Ladysmith Has a Rich and Colorful History

Distinctive, historic and only minutes away, the Town of Ladysmith is a unique part of the central Vancouver Island region. With a population today of more than 8,500 Ladysmith is located within the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and is one of the main service and shopping centers of the area.

While permanent European settlement of the community began late in the 19th Century, the area (originally known as Oyster Harbour) has been home to the people of the Stz’uminus First Nation for thousands of years. Archeological evidence shows that the First Nations peoples recognized the bountiful resources of present day Ladysmith harbor as a rich source of shellfish (hence its original name), and other marine species.

Native peoples established several fishing camps in and around the harbor area where they used traditional food-gathering methods. Losing much of their traditional territory upon the arrival of the Europeans, the Stz’uminus people presently reside in four separate reserves in the region – two of which border the community’s harbor.

The Town of Ladysmith as we know it today came into being thanks to the Victorian era’s insatiable demand for coal. In 1884 the legendary coal Baron James Dunsmuir, who at the time was the owner of the Wellington Colliery Company, was given authority by the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Grant to privatize much of the Stz’uminus First Nation lands and resources within the region.

The owner / operator of numerous coal mines and other facilities throughout the central Vancouver Island area, Dunsmuir founded (in 1904) a small company town on the shores of Oyster Harbour to provide a home base for miners working at his nearby Extension colliery operation.

As a historic coincidence the Boer War was raging at that same time in South Africa, with the celebrated ‘Siege of Ladysmith’ dominating international news. As a patriotic gesture Dunsmuir elected to honor the defenders of that far away town by christening his fledgling community Ladysmith.

Thanks to the strong demand for coal to help fuel the thriving British Empire the community grew quickly and by 1911 the town had a population of more than 3,000. In the early decades of the 20th Century coal was truly king, but as technology and markets changed the allure of the black mineral began to diminish. Labor disruptions, catastrophic mining disasters (such as the Extension mine explosion that killed 32 miners in 1909) and decreasing profitability saw the last of the region’s coal mines permanently shuttered in 1931, at the height of the Great Depression.

Down but by no means out, the Town of Ladysmith slowly reinvented itself over the decades – first with an economy driven by the forest industry to today’s multi-tiered economy powered by everything from tourism and hospitality to government services, banking and an expansive service sector.

Constructed on a series of rolling hills that provide views of the busy harbor that inspired its founding, today’s Town of Ladysmith with its iconic main street (which was named the best street in Canada by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2017), is a unique and vibrant part of the central Island area. If you haven’t already visited it, why not discover the community for yourself?

Housing Sales, Prices & Inventory All On the Rise

In what may be the start of a more positive trend, the sale of single family homes across Vancouver Island rose last month when compared to a year ago – the first increase of its kind recorded in months.

According to the latest statistics released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB), board-wide housing sales in July were three percent higher than they were last year, and 12 percent higher than what was recorded in June. Last month 453 homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System, while in July 2018 438 single family homes were reported sold.

July’s sales stats easily eclipsed those recorded in June when only 406 single family homes changed hands. The number of townhouses sold last month was even more impressive, with sales of this type of property up a full 22 percent year-over-year. Interestingly however apartment sales actually dropped by 14 percent when compared to the sales figures recorded during July 2018.

The increasingly buyer-focussed regional marketplace became even more robust last month as the Vancouver Island housing inventory rose by nine percent when compared to a year ago. During July there were 1,552 single family homes available for purchase within VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Malahat in the south. In July 2018 there were 1,419 single family homes listed for sale.

The wealth of home purchasing options available across Vancouver Island last month wasn’t restricted solely to single family homes. During July the inventory of apartments on the market rose by a full 30 percent year-over-year, climbing from 292 to 381 individual properties. The townhouse inventory actually shrank last month, dipping 10 percent from a year ago – from 217 to 195.

Rising average prices completed the VIREB trifecta during July, with the board-wide benchmark price of single family homes climbing three percent to close the month at $513,700. The real estate board uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones. While the July benchmark price was higher than it was a year ago it was actually slightly lower than what was reported during June.

