This interview with Glynis MacLeod was posted in Mansion Global, the premier digital destination for compelling content about the global real estate market.
With stately mansions, stunning shorelines and quick access to both village-like shopping and downtown Victoria, Oak Bay is one of the most desirable areas in British Columbia.
"Oak Bay is a leafy suburb with just gorgeous, manicured homes," said Glynis MacLeod of Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
Attractive to residents of all ages, Oak Bay’s quiet, private and walkable neighborhoods, filled with charming architectural gems, all combine to make it extremely attractive from both Canada and around the world, said Scott Garman of the Garman Group/Engel & Völkers Vancouver Island.
Oak Bay is subdivided into six neighborhood—Henderson, the Uplands, Estevan, North Oak Bay, South Oak Bay and Gonzales— that sit just 10 to 15 minutes east of downtown Victoria, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
The district is bounded by Foul Bay Road to the west. To the north, the neighborhood is roughly defined by the University of Victoria’s campus, while the shoreline with the Haro Strait forms its natural eastern and southern boundaries.
Homes in Oak Bay can start at C$900,000 (US$687,006) and the average sale price over the past six months was C$1.7 million, but prices can climb much higher. Large homes, such as a 7,000-square-foot home on a .75-acre non-waterfront property can be had for prices between C$4.5 million and C$5 million, Ms. MacLeod said. Earlier this year, a 6,000-square-foot home on a 1.5-acre waterfront lot sold for C$8.08 million. In the past, Oak Bay has seen record-setting sale prices for single-family homes as high as C$10.5 million.
There are far fewer townhouses and condos in Oak Bay than single-family homes; Mr. Garman said just two townhouses have sold so far this year. Townhouses and condos have been listed at an average of C$900,000 to C$1million over the past six months. Last year, a townhouse in Uplands Estates (which is not in the Uplands) sold for a record-setting C$1.205 million.
Record-setting sales of condos have all been penthouses in the upscale Oak Bay Beach Hotel and have ranged from C$2.6 million to C$3.3 million, Ms. MacLeod and Mr. Garman reported. Mr. Garman cited a penthouse for a new development called Bowker slated for completion in 2019 priced at C$1.6 million.
This five bedrooms, 6,827 square feet home feature view of the Cadboro Bay is currently asking for about $3.28 million.SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY CANADA
One of Oak Bay’s greatest advantages is its "quiet and private neighborhoods, with character homes with great architecture," Mr. Garman said. Arts and Crafts-style and Tudor-style homes are most prominent. "There are beautiful examples of midcentury modern [architecture], particularly in the Uplands," Ms. MacLeod added.
Homes from the late 19th century include examples from architects such as Francis Rattenbury and Samuel McLure. As older, smaller homes not protected by heritage status have been purchased, they have been replaced with more modern and contemporary West Coast-style homes.
At the top of the market, common amenities include a home theater and indoor pool. "Large, open entertainment spaces are very important," Mr. Garman said, as are "open floor plans, outdoor spaces, and guest accommodations." Also, he added, "Victoria is a very active community, so having appropriate indoor accommodations for exercise is very necessary as we’re going through the winter months."
In the Uplands, in particular, a dock is extremely desirable (since new ones are prohibited) and adds significant value to properties. Exceptional properties at the very high end of the market even include their own islets, Ms. MacLeod said.
The living room of a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom luxury home listed for sale in Oak Bay, Victoria, British ColumbiaSOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY CANADA
What Makes It Unique
Oak Bay is "an extremely mature, established neighborhood with amazing architecture," Mr. Garman said. "Just the name Oak Bay is what draws people." He and Ms. MacLeod both noted the area’s village-like atmosphere, walkability and excellent schools. "People have a great sense of belonging," Ms. MacLeod said, adding that the community has a great sense of pride and ownership.
"There’s a great number of beaches, some sandy, some rocky, along its undulating coastline," Ms. MacLeod said.
A marina in Oak Bay, VictoriaSOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY CANADA
Golfing is a huge draw, Mr. Garman said: "The Victoria Golf Club is world-renowned, perched right on the ocean. It’s absolutely stunning." Oak Bay is also home to the Uplands Golf Club—which has hosted the PGA Canadian Tour for the past eight years—and the Henderson Golf Club.
Residents have access to two area marinas. The Oak Bay Marina offers permanent moorage and kayaking, as well as the Marina Restaurant, with beautiful views of Mt. Baker and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Then there’s the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, a bit further north, which is "a wonderful launch pad for sailing, going up to the Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands," Ms. MacLeod said.
The Oak Bay Beach Motel, in addition to its private residences, offers fine dining in its restaurant, pub and café, with excellent views of the water.
Shopping along Oak Bay Avenue contributes to the area’s village-like atmosphere, with galleries including the Gage Collective Gallery, Winchester Galleries, and The Avenue Gallery, as well as many café and bistros such as the White Heather Tea Room and Vis-à-Vis.
The schools in the area are among Oak Bay’s greatest assets. Willows Elementary, Monterey Middle School, and Oak Bay High School are all public schools. St. Michaels University School is a private, K-12 day and boarding school whose Junior School campus is located in Oak Bay. The Glenlyon Norfolk School, also a private school in Oak Bay, serves students from junior kindergarten through grade 12 and offers an International Baccalaureate program. The University of Victoria straddles the northern boundary between Oak Bay and Saanich.
An exterior view of Oak Bay Beach Hotel Private ResidencesChristies's International Realty
Who Lives There
Although Oak Bay has tended to attract an older demographic in the past, its excellent schools, in particular, attract young families, as well. Given the exceptionally strong market in Vancouver, Oak Bay has also attracted those relocating to Victoria who are looking for the island lifestyle.
(Oak Bay is less than 10 minutes from downtown Victoria, and with access to harbor planes, Vancouver is just a 30-minute flight away.)
Ms. MacLeod said that among international buyers, a good number are from California, attracted by the island’s lifestyle and Oak Bay’s proximity to Vancouver, Seattle and Silicon Valley.
NBA player Steve Nash and singer Nelly Furtado have long-held ties to Victoria, and reportedly own homes in the Oak Bay area.
"We’ve been roaring along at a rapid rate, but a slowdown in Vancouver has contributed to a slowdown in Victoria," Ms