With skyrocketing prices for urban homes and remote work scenarios still in place, young families and retirees alike are flocking to smaller communities across the country. The challenge is in finding a property that strikes the right balance between good value and proximity to nature, yet close enough to urban centres. From charming cabins on the quieter lakes of the Laurentians to luxurious mountaintop homes in the Okanagan Valley, these neighbourhoods just outside of city limits offer the right mix and a range of price points.


Home buyers looking for great value within a 10-minute drive to Mont-Tremblant are spoiled for choice with properties along four nearby lakes — Supérieur, Mercier, Ouimet and Desmarais. Waterfront homes here are around the million-dollar mark. “A lot of the secondary lakes are much quieter, much more relaxed,” says Herb Ratsch, a Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Broker. Several of the smaller lakes are non-motorized, so residents seeking peace and quiet are spared the loud whirring of boat engines and the disruptive waves of wake surfers. “There’s still something to be said about sitting on a dock on that Adirondack chair and having a beer, and it’s nice and tranquil,” notes Ratsch, who also lauds Lac-Desmarais’s unmatched water quality and fishing amenities. And the farther out from the mountain the home is, the greater its value — a half-hour north of the hill, properties range from $300,000 to $700,000.


A new crop of communities within a five-minute drive of Canmore are providing great value with natural surroundings as well as accessibility to commercial districts, says Christopher Vincent, a Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Sales Associate and Senior Vice-President, Sales. One example is Harvie Heights — a hamlet tucked between Banff National Park and Canmore — which is populated with single-family homes on half-acre lots with great mountain views and sun exposure and still an easy bike ride into town. Vincent notes that while there are significant newer builds, Harvie Heights “feels like your grandparent’s cabin in the woods — mature trees, great views, a little bit quieter [and] a really nice community.” Dead Man’s Flats is another hamlet, about five minutes to bike east of Canmore, close to the Bow River. This region is more secluded and serviced only by the Trans-Canada Highway, so you get a little more value, says Vincent of the charming new single-family homes and townhouses, which are also a short drive to Kananaskis Country’s provincial parks.


According to Shawn Woof, a Sotheby’sInternational Realty Canada Sales Representative & Senior Vice-President, Sales, the key considerations in Muskoka’s smaller areas, including Parry Sound and McKellar, are frontage, topography, access to urban amenities and exposure to the sun. “[Prospective buyers] want all-day sun and sunsets,” says Woof. “If you’re looking for something that’s drive-to with southwest exposure and a beautiful [home] and you’ve got a specific budget, you may have to look outside of Muskoka proper.” Another consideration is finding a property that would allow older residents to move around easily — read: fewer stairs and easy access to the lake. Soaring demand for waterfront residences during the pandemic redefined “the cottage,” according to Woof. “It may have meant a riverfront property or a large acreage where you’re in the wilderness and not necessarily even on the water.” Buyers have a range of options here to meet their requirements outside of the Big Three lakes (Joe, Rosseau and Muskoka). Manitouwaba Lake and Port Severn, for example, offer nature and tranquillity at a better value. “The key is to be in the area to enjoy all that our cottage country offers,” says Woof.


The Okanagan Valley — Canada’s answer to Napa — has Kelowna situated right in the middle of it. “There’s a lot of diversity in the Okanagan,” Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Sales Representative Natalie Benedet points out. “You can purchase a recreational property very close to the downtown core of Kelowna or you can have absolute privacy and be at the top of a mountain. There’s something for everyone on the lake.” About an hour’s drive north of Kelowna to the top of the Valley is Vernon, where you can ski Silver Star Mountain, play a round of golf and swim in the lake. At the southernmost point is Penticton, which, Benedet notes, “feels much like a young Napa Valley,” thanks to its proximity to the Naramata Bench plateau, which is dotted with local wineries.

Outside of the big cities, there are opportunities to discover beautiful properties offering ample space and proximity to nature — at great value. Finding that perfect home just takes a little bit of research— and maybe a bike ride or two.

By Josh Greenblatt — *This article originally appeared in Insight: The Art Of Living Magazine – The Roots Issue

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