Price increases were reported in all housing categories last month, with the board wide apartment category for example rising five percent year-over-year to $302,600. As with single family homes this figure is actually slightly lower than the June benchmark price. In the townhouse category the July benchmark price edged up two percent to $410,600, identical to June’s board-wide benchmark price.

Price increases were reported in each of VIREB’s zones last month, with Nanaimo’s benchmark price rising three percent to reach $556,400. In the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price increased two percent during July to $588,500, while in the Comox Valley the benchmark price rose an identical two percent to hit $516,200.

In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price of a single family home increased two percent from July 2018 to reach $472,000 while in the Alberni Valley the benchmark price climbed an impressive 11 percent from last year to end the month at $322,500. The Port Alberni area has been experiencing a marked increase in real estate sales activity throughout much of 2019.

In a marketplace as robust and dynamic as Vancouver Island’s it is more important than ever to work with a sales professional when making the most valuable purchase of your life. Give Peter and Kathy a call today to begin the search for your new dream home.

Sundecks Enhance a Home’s Enjoyment & Value

Big or small, complex or basic, a sundeck is one addition to a home that can pay true dividends – both in terms of personal enjoyment, and as a means of adding to a home’s potential resale value.

Depending on the size of the home and the shape of the yard, a sundeck offers a unique way to add space, character and improved functionality to a property. A deck can be anything from a simple open space to host a family barbecue, to an elaborate covered ‘party central’ for hot tubs and large scale festivities.

A sundeck can dramatically expand a home’s living space at a relatively low cost per square foot. In the easy, breezy days of summer a spacious sundeck becomes a true focal point of a home. In essence a sundeck is the addition of a new room to a property, accessible to all of the resources found within, while allowing quick access to the great outdoors.

As distinctive and personalized as the persons who own them, sundecks can be constructed of any material, but nothing compares to the character and warmth of a deck constructed of natural wood. Red Cedar for example is the ideal material for deck construction. One of the most durable woods native to North America, Red Cedar is naturally resistant to both rot and insect predation which makes it the ideal choice for any outdoor application.

A secret to Red Cedars longevity is thujaplicins which is a form of natural preservative that is part of the woods makeup. These same organic chemical compounds are also responsible for cedar’s unique, aromatic scent. That rich natural aroma has helped to make the wood the perfect building material for saunas and other applications where the lush scent can be appreciated.

Red Cedar is also noted for its longevity. With proper finishing Red Cedar lumber will last for decades, requiring little to no maintenance, even under the harshest of weather conditions. The even grain and relatively consistent density of Red Cedar also means the wood is far less likely to swell, warp, cup or twist than other species of softwood and even many species of hardwood.

As a result of these attributes it will retain a distinguished appearance that lends a mark of quality to any home. Free of the pitch and resins found in other softwoods Red Cedar can take a wide range of finishes. From untouched natural to lightly-toned clear solutions to two-coat solid colors Cedar (ideally locally sourced) is known for its ability to accept and maintain a finish for the long term.

The addition of a well-designed and constructed sundeck can be much more than convenient entertainment venue. A sundeck can also be a genuine selling feature should you choose to put your home on the market. A professionally crafted sundeck can add distinctive architectural interest to any home or backyard, and can be part of an overall outdoor upgrade that could include such functional elements as gazebos, trellises, planters, ponds and other water features and more.

A Look at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Probably one of the most iconic West Coast destinations, for visitors from around the province and across the globe, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is one of Vancouver Island’s greatest natural treasures. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Pacific Rim Park is reached along Highway 4, which links the region to the City of Port Alberni and all points east.

Bounded at its northern end by the Village of Tofino, and at its southern by the Village of Ucluelet, the Park is 197 square miles of the most majestic and breathtaking scenery found anywhere in British Columbia. The Park itself is comprised of three distinct regions which include the expansive Long Beach (a Mecca for surfers from around the world), the Broken Group Islands which are famed for sea-kayaking and wildlife watching and the rustic splendor of the West Coast Trail.

