I have been wanting to write about our personal experience of purchasing vacation real estate in British Columbia, or more specifically Pender Island, for some time. I have in the past shared lots of “fluff” pieces filled with pretty landscapes and happy family outings, but for the most part I have shied away from the reality. I felt it was time to share a few realities and cautions in the hope that it will assist others considering a similar purchase.
It seems when one purchases a property the focus is on “the property”. You check out the neighbourhood, you get a home inspection, your lawyer does all the important searches, but do you really know what you are getting into? You might be saying “What else is there?”. The fact of the matter is there is a huge area that needs to be explored before making a huge investment, and that is you need to discover the under current of attitudes running through the community.
We didn’t do this. We should have.
How does one discover the under current of attitudes running through the community? Social media.
In all honesty, I have never come across an article, or a real estate agent, that has suggested “Check out what the community is saying online.”, “Check out Facebook to see what the residents are really saying and are really thinking.”, or “Follow community groups online for a while before purchasing.”. No one suggests this, but they should. This is the due diligence that is a must for anyone purchasing a property. Following a community online before making a purchase will be a good indicator as to what you are REALLY buying into.
As I said…..we didn’t…..we should have.
So I am going to share with you what we have learned “after the fact” about the community we purchased in through social media. I will also start by saying we aren’t newbies to owning recreational or vacation property, we have done so for years in Alberta, so we thought we knew what we were getting into. We didn’t.
THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
#1 – They hate “part-timers”.
Yes indeed. Does anyone remember the T.V. show “Corner Gas” and every time they mentioned the town Wullerton they would spit? Well a similar thing happens when a local refers to you as a “part timer”; they spit out the word in disgust. Now my husband originally thought I was reading too much into things, and then he started following the community on Facebook. He quickly realized the hatred of part-timers we had experienced in person was a fraction of the hatred really held for us. “Part-timers” or “weekenders” are despised…….at least by a certain segment of the community’s population. ( I wanted to qualify that as we have a couple of great neighbours….who were originally “part-timers” going back to the 1970’s……plus a few of the business people could not be more welcoming. I don’t want the good people lumped in with the others.)
In hind-sight this hatred of “part-timers” explained a lot of things that had left us scratching our heads. It explained the flood of time-shares always on the market, who is going to buy or keep a time-share (sorry, a property with fractional ownership) on an island where “part-timers” are hated? Time-share owners are ALWAYS part-timers. These owners are getting out of dodge, chalking up a bad decision to experience and getting out while they can. Endless amounts of timeshares on the market explains it all.
This also explained the empty houses. When we first owned on the island we couldn’t work out all the vacant homes. They aren’t for sale, just unoccupied. We’ve even noticed it in our neighbourhood, people that are only traveling a couple of hours come to the island less and less. They’ve been driven out by the negative attitude towards “part-timers”. I recognize this. Over the last 6 months, the days leading up before a trip to the island are filled with dread rather than anticipation. This is the reality.
A couple of years ago we ran into a gentleman who had lived on Pender for 20 years. We had a discussion that encompassed buying local and the housing market; an average discussion you have on a dock. He was quite candid and mentioned a lot of people last 5 years on the island and then put their house up for sale and leave. At the time I thought that’s a pretty interesting yet specific statement. However we are almost at the 3 year mark of owning on Pender and the discussion of “should we sell” keeps coming up. Is 5 years the threshold? Is 5 years the limit for putting up with a negative attitude towards “part-timers”? It is curious.
Ironically it is the “part-timers” that help to fuel the local economy. We shop in the local stores, eat from local restaurants, we spend thousands upon thousands of dollars every year on the island, and that money is going straight into the local economy. This creates jobs on the island. This keeps services on the island. Business owners understand this and value the “part-timers” (we know several business owners), but the online contingent (some of who are employees in these businesses) continues to hold a hatred for the “part-timer”.
If I had been following social media and done due diligence on the community prior to the purchase of our property I could have picked up on this. It never occurred to me to consider the vibe of a community, the attitudes and the undertones. I wish I had. I wish someone would have suggested it.
In Alberta we have NEVER been called a “part timer”. We are just part of our little community, a mix of full timers, part timers, snowbirds, and some that just use their property as a camp for off-roading from. We remember one year a shop owner being thrilled that “we” (the part-timers) were back. He talked of a rough winter for the business and was happy to finally be making some money. He knew “part-timers” were beneficial, the online contingent on Pender Island simply hates them.
