Island living, especially on undeveloped BC islands, is not for everyone. But for those looking for a remote wilderness experience, there are some incredible opportunities out there — some as close as an hour away from Vancouver.
The big question is: Is island living right for you? Here are seven things to consider before making the leap:
1. How do you plan to use the property?
If you’re considering making an island your permanent home:
Are you retiring there? Do you have a family with children who require schools? Is commuting to work regularly an issue?
If your plan is to use your cabin as an occasional retreat:
Will this just be an occasional weekend and summer retreat? Do you plan on spending a few weekends a month during spring, summer and early fall?
Or do you want a place you can visit for regular weekend getaways and extended stays? Do you plan to make your cabin your second home, heading there every chance you get?
If you don’t plan to live at your cabin permanently right now, will you be considering it down the road?
2. How much time/expense are you willing to spend on traveling?
Reviewing your intended use for the property will help determine what is reasonable when it comes to travel time to your island property. For example, if you live in Vancouver and purchase on Savary Island, your travel time is roughly 7 hours (that’s two ferries plus a water taxi), so there’s no chance you will be doing this every weekend, but it’s not unreasonable for an occasional summer retreat.
Likewise, if you purchase on Hardy Island, which is roughly three hours from Vancouver (one ferry plus a water taxi), you could get there on a regular basis, but it might make sense to look for something closer on Gambier or Keats Islands, which are just over an hour from Vancouver and require only a single water taxi or ferry ride.
3. How will you get there? By car ferry, walk-on ferry, water taxi, or private boat?
Is driving directly from your home to the cabin an absolute requirement? If so, islands serviced by BC Ferries are the obvious choice. But if you’re willing to consider a water taxi or private boat, then this opens up your options to many other islands. While car ferries certainly make access easier, they also mean that you’re never far from a crowd, and that prices will be considerably higher.
4. Do you want waterfront or non-waterfront property?
Some people can’t imagine why you would ever buy a property that’s not waterfront. Likewise, many people don’t want to pay a premium for waterfront if they feel they are just as happy living inland. But if you are planning on buying waterfront, you’ll need to ask yourself whether you’ll need to put in a dock, and if this is something you are prepared to maintain. And if you are looking to buy inland, do you require a view property, or are you looking for something nestled in the trees?
5. What orientation are you looking for?
Morning sun? Evening sun? Or maybe both? Orientation of the land might seem like it should be low on your priority list, but it’s definitely something to consider. You might hate the idea of the facing strong morning sunshine, preferring instead to face the sunset. Or, you might want all-day sunlight in order to run your solar power system.
6. Do you want to purchase land with an existing structure, or start from scratch?
There’s something to be said for purchasing a property with an existing building — the main advantage being that you can move in and start enjoying your property immediately. This is especially appealing for many people, since you won’t have to face the expense and challenge of planning and building on an island, which in my experience takes an average of 24 months to go from planning to completion, and which costs almost 30% more than building in the city.
BUT the experience of building your own cabin might be a cherished dream — an opportunity to build a homestead of your own design, on your own terms, and according to your own plan. Sure it’s challenging, but it’s also incredibly exciting and rewarding, an experience that most people dream of but rarely do themselves.
7. How much are you willing to plan and invest in infrastructure?
There’s a big difference between a fully serviced lot — one that comes with hydro and water — and an off-grid property that may come with a undeveloped well and proven septic field, but that’s about it. People that I encounter generally fall into two camps: those who don’t want to have to worry about basic services, and those who are excited about researching and embracing off-grid living, from solar power to composting toilets.
Takeaway: Know yourself (and your partners!)
Knowing yourself and your needs and wants is crucial, and if you plan to buy property with friends or family, it’s just as crucial to make sure you all have the same needs and wants. Once you’ve agreed on your priorities, it will make it infinitely easier for you to focus your search.
If you have any questions about these questions, please do let me know!