This is the second of seven articles about Canadian communities that may appeal to 50-plus people – readers’ picks of seven great places for retirement.
Pam and Ken Robin cashed out of their dream home three years ago on B.C.’s lower mainland to live the quiet life with a sweeping ocean view in the town of Sechelt, on the Sunshine Coast.
They had a good-sized ranch house in Richmond, B.C., with a totally private backyard and pool, from which Pam could walk to her legal assistant job in a couple of minutes. But Ms. Robin, 62, had a health scare when she was diagnosed with cancer, which was caught in time.
The life-altering event made her realize that she wanted to relocate to Sechelt, where the couple had once owned a rental home.
“For me, it was watching a big change in my life and going, ‘I have today. I may not have tomorrow.’ All those factors came into play, to affect our decision to move up here.”
It helped that the Richmond house they’d purchased in 2001 had increased in value more than $1-million within a decade. In 2011, they listed it for $1.35-million and had offers the same day.
With the help of agent Bruce Lasuta, the Robins found a three-bedroom, two-level, 2,100-square-foot house for $460,000 in Sechelt. The average sale price for a three-bedroom home in Sechelt is $394,498, according to Landcor Data Corp.
“We were able to invest the balance and spend money on the garden and give money to our children. We have some in our back pocket. We’re not millionaires, but we’re comfortable,” Ms. Robin says.
In Sechelt, they got more house for their money, and it’s become a retreat for their children and grandchildren, who visit often from the lower mainland.
Like the Robins, retirees are taking advantage of low prices on the Sunshine Coast. They aren’t coming in droves, as so many have expected of the baby-boom generation. But they are trickling in, enough to boost sales by 20 per cent in the past year or so, Mr. Lasuta says.
“We seem to attract the urban weary. I meet so many people from North Vancouver or West Vancouver,” Mr. Lasuta says.
“Here, there’s a low crime rate, the infrastructure is fabulous. I hear about traffic jams on the radio in the lower mainland and I’m tempted to call and say, ‘There are three cars in front of me in the left turn lane right now.’ We are so spoiled.”
The district of Sechelt is also home to the region’s only hospital, St. Mary’s, which last year doubled in size due to a stunning $44-million renovation by Toronto’s Farrow Partnership Architects Inc. and B.C. architects Will + Perkins. It’s now one of the greenest hospitals in Canada.
From the town, it’s a 25-minute drive to the ferry terminal and seaplane. From the Langdale ferry near Gibsons, it’s a 40-minute crossing to West Vancouver. (Sechelt has a transit system for residents who don’t have a car.)
The town has a thriving artist scene, boutique shops, farmers’ market, botanical garden and community centre, pool and ice rink. And then there’s that ocean view, with kayaking and hiking in the summer, cross-country skiing in the winter, and abundance of wildlife – orcas, deer, elk, otters, seals and eagles.
While house sales are up, Mr. Lasuta, 58, wonders why even more retirees aren’t scooping up the deals.
“We feel we should be seeing more retirees coming here. I think that’s because of the global economy. It seems people were retiring a few years back, but are delaying it a few more years now, trying to build up their portfolios again.
“They are long overdue. They could come up here and put a whack of money in the bank and buy a rancher and enjoy life.”
He recently sold a newly built, 1,568-square-foot, centrally located three-bedroom home with quartz counters and gourmet kitchen for $350,530. It was listed at $369,900 and took 237 days to sell. The market is soft, which is good for the buyer, but not so good for the seller.
Homeowners can’t rely on a quick sale when they want to cash out. But for people who plan to settle in for a while, like the Robins, the resale value wasn’t a big consideration. It was about quality of life, and particularly, their opportunity to install a large garden and to take in the view.
“Our assessment has gone down since we bought here,” Ms. Robin says. “But we think we have a million-dollar view. Our view is of the coastline, and the zigzag of the shoreline. We see the Trail Islands and we see Vancouver Island and the mountain range. It’s an ever-changing view. You can’t put a price on that.”
Of the 9,400 or so people who live in Sechelt, the largest group is between 45 and 64, at 34 per cent. About 28 per cent of Sechelt’s population is older than 65. By comparison, in British Columbia 15 per cent of the population is older than 65.
The fact that Sechelt is becoming somewhat of a magnet for seniors explains why condo developers have recently shown an interest.
Onni has built a new waterfront development of townhomes in nearby Porpoise Bay, called Edgewater. Pacific Spirit Properties has a 104-unit beachfront Watermark condo development under way on a 2.6-acre site with 6,500 square feet of commercial space. Recently buyers from China bought the Sechelt Golf and Country Club.
“We are sort of at that cusp where we are seeing a lot of interest in the area,” Mr. Lasuta says.