The rugged landscaped, butted as it is along the Pacific Coast Mountains, consists of temperate rainforest that includes extensive stands of western hemlock, Sitka spruce and western red-cedar. The area is rich in wildlife, ranging from terrestrial species such as deer, elk and Vancouver Island wolves, to a host of marine species including humpback whales and orcas.

A recreational delight year round, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve offers visitors a wealth of camping opportunities as well as such uniquely West Coast pursuits as surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, windsurfing and even storm watching in the winter. One distinctive attraction of the Park is the West Coast Trail, which is a 47 mile multi-day backpacking challenge that appeals to the hardiest of adventurers. Bisecting the Park, the Trail is a section of the ancient paths and paddling routes used for trade and travel by the Island’s First Nations peoples.

Hikers willing to take on the challenge will find themselves climbing more than 100 ladders, weighed down by their heavy packs as they trudge through deep mud, push their way through rough foliage and wade through mountain-fed rivers in fast-flowing hip-deep waters – all while enduring some of the most severe weather Vancouver Island can muster. A government website describes the challenge of the West Coast Trail best when it states:

“It is an experience that can bring even the most experienced hikers to their knees. Those who are well prepared physically, mentally, and equipment-wise, come away with tales of grit.”

Today’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is the end result of a concerted and highly dedicated preservation effort, carried out by all levels of government and that of local citizens, that saw several smaller regional parks merged into one spectacular whole. The Park as we know it today was officially opened in 1971 but was not formally included in the National Parks Act until 2000.

The Park offers something for every taste and skill level, and has become part of many visitor’s ‘to do’ lists when travelling to Vancouver Island. Why not make touring it part of yours this summer? It may be a fairly long drive, but it’s an experience you’re bound to cherish for a lifetime.

Island Home Sales Decline as Inventory Rises

An ongoing trend that sees housing sales across Vancouver Island slump, while prices and the overall housing inventory rise, continued last month – according to the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB). In its latest statistical announcement VIREB reported the sale of single family homes across the Island dropped seven percent last month when compared to June 2018, while being 11 percent lower than the sales activity recorded during May.

Last month a total 408 homes traded hands within VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the Malahat in the south to the northernmost tip of the Island. Last June 437 homes were reported sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System. During May of this year 458 homes were sold on the MLS® System, which is 11 percent more than the number sold during June.

The sales decline wasn’t restricted to single family homes alone. The VIREB June report indicated that apartment sales dipped by a full 29 percent when compared to a year ago, while townhome sales plummeted by 32 percent from the number reported sold during June 2018.

VIREB also reported that the number of homes listed for sale across the Island continued to rise during June, which is a marketplace situation that firmly favors buyers. The inventory of single family homes within the VIREB coverage area climbed by 20 percent year-over-year last month. At the end of June there were 1,597 single family homes listed for sale, up from the 1,334 on the MLS® System last year.

Additionally there were 352 apartments listed for sale in June, an increase of 14 percent from June 2018 when only 308 apartments were on the market. One interesting feature of the VIREB report is that slightly fewer townhomes are on the market presently than a year ago. During June there were 191 townhomes listed for sale, a three percent decline from last year when 196 properties of this type were on the market.

Despite slumping sales and increasing supply, rising home prices showed no sign of slowing down last month. VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual coverage regions. Board wide the benchmark price of a single family home rose four percent from a year ago to close out the month at $514,400. During June the board wide benchmark price in the apartment category climbed six percent from a year ago to $304,300 (up slightly from May’s price) while the townhome benchmark price was also up six percent from June 2018 hitting $446,800.

Price increases were reported throughout VIREB’s separate regions. In Nanaimo for example the benchmark price rose three percent to reach $559,300 while in the Oceanside area the June benchmark price hit $589,500, a rise of three percent year over year. In Duncan the benchmark price rose two percent to finish the month at $471,400.

In the Comox Valley the benchmark price was also up three percent year over year to $518,200, while further north in Campbell River the benchmark price rose four percent in June from a year ago to close the month at $434,900. Finally, in the Alberni Valley the benchmark price climbed an impressive nine percent from a year ago to reach $318,300.

