters. Today, residents spend their retirement hiking, kayaking and biking or enjoying wine and whisky tastings, cribbage games, golf and other activities organized by the Qualicum Beach and Area Newcomers’ Club. 

Qualicum Beach
More than 50 per cent of the population of Qualicum Beach is over age 65, making the Vancouver Island seaside town Canada’s most elderly community. | Bernadette Ritter

Snap stats:

• Average detached-house price: $588,500

• Medical services: Oceanside Health Centre is only a 12 -minute drive out of town while mid-sized hospitals in Nanaimo, Comox and Port Alberni are less than one hour’s drive away

• Crime rate: 33 offences per 1,000 people (provincewide crime rate: 74 incidents per 1,000 people)

• Number of seniors: 4,660, or 52 per cent of the population

Comox 

Long, warm summers, mild winters and abundant sea life attracted the First Nations people to kw’umuxws thousands of years ago, and they are what continue to draw retirees to this seaside town on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Home to a Canadian Forces military base, Comox makes an ideal spot from which to explore the area, whether it’s golfing one of the five local courses, skiing at Mount Washington, or sampling artisan cheeses. While the spa set will appreciate the hydropath experience at the renowned Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa, adventure lovers can head off to discover Vancouver Island by car, or set sail through the Gulf Islands. 

Comox
Comox attracts retirees with its long summers, mild winters, beautiful ocean and central Vancouver Island location. | Getty Images

Snap stats:

• Average detached-house price: $579,655

• Medical services: The North Island Hospital, Comox Valley, which opened in October 2017 serves patients in the area

• Crime rate: 33 offences per 1,000 people (provincewide crime rate: 74 incidents per 1,000 people)

• Number of seniors in the Comox Valley: 17,060 (2016), or 26 per cent of the population

Sidney

If ocean views, a slower pace of life and being part of a cosy community sound appealing, then Sidney by the Sea could be your ideal retirement destination. Located on the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, the area is easily walkable and offers amenities for nature and culture lovers alike. There’s the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, great beaches, a popular bakery and a surprisingly good selection of bookstores. Ferries to Tsawwassen and the Victoria International Airport make the town easily accessible, and the ferry to Anacortes in Washington state offers a fun trip. 

Sidney market
A summer street festival in Sidney, a top seaside retirement destination just outside of Victoria, B.C. | Tourism BC

Snap stats:

• Average house price: $632,000

• Medical services: Saanich Peninsula Hospital is located just south of Sidney, and the Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals are a 45-minute drive out of town

• Crime rate: 36 offences per 1,000 people (provincewide crime rate: 74 incidents per 1,000 people) 

• Number of seniors: 4,775, or 41 per cent of the population

Sechelt

Just a 35-minute ferry trip along the Georgia Strait from B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and a short drive brings retirees to this quaint seaside town. 

Sechelt and its surroundings boast a number of reasonably priced waterfront properties and lots – some of which are accessible only by water – waiting to be developed into dream retirement properties. While outdoor enthusiasts are sure to enjoy boating, beachcombing and wildlife viewing, art lovers will appreciate the talented folks who have set up shop in these parts. A local hospital, retirement homes and Nurse Next Door home care service make Sechelt popular for retirees. 

Sechelt inlet
Sechelt Inlet offers residents spectacular British Columbian natural beauty. | Getty Images

Snap stats:

• Average detached-house price: $605,000

• Medical services: Sechelt Hospital is a 46-bed facility serving the more than 30,000 residents living in the Lower Sunshine Coast communities including Langdale, Gibsons, Davis Bay and Pender Harbour

• Crime rate: 52 offences per 1,000 people (provincewide crime rate: 74 incidents per 1,000 people) 

• Number of seniors: 3,030 (2016),  or 34 per cent of the population

Summerland

Proximity to wineries, fruit orchards, golf courses and some of the longest sunlight hours in Canada are just a few of the perks retirees enjoy in this community located just west of Okanagan Lake in B.C.’s Interior. Short and mild winters can be spent on the ski hills at Big White and Apex, while spring, summer and fall are for lake days, birdwatching, hiking and winery tours. The town’s general hospital, Summerland Health Centre, offers outpatient care while numerous retirement residences provide options in this often-sundrenched setting.

Okanagan lake near Summerland
Retirees living on the Okanagan Lake near Summerland have a host of activities to choose from, including lake days and winery tours. | Getty Images

Snap stats:

• Average house price: $481,193

• Medical services: Summerland Health Centre is located in town; Penticton Regional Hospital is 19 kilometres away

• Crime rate: 61 offences per 1,000 people (province wide crime rate: 74 incidents per 1,000 people)

• Number of seniors: 2,885 (2016), or 33 per cent of the population


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