#2 – Your Investment Isn’t Secure
This has been one of those shockers. I never would have dreamed that the full-time community online on Pender Island were the ones rallying to devalue or destroy your investment in property on the island but this is exactly the case. Reading the forums the first thing that is obvious is that this certain pocket of the population is in favor of Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVR’s).
This group is in favor of filling neighbourhoods full of STVR’s, creating neighborhoods full of transients, neighborhoods full of party houses…..all on an island with so little for resources that a situation could never be taken care of through by-law enforcement (took us a week to get a dog complaint dealt with). They are in favor of creating a situation that destroys property values, destroys the security of neighborhoods, and destroys the peacefulness of a neighborhood. If I had been following social media I would have known about this very vocal movement and would never ever ever bought a property on Pender Island. I would have realized through social media postings that the value of a property and the way of life was at risk. I would have known it was a bad investment. As long as the concept of STVR’s is even being discussed on the island as a potential I would caution buyers to NOT buy on the island.
The active group on social media also feel illegally run businesses are fine. There is a resort on the island, running illegally, not zoned properly, that was shut down years back. Now it appears, through reading social media, that the resort is going to attempt to make a comeback and has rallied the lesser intelligent members of the online community of Pender Island to be their cheer leaders. This illegal business has the online community convinced that the illegal resort is the same as a Short Term Vacation Rental (even though it is going to host huge weddings and events). Had I followed social media I would have known of a community of people supporting an illegal commercial venture that is situated right next to my neighbourhood. I would have known that it would be a horrible decision to buy on Pender Island.
As and aside, ironically, and this discussion seems to have unending irony, it is this same online community that shout “buy local”, yet support an illegal resort that could put legitimate resorts (that are zoned appropriately and follow land use bylaws) and accommodation such as B&B’s and agri-tourism out of business. This is the same online community that shouts “buy local” yet moan online that no-one helped them carry their groceries off the ferry………..groceries that they bought OFF ISLAND. The island has a very well stocked grocery store plus a few other business that also sell food stuffs. These are the same people that shout “We need STVR’s to keep services on the island.” yet they shop OFF island. As I said, dripping with irony. The online community demonstrates the insanity that prevails on the island. You can’t help but doubt purchasing on an island with such bizarre behavior……things you discover on social media.
#3 – You Have No Right To An Opinion, No Right To Be Involved
The title says it all. Social media is a good place to test how you will be welcomed into a community. We quickly discovered through the online community that as “part-timers” that we “know nothing” and that we have no right to an opinion. The online community on Pender Island was very quick to point this out, over and over. This community wants you to pay your taxes, pay water fees and shop local (even though they don’t), but don’t you dare have an opinion, even if it is regarding your own investment. The opinion among the online community is that you, the “part-timer”, have no rights. Don’t have an opinion, don’t get involved, pay your fees and that is it. If I had done due diligence, and followed the online community prior to purchasing, I would have realized that we could never be part of a very closed shop community.
Community is one of the reasons one BUYS a vacation home. If we wanted to just go on a vacation, we’d just go on a vacation (much cheaper than buying and maintaining a house), but we want to be part of a community. I also should clarify our “vacation home” usage, we are in the house some part of 10 or 11 months of the year, we are on Pender more months of the year than “full-time” snowbirds that vacate the island for 6 to 7 months of the year. If we had done due diligence we would have realized we could never be part of the community; we could have continued to search for a community more open to “part-timers” participating in their community.
Purchasing a vacation home or recreational property is a big investment, and this is why I felt it was necessary to share this cautionary tale. Please monitor the community you are thinking of buying in online before purchasing. Please take our advice and do due diligence on social media prior to making a purchase. For us watching the community’s attitudes on-line has been a lesson learned, but one we will take with us on future purchases.
Out of interest, I did have a resident of Pender Island once personal message me asking me to not judge all of Pender based on those on social media (tells you how bad it is). I have since deleted Pender Island related Facebook pages as they were a constant reminder of the mistake we feel we have made. There isn’t enough beautiful scenery to combat the attitude we have faced.
And just to amuse you………my husband said “Why don’t we sell the house first and then post about the bad attitudes?” He’s already thinking about selling and investing our cash in another rural property in Alberta. It says something when someone who grew up by the sea is giving up on the coast.
For regular blog readers, you now understand why there has been a lack of posts on “Island Home”. It is hard to put up happy posts when the love is gone.
Humanity wrecks everything.
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