As always, in a real estate market as dynamic and changing as Vancouver Island’s, it is more important than ever to rely on the services of a Real Estate Sales Professional when entering the marketplace. Give Peter and Kathy a call today to begin your journey toward home ownership.

Salt Spring Island: Largest of the Gulf Islands

While Vancouver Island may be the largest island off the BC coast, it’s certainly not the only one. Strung like the beads on a beautiful emerald necklace, the Gulf Islands are a myriad of islands and islets that separate Vancouver Island from the provincial mainland. Ranging from uninhabited rocky outcroppings, to well populated and forested islands with long-established communities, the Gulf Islands are a uniquely west coast treasure.

Divided into clusters referred to as the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ Gulf Islands, the northernmost of the Southern group is Gabriola Island near Nanaimo, with the largest island in the chain being Salt Spring Island, accessible from Central Vancouver Island via the BC Ferry terminal in Crofton.

With a full time population of more than 10,000 Salt Spring Island is by far the most populous of the Gulf Islands. During the summer months the Island’s population grows dramatically, as visitors from around the world flock to the island to experience its beauty.

First Nations peoples have inhabited the island for millennia, but it wasn’t until 1859 that the first full time European settlers began to arrive. Initially called Admiral Island (in honor of British Rear-Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes), it was the first of the Gulf Island group to be settled, and was home to the first agricultural settlement on the islands surrounding what was then the Colony of Vancouver Island. Its name was officially changed to Salt Spring Island in March 1910.

Salt Spring Island is unique in that it was the first to allow settlers to acquire land through pre-emption. This is a legal condition that permits pioneers to move onto property and then make improvements – such as land clearing and housing construction, before actually purchasing the land itself. Once done the settlers could then buy the land (at the price of a dollar per acre) once they could prove that the improvements had been made.

While Salt Spring is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands (more than 72 square miles), it’s not alone, as the group also includes Galiano Island, Pender Island, Saturna Island and Mayne Island which are all considered part of the Capital Regional District, along with the other municipalities of Greater Victoria. Salt Spring Island’s highest point is Bruce Peak, which stands roughly 2,300’ above sea level.

The Village of Ganges is the main Salt Spring Island community, and is the heart of the Island’s commercial and retail sectors. The village was named after the HMS Ganges, the Royal Navy ship used when charting the local waters in the 19th Century. The community offers a full range of shopping and dining opportunities, with a distinctive west coast flair. The community is famous for its Saturday Farmer’s Market where local farmers and regional artists present some of their finest efforts.

Easily accessible, irresistibly beautiful, steeped in history and rich in culture and opportunity, Salt Spring Island is a true gem in the necklace of the Gulf Islands, and is the perfect place for getting away from its all – while having everything you need right at your fingertips.

VIU’s History Goes Back More Than 80 Years

Today the premier post-secondary educational institution in the Central Vancouver Island region, Vancouver Island University (VIU) has origins dating back more than eight decades – having evolved to accommodate the changing needs of the communities it serves.

Today VIU is a full spectrum degree granting university (offering master’s and bachelor’s degrees as well as two year diploma and single year certificate programs) with an enrollment of more than 16,000 dispersed between its four Central Island campuses. However its origins are much more humble, stretching back to 1936.

That year Jack Macready, a mechanic and garage owner opened a single room automotive repair training facility at Wakesiah Avenue and Fourth Street in Nanaimo. That first year a grand total of eight students joined Macready in his shop, learning skills to help propel them into automotive repair careers.

In 1938 the federal and provincial governments launched programs to assist with the funding of vocational training within the province. As a result Macready’s initial workshop was moved to a larger space on the property of Thomas Hodgson School, located at the corner of Machleary and Wentworth Streets in the city’s downtown core. Renamed the Dominion Provincial Youth Training Centre, the enhanced institution had a focus of providing training for youths eager to enter the workforce.

