Whether you buy a new build, build within a master-planned community or freestyle your new build, the options for getting a pristine new right-sized home are plentiful.
By Lisa Manfield
When Julia Abraham first moved into her Bear Mountain Resort condo in 2007, she was looking for a location close to nature. “I was driven by the lifestyle and having the outdoors at my doorstep,” she says.
But it’s not just the spectacular surroundings that have kept her there through meeting and marrying her husband, raising three kids and moving from a condo to a town home than a custom home there. “Having the golf course and resort amenities is amazing,” she says. “But having a real sense of community for our kids was a driving force behind why we have stayed at Bear Mountain.”
Two and a half years ago, Abraham and her husband decided on a custom Bear Mountain home. “That opportunity was there through Ecoasis [Bear Mountain’s developer]. We were able to secure a lot in the perfect neighbourhood at the end of a cul de sac.”
Like many master-planned communities throughout B.C., Bear Mountain offers new-build options from single-family residential lots to gated villas, town homes and condos. It sells lots to both home buyers and approved builders. “The approved builders have committed to building quality custom homes for end-users or will build homes to high-end specifications and put their finished product on the market,” says Ruthanne Doyle of Ecoasis. The Approved Builders Program combined with the design guidelines ensures neighbourhood quality and consistency, she says. “Of course, homeowners are free to customize their interiors to their family’s needs,” Doyle says.
A home that adheres to Bear Mountain’s design guidelines was “a big peace of mind in securing our investment,” Abraham says. “It is a very traditional home with fine craftsmanship throughout, and great functional spaces for our kids.” But they were also able to bring some creativity to the mix. “We vaulted our great room to enhance the views of both the greenspace and golf course from the kitchen, living and dining area. It has a real seamless indoor/outdoor feel.”
On the other end of the new-build spectrum are those who prefer to do their own thing. And there are plenty of opportunities throughout B.C. to purchase a lot and do a custom build with fewer constraints. In the Okanagan, realtor Patrick Murphy is working with clients ranging from “the lowest-priced lot in the South Okanagan” to “one of the most expensive lots in the Okanagan.”
Murphy, a native to the area, helps his clients understand the ins and outs of land preparation for building a house. “A buyer might see a lot listed on MLS for $350,000, but they wouldn’t know that they’ll need to install a $60,000 septic system or bring an engineered fill so there are no drainage problems,” he says. An experienced realtor can help evaluate a potential lot. Murphy adds, “The onus is on the realtor to ensure those bits of information are forthcoming.”
The process of readying a lot for building can be long, he warns. For example, his low-cost buyer is awaiting a lot subdivision, plus electricity, water and sewer installation at the lot line, before she can apply for a building permit, which Murphy estimates could be six to eight months away.
Murphy, who also works as a land developer and partner at Hunters Hill, a master-planned community in Summerland, says the upside of building within a regulated community vs. an independent lot comes down to security of your investment. “The consumer really does have the protection of [a] development group ensuring their views and investment are protected. If they buy… somewhere else, someone can build right in front of them and they have no control.”
But going it on your own has its advantages too: you have full control over your location, the designer and builder you choose, and ultimately, the final product is yours alone.
BUILDING FAST AND FURIOUS
If a fast build is what you’re looking for, then working with a land development company might prevail. For example, at Crown Isle, a master-planned community in Courtenay, B.C., picking a lot, designing a home and completing construction is a seven- to 10-month process, says Jason Andrew, director of real estate and a 20-year veteran resident of the community.
Andrew works with clients to help them understand their budget, their needs and whether the community has any existing stock that might fit. If they’re looking to build new, an introduction is made to in-house builder Jayson Welsh and Crown Isle Homes, as well as partner building companies.
“Right now we have 31 single-family homes on the market and 14 are new builds,” he says. “If someone is happy with the location and scheme [of a new build], they are ready to move in today. If they have the time, they can meet with a builder and design their own home. My recommendation is to find the location first, and then design the house to fit that location,” he adds, considering nuances like natural light at all times of the day. “The beauty here is that we have our realtor, Crown Isle Realty, as well as builders so we can give an idea of the cost to renovate an existing home, or look at the cost to do a custom build.”
BUYING NEW STOCK
For some, buying new housing stock rather than building new might be the best solution, and in that case, B.C. is a great place to be, with innovative new products and designs making it more exciting than ever for buyers.
“That’s why we build presentation centres,” says Greg Lowe, sales and marketing manager at Diverse Properties. “So people can come in, see the finishings, review the floor plans and work through it with someone trained to help them make the decision on what to buy.”
In Vancouver’s Fraser Valley, where growth in housing starts has doubled and tripled in areas like Abbotsford and Chilliwack over the past decade, sales of new town homes in particular have been on the uptick, Lowe says. Diverse has been building out Abbotsford’s Cinema District, with larger than ever town homes that appeal both to young families and downsizers. “These are 2,200- to 2,300-square-foot town homes,” he says. “Everyone has a roof deck; some even have rental suites. It’s a very progressive product in terms of forward thinking for real estate.”
Whether you buy new, build new within a master-planned community or DIY your new build, the sky’s the limit on opportunities for getting the right space for your needs.