Walking up York Ridge Place, a steep dead-end road punched into a wooded hillside off Finlayson Arm Road in the heart of Highlands, one can imagine truly rustic living.
Which is not to say the people who wind up buying the roughly five-acre lots won’t choose to build luxurious new homes on the land.
Not everyone might appreciate the prospect of living in an area once thought to be far from civilization as we know it – The Home Depot, Costco and Millstream Village are now a six-minute drive away. But large lots, whether bare land or with a home already on the property, can offer flexibility, says Roy Coburn with ReMax Camosun, the listing agent for the rugged Highlands lots.
“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t want the maintenance of looking after the land. Then you have the people who want the privacy or to keep a horse, or sheep. It’s all personal choice,” he says.
While the amount of undeveloped property around the West Shore is diminishing, the presence of such large swaths of land – the York Ridge lots are being sold by one property owner – is not uncommon in the outskirts of urban Greater Victoria.
Coburn, a specialist in acreage properties of various formats, has done a quick check on MLS of listings with lot sizes of two acres or more.
As of this week there were 106 bare land lots of that size around Greater Victoria, 22 of which are situated in Highlands, Langford, Metchosin or Colwood.
A sign that not everyone has chosen to subdivide those large lots in the region’s core, there are more than 160 homes on two acres or more in Greater Victoria. Forty-six of those are located in the four West Shore municipalities mentioned above (View Royal tends to have smaller lot sizes).
Buyers seriously interested in such properties might include people with young families who want to give their children more space to play and enjoy the outdoors, Coburn says.
There are also those people who are used to living a little off the beaten track, perhaps on the Prairies, where rural homes are spaced further apart.
Coburn offers an example of clients who lived an hour or so west of Victoria and wanted to be closer to the city.
“They found a property they liked that had a roughed-in driveway and the services were all there. They wanted to be closer, but they still wanted their privacy,” he says.
Bare land acreages can run anywhere from $275,000 and up, depending on the size, proximity to waterfront and the amount of work already done to bring services in. While the majority of such properties available for sale are on the outskirts of the region, they are becoming ever-closer to commercial centres and other amenities.
The pricing of large-lot properties with homes already built are like any other home: they get higher the closer to Victoria they’re located.
“The general feeling right now is you can buy a house cheaper than you can build one,” Coburn says. “But it doesn’t take long to look around and see if there’s something available in an area you like that’s within your budget.”
Q: WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING AN ACREAGE OR LARGE-LOT HOME?
Making the move to a property with an acreage will find you further from the urban core. Even homes on larger-than-average lots are often further out as well.
Location can create challenges, but is just one aspect to consider.
Here’s a few more:
• Ensure your entire family wants to move. Teenagers often don’t like relocating to more remote areas.
• Set an upper spending limit and stick to it.
• Begin searching in the spring or summer so you can see the land. Walk around to see if some areas feel soft, especially where floods are common.
• Research local bylaws. They may prevent you from parking your trailer or subdividing later.
• Talk to neighbours. Ask about driving times, high-speed internet capabilities and access to schools, churches and shopping. Find out who can help if you get stuck in mud or snow.
GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF SEPT. 8/14 – COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD
» 105 / 487 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL, SEPT. 2013
» 325 / 1,106 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL, SEPT. 2013
» 4,293 / 4,547 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / PEAK, SEPT. 2013