During those early years, while the different levels of government provided the basic funding, the slowly expanding school relied heavily on the support of the local community to succeed. For example during the depths of the Great Depression local support included everything from donating equipment to providing firewood to help heat the school.

As the years passed, and the educational needs of the community began to both grow and evolve. As a result the Dominion Provincial Youth Training Centre was rebranded the B.C. Vocational Training School in 1959, a centre that provided a much more diverse vocational training opportunity than its humble predecessor. By 1969 the institution was refocussed and renamed again, becoming known as Malaspina College.

Located on the site of the former Nanaimo Hospital on Kennedy Street, Malaspina College offered a much more academic curriculum than its vocational ancestor. In 1976 Malaspina College moved to custom built facilities at its present Fifth Street location, being renamed Malaspina University-College in 1989 as it dramatically expanded on the type and range of programs it offered its growing student body. The final evolution to a full degree granting university occurred in 2008 when the institution became known as Vancouver Island University.

Today, in addition to the main campus in Nanaimo (with more than 900,000 square feet of build space), VIU operates campuses in Duncan and in Powell River in addition to an educational centre in Parksville. With a current enrollment of 16,175 (including nearly 1,600 international students) Vancouver Island University continues to grow, expand and adapt to the emerging technologies and evolving educational needs of is student body.

Housing Inventory Climbs While Sales Decline

According to the latest stats fewer homes were sold across Vancouver Island last month than a year ago, despite there being a larger number of homes to choose from. In its most recent statistical report the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) stated that board-wide the number of single family homes sold during May was down 12 percent when compared to May 2018.

Last month 459 homes were reported sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System – during the same month last year 519 single family homes changed hands. However the May sales numbers were up from April, when only 412 homes were reported sold on the MLS® System.

Last month the number of apartments sold within VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the Malahat to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, dropped by seven percent, while townhome sales actually increased a full 19 percent year over year.

While the number of home sales has declined from last year, the number of homes currently on the market has risen steadily from a year ago. VIREB reports that during May there were 1,482 individual properties listed for sale on the MLS® System, an increase of 22 percent from May 2018 when 1,217 properties were on the market.

The expanded inventory wasn’t limited to single family homes either, as the number of apartments listed for sale increased 18 percent year over year. Last month 339 apartments were available for purchase. During May 2018 only 287 apartments were on the market. Interestingly the number of townhomes for sale actually decreased five percent last month, down to 187 from the 197 listed for sale a year ago.

Regardless of the dip in sales, housing prices continued to rise all across Vancouver Island during May. VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones, with the board-wide benchmark price of a single family home hitting $512,500 in May, up four percent from a year ago. The board-wide benchmark price of apartments climbed six percent to $300,700 last month, while townhome prices jumped seven percent year over year to close the month at $445,500.

Similar price hikes were reported all across Vancouver Island last month. In Nanaimo for example the benchmark price of a single family home rose two percent to $557,500 in May, while in the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price rose three percent to reach $587,100.

In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price rose two percent to hit $469,400, while in the Comox Valley it climbed four percent to end the month at $518,400. Further north in Campbell River the benchmark price reached $428,900, an increase from May 2018 of four percent. In the Alberni Valley the May benchmark price of a single family home jumped seven percent year over year to hit $314,100.

In today’s dynamic real estate marketplace it’s more important than ever to use the services of a skilled and experienced REALTOR® when marking the most important purchase of your life. Give Peter and Kathy a call today to begin your journey toward home ownership.

Transit System Services the Entire Region

One of the many things that makes living in Nanaimo a pleasure is the ease of getting around the community, thanks in no small part to the services of the Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System. While in some major Canadian cities bus service is a municipal function, across British Columbia the job of getting people to their destinations falls to BC Transit, a provincial crown corporation that was created to provide public transportation services outside of the Lower Mainland region.

The Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System has the staff and the resources to provide both conventional bus services and special needs paratransit services within the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). Headquartered at 6300 Hammond Bay Road in North Nanaimo, the Transit Systems is operated by the RDN’s Regional Transportation Services Department and is jointly funded by the RDN and BC Transit.

