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HOMEFINDER: Lifestyle keeps people on Saanich Peninsula

A kayaker enjoys a morning paddle in Brentwood Bay, as the Mill Bay ferry glides into its berth in the background. The abundance of outdoor activities available help keep longtime residents on the Peninsula, but can also attract new ones. - Devon MacKenzie/News staff
A kayaker enjoys a morning paddle in Brentwood Bay, as the Mill Bay ferry glides into its berth in the background. The abundance of outdoor activities available help keep longtime residents on the Peninsula, but can also attract new ones.
— image credit: Devon MacKenzie/News staff

Saanich Peninsula, with its rural properties, small town-style  merchants and glorious retirement amenities, could never be mistaken for its municipal cousins, where big box stores and sprawling residential developments are more common.

Longtime Peninsula residents say such an environment is part of what maintains the charm of the area.

Whether from the absence of major change, either from a residential housing standpoint or commercial services or some combination of factors, the so-called “normalizing” of typical home prices in the Capital Region appears to have hit the Peninsula hardest, with typical house prices dropping by several per cent in the past couple of years.

What that means is quality properties in the area have become affordable to a wider range of buyers, says Realtor Shelley Mann. A director and former president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, she was born and raised on the Peninsula and still lives in Sidney.

“There is some great value coming on the market right now and they’re also selling fairly quickly,” she says. “I think the public has been sitting back and waiting for this to happen in our market.”

Realtor Patrick   Schorle, who lives in Deep Cove and focuses his business mainly on the Peninsula, said two major developments; Jesken Town Centre, on 62 acres of Tsawout First Nation land in Central Saanich, and a commercial project proposed for a portion of the former Sandown Raceway lands in North Saanich, stand to change the local landscape.

Schorle admits he is among those “biased residents” who have a great fondness for the area as it is.

“It offers a lifestyle that’s getting more and more difficult to find in other parts of the world,” he says, using the buzzword that has prompted many out-of-towners to buy spring/summer homes in the area.

“There’s so many parks, so many beaches where there’s not a crowd. It’s got so much to offer, yet you can drive to Victoria so quickly if you want that downtown lifestyle.”

But don’t get fooled into thinking the Saanich Peninsula is somehow caught in a 1990s vortex with little new development beefing up the residential market. There are various projects coming on stream designed to appeal to first-time home buyers and people looking for a taste of rural life.

Mann points to a townhouse development on Bowerbank Road in Sidney with homes starting at under $300,000, and the Canora Mews project near Victoria International Airport, featuring single family homes priced well under the region’s benchmark price of $483,400, as examples of efforts to bring new families into the area.

Part of that movement is a result of the expansion of industry in Sidney. Between Ramsay Machinen Works, Viking Air, Sobey’s, Scott Plastics and Epicure, between 3,000 and 4,000 people are employed in the immediate area.

“There’s a movement toward providing ‘work-source’ housing, as opposed to ‘affordable housing,’ so that people who are working in these areas aren’t having to drive a hour to an hour-and-a-half to work every day,” Mann says.

And for those families and couples where only one partner works on the Peninsula, transit service to downtown is exceptional, she says.

ddescoteau@vicnews.com

Q: What’s the local trend in residential real estate sales? (Courtesy Victoria Real Estate Board)

Springtime is when things gets busy – Consider that the sales figures in February for the Capital Region increased by 20.5 per cent over the previous month. March will be even busier (see table, lower right)

Prices still trending downward or flat – Last month saw the HPI benchmark single family home price (for a typical home) sit at $483,400, slightly lower than the $490,100 mark from February 2013

It’s pricier in the core – Greater Victoria’s core municipalities – Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt – had a combined benchmark price of $547,800 for February, about the same as the previous month and February 2013

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE as of March 26/14 »

447 / 483 -- NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES, Month to date/March 2013

1,060 / 1,231 -- NEW LISTINGS, MONTH TO DATE/MARCH 2013

4,031 / 4,333 --TOTAL ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS MONTH TO DATE/total to this date 2013

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