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Osoyoos Cottages tops sales milestone of 100 cottages sold
Osoyoos Cottages has surpassed its milestone of selling its 100th cottage thanks to busy sales and a promotion on the May long weekend, said developer Eric Van Maren.
The company reached its 99th sale on Monday and then sold two on Tuesday for a total of 101, said Van Maren.
Despite a local real estate market that hasn’t yet reached pre-2008 levels, sales at the cottages have been brisk in the recent years.
In the past 12 months, 40 cottages have sold. In 2012 and 2013, roughly 30 homes a year were sold.
“We like to say that we are the only new true waterfront community from Kelowna to Osoyoos,” said Van Maren. “There are other nice projects without a doubt, but they are not actually on the water like we are.”
The cottage development is on Osoyoos Indian Band land at the northeast corner of Osoyoos Lake under a 99-year lease.
No doubt some of the initial interest in the project results from its distinctive marketing with giant Adirondack chairs promoting Osoyoos Cottages across the province.
Van Maren said the idea was his. It started as a gag because the chair is part of the company’s logo. He built one, and soon noticed that people were taking their pictures in the chair.
“I thought, ‘If people like those chairs that much, why don’t I put up a few more?’” he said.
The chairs are now found in locations scattered from Maple Ridge to Castlegar to Revelstoke.
Strangers sometimes speculate that there must be more than 100 of them, but in fact there are only 34, Van Maren said. There are two standard sizes – eight feet and 12 feet high.
While the chairs may attract the initial attention, Van Maren points to a number of other reasons why purchasers actually buy.
There’s a sense of community, good amenities such as boat slips, more than 20 acres of open space, and yet it’s very walkable, he said.
The centrally located Stelkia Community Centre is a popular draw and has been used by homeowners for weddings, birthday parties, Christmas parties, football games and other activities, he said.
It’s close enough to most homes that people can walk to it in a few minutes and some of the homeowners farther up the hill are buying golf carts to get up and down.
“That’s a big part of our project,” he said. “Much bigger than I would have anticipated. That’s because most of our buyers are retiring here and they’re coming from outside the Okanagan Valley, so they’re really looking for a place where they can make new friends.”
Many buyers, said Van Maren, are in their mid-50s and plan to retire in the next few years.
“They are buying now to use it as a vacation home for a few years and then they’ll move their permanently,” he said. “Or they’ve already retired and they’re going to sell their $1.5 million home in Vancouver. They’re buying a $500,000 home from us and putting $1 million aside for their retirement. They can’t believe what they’re getting in our project for a third of the price they sold their home for in the Lower Mainland or Calgary.”
Van Maren said between 85 and 90 per cent of people buy cottages as a permanent residence, either living there full-time immediately, or planning to do so within the next three to five years.
And, although the custom-built houses are much more affordable than in markets such as the Lower Mainland, buyers aren’t necessarily seeking the lowest priced houses.
“So far this year, two of our most expensive hillside homes were among the sales we made, so it isn’t all price driven,” he said, noting that six homes have sold in 2015. “A lot of time it’s driven more by what they want than by what prices are.”
For some, that might be the ability to walk barefoot to the beach. For others, it’s proximity to the clubhouse and for still others, it may be the views they get from up the hill.
Currently, about 54 homes are occupied, Van Maren said. Another 10 are completed and will either be occupied soon or are show homes. Another 15 to 20 are in various stages of construction.
By the end of the year, Van Maren predicts about 75 homes will be occupied fulltime.
Although there are a few vacation homes owned by families with children, by far the largest number are couples in the 55 to 65 age range, he said.
“I think a lot of it is we’re not really selling to the über wealthy,” he said. “We’re selling to the upper middle class and a lot of their equity in retirement money is tied up in their homes. They don’t want to live in a cheap home and they don’t want to make any compromises.”