Working seven days per week (with reduced levels of service on weekends and statutory holidays) the Service currently operates 17 scheduled bus routes throughout the region. Founded as a transportation service in 1969 the Regional Transit System currently has a fleet of more than 50 buses and is a leader in the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to fuel its energy-efficient rolling stock.

The Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System not only operates a fleet of vehicles that services the needs of the entire Regional District of Nanaimo, it also hosts a state of the art maintenance and service depot to help keep its units rolling and in tip top shape.

BC Transit itself is the evolution of the province’s first organized transit service, the British Columbia Electric Railway, which was initially founded in 1897. By 1961 this service became a division of BC Hydro, which operated it until 1979 when it was restructured by the provincial government into the Urban Transit Authority which in turn was rebranded BC Transit in 1983.

Public transportation in British Columbia as we know it today truly is the end result of an evolutionary process. The original BC Electric Railway was incorporated to operate the facilities of the Consolidated Railway Company (CRC) which had been created in 1896. The CRC itself was a consortium of 10 individual companies that had been involved in electric-based transportation services in one form or another – from light rail to street cars and tramways in Vancouver, New Westminster and in Victoria.

Over the years the use of streetcars and interurban trams gave way to more conventional buses – gas-powered and in the case of Vancouver, electric trolley buses. This focus on electrical vehicles encouraged the provincial government to hand over operation of the province’s public transportation system to BC Hydro in 1962. The development of BC Transit in 1983 helped to unify the overall planning and delivery of public transportation for all of the different municipal transit systems in British Columbia, including the system currently enjoyed by Nanaimo area residents.

Island Home Sales Continue To Slide

According to statistics released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) home prices across the Island continued to rise last month, even as the number of actual sales dropped. VIREB’s stats show that board-wide the sale of single family homes dropped 13 percent last month when compared to a year ago, with 412 single-family homes being reported sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System during April. During April 2018 a total of 475 homes traded hands.

Despite the drop, the April sales figures are still 33 higher than the sales numbers recorded during March when only 308 home sales were reported. The dip in sales were not restricted solely to single family homes as both apartment and townhome sales also recorded year-over-year declines, three percent and 24 percent respectively.

Vancouver Island’s once strong Seller’s Marketplace has been gradually replaced by one much more balanced as the inventory of available properties is higher now than it has been for months. In April the housing inventory reached 1,289 homes, an increase of 22 percent from a year ago when only 1,056 homes were listed for sale. This is the highest inventory of active listings since August 2018.

The surplus of available properties isn’t restricted to single family homes as both apartment and townhome numbers also recorded increases during April. Last month 301 apartments were available for sale within the VIREB coverage area, which extends from the Malahat in the south to the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. That figure represents a 16 percent rise over April 2018 when 260 apartments were on the market. Townhome numbers were even higher, with 199 listed for sale last month, an increase of 23 percent from a year ago when only 162 were listed on the MLS® System.

Regardless of the dip in sales, home prices continued to rise last month all across Vancouver Island. VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones, with the board-wide benchmark price hitting $517,800 last month, an increase of five percent from April 2018. The board-wide benchmark price of apartments rose eight percent year-over-year last month to reach $325,900, while townhome prices climbed 10 percent from April 2018 to end the month at $429,700.

Each of VIREB’s zones recorded benchmark price increases last month. In Nanaimo for example the benchmark price rose three percent to $560,800 in April, while the Parksville – Qualicum Beach area’s benchmark price climbed four percent to $582,500 last month.

In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price last month reached $480,700 which is a five percent increase over the one recorded in April 2018. Further north in the Comox Valley the benchmark price increased six percent to reach $509,600, while in Campbell River the April benchmark price climbed four percent to $421,000. In the Alberni Valley the April benchmark price was $307,700, an increase of nine percent from April 2018.

So, what does it all mean? In a marketplace as dynamic and changeable as Vancouver Island’s its more important than ever to employ the services of a professional REALTOR® when making the largest purchase of your life. Give Peter and Kathy a call today to begin your quest for the home of your dreams.