Canada’s fastest-growing region flexes real estate muscle

Kelowna, and with it the Central Okanagan, has the fastest-growing population in Canada, posting a 14 per cent increase from 2021 to 2026, according to Statistics Canada.

With 224,000 people, the city of Kelowna has twice the population of Nanaimo, Kamloops or Prince George as the second-largest B.C. city outside of the Lower Mainland.

The broader Thompson-Okanagan region is currently growing at about 1.6 per cent per year, hitting 620,000 in 2021 and adding roughly 10,000 new residents annually.

Judging by real estate development being launched this spring the regional population will continue to accelerate, providing the current residential downturn proves shallow and brief. It is housing, after all, that is driving the real estate market across the Okanagan, but residential sales have slowed recently.

In May, total Okanagan home sales were down 28.5 per cent from a year earlier, though the average price increased nearly 10 per cent, year-over-year to $785,600, according to the B.C. Real Estate Association (BCREA).

The BCREA is now forecasting that Okanagan home sales will drop 19 per cent this year, from 2021, and fall a further 14.8 per cent in 2023, with home prices eking out just 1.3 per cent increase that year compared to 2022.

May sales across the Okanagan slid down only 1.2 per cent compared to April, noted Lyndi Cruickshank, president of the Association of Interior Realtors, which she said reflects the market’s stability.

 

The mantra in the Okanagan real estate community is that a lack of supply has helped to stifle sales and keep prices rising. This year should test that theory, if all the current projects proceed.

One of the largest is Greata Ranch, a 46-acre lakefront parcel near Summerland between Kelowna and Penticton along Highway 97. On the development radar for more than a decade, the property has now been extended with the addition of 28 adjacent waterfront acres, the Butler family lands.

The entire 74 acres is now being marketed as a single parcel for mixed-use with a residential emphasis, according to Stephen Webber, associate vice-president of Colliers International.

The price will be decided by bids submitted by potential buyers on the vendor’s “form of offer.”

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