A Sprawling Cabin in the Canadian Rockies
$2.2 MILLION ($2.8 MILLION CANADIAN DOLLARS)
Perched on a hill overlooking the vast Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve, this 83-acre property with a three-bedroom log home is in Rural Bighorn No. 8, a municipal district about 60 miles northwest of Calgary, Alberta.
“It’s crazy secluded,” said Chynna Winter of Engel & Volkers Calgary, the listing agent. “There’s no one else you can see or hear. And no one is going to build on the reserve behind you.”
Once derelict, the 4,032-square-foot house was restored about 20 years ago by its current owner, an Australian entrepreneur. “They stripped it down, power-washed it, and constructed over that,” Ms. Winter said. “The logwork is spectacular.”
A long driveway winds through an arched wooden gateway and past a caretaker’s cottage. The front door opens to a living room with log walls, vaulted ceilings and polished wood floors. The living room, which is heated by a wood-burning stove, opens to the home’s decks, which total 3,500 square feet on three levels. “You overlook waterfalls and expanses of trees, you watch wildlife go by, and it’s absolutely stunning,” Ms. Winter said.
Along with a wood-ceilinged kitchen and log-paneled dining room, the main floor has an office and a bedroom with an en suite bath. Upstairs, the primary bedroom has a cathedral ceiling, a wood-burning fireplace and a private deck. A tiny walkway with a view of the living room connects the bedroom to a bathroom.
On the lower level, there is a billiards room and a media room with a wall-mounted screen. A wood-burning fireplace set in a stone wall complements custom wrought-iron fixtures on an adjacent staircase. The lower level also has the home’s largest bedroom and “the biggest shower I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Winter said. “You could fit 10 people in there.”
The seller designed a party room on the second floor of the detached four-car garage. “This house has been VRBO’d for corporate retreats, and he made healthy six-figure sums from that,” Ms. Winter said. About a half-mile up the hill from the house, some 5,000 feet above sea level, the seller built a one-room cabin called the Observatory.
The renovated, now-vacant 920-square-foot caretaker’s cabin near the main house could become guest lodgings.
With a population of 1,454, according to its official site, Rural Bighorn No. 8 offers few services or retail options. The town of Cochrane, 40 miles southeast, “has everything — groceries, doctors, hospitals, professional services,” Ms. Winter said. The popular resort towns of Banff and Lake Louise are about 80 miles southwest, and Calgary International Airport is about 65 miles southeast.
Alberta, the rural western Canadian province bordering Montana to the south, has long tethered its fortunes to its largest industries: oil and gas. After a 2014 collapse in oil prices sparked huge financial and job losses, housing prices “crashed” by more than 20 percent, said Kirby Cox, a Realtor at Kirby Cox & Associates in Calgary. “Everyone thought Covid would just make it worse.”
As in most other parts of the world, however, the housing market rebounded with a “frenzy,” said Justin Havre, founder of Justin Havre & Assocates/RE/MAX First, in Calgary. “We started seeing bidding wars and price increases around the start of 2021,” he said. “It was a bit of a gong show.” Historically low interest rates also heightened demand, he said.
Year-to-date total home sales in Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, have more than doubled over the same period last year, to 18,147 from 8,972 in 2020, according to a July report from the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB). The average 2021 home price jumped to $498,201 Canadian dollars ($398,000), up from $452,730 Canadian ($362,000) in 2020, CREB said.
“There was a lot of pent-up demand, and we’ve been setting records every month in terms of sales and prices,” said Daniel Kowall, a real estate agent at RE/MAX House of Real Estate, in Calgary. “Once people realized they didn’t have to live near work, and could get more space, they sought out different houses to suit their needs.”
While the city’s average home price has soared, it remains dwarfed by costs in major Canadian cities like Toronto, where the average reached a record $1,062,256 Canadian ($850,000) in July, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board. In Vancouver, the benchmark price of a detached home hovers at $1,801,100 Canadian ($1.44 million), the highest in Canada, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
Those prices are pushing buyers into Calgary “almost daily,” Mr. Havre said, helped along by hybrid work arrangements. “They find out they can buy a house for a fraction of what it costs there. And we’re one of Canada’s most affordable cities.”
Rural luxury homes “have blown up,” Ms. Winter said. “Albertans used to own vacation homes in British Columbia, but Covid created so much angst around crossing provincial borders that everyone now wants a second home in their own province.”
But condos in the city have remained cool. “Apartments basically became null and void” after the double-whammy of the energy crisis and the pandemic, Mr. Cox said.
“Before, people moved to the inner city, paying more and getting less. Now, it’s the opposite,” Mr. Kowall agreed. “There’s a lot of condo inventory, and it’s much slower.”
Calgary is getting a boost from an influx of technology companies, which the city has courted aggressively. “There’s a correlation between residential sales volume and tech-related companies moving to Calgary,” said Brad Parry, interim president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, the public-private partnership leading the tech initiative. “We’ve attracted nearly 5,000 jobs in the last two years. At the end of the day, Calgary will always be an energy capital, but that energy will look very different.”
Who Buys in Calgary
International and Canadian buyers lured by energy-sector jobs once fueled Calgary’s housing market. These days, economic migrants from other provinces have taken their place, drawn by low prices and an “unbeatable quality of life, surrounded by mountains and lakes,” Ms. Winter said.
Despite the influx of interprovincial transplants, Alberta continues to see a net population loss as its economy struggles to rebound, according to a May report from Statistics Canada.
Foreign activity has been “quiet” because of pandemic-related border closings, Mr. Cox said: “We’ve done quite a few transactions solely over FaceTime and Zoom, and I think that high prices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will mean foreign investors start looking at Calgary.”
Ms. Winter, however, said she’d “never seen as many American buyers in my life as in 2020,” especially for recreational properties or second homes in resort communities. Europeans outnumber Asian buyers at her firm, which focuses on luxury properties: “Everyone seems to have a renewed sense of confidence in Canada.”
Foreigners can buy freely in Alberta’s cities, towns and villages, but they face regulations on “agricultural or recreational land,” according to the province’s site. “Basically, the rules are designed to preserve rural Alberta from getting controlled by some vast consortium of out-of-country people,” said Brent Mainwood, owner of Mainwood Legal Services, in Calgary.
The government has carved out a foreign-buyer exemption for up to 20 acres; beyond that, Mr. Mainwood said, buyers should retain a lawyer to negotiate with the provincial government for approval.
Mortgage limits also vary for nonresidents, with most banks requiring a down payment of at least 35 percent, Ms. Winter said, noting that the typical broker commission is 7 percent on the first $100,000 Canadian ($80,000) of a sale price, and 3 percent on any amount above that.
City of Calgary: calgary.ca
Calgary Economic Development: lifeincalgary.ca
Alberta government: alberta.ca
Languages and Currency
English; Canadian dollar (1 CDN = $0.80)
Taxes and Fees
Unlike many provinces. Alberta does not impose a land transfer tax. Instead, buyers pay property registration fees of $50 Canadian, plus a dollar for every $5,000 of the purchase price, and $50 plus $1.50 for every $5,000 on any mortgage amount, said Alanna Caplan, U.S. & Canadian Cross-Border Tax Manager at International Tax Services in Calgary.
Annual taxes on this home are about 6,744 Canadian dollars ($5,390), Ms. Winter said.
Mr. Mainwood also said that Alberta residential resales do not incur a Goods & Services Tax, which many provinces impose. New-build purchases trigger a 5 percent GST charge.
Chynna Winter, Engel & Volkers Calgary, 403-615-6995, calgary.evrealestate.com.
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Source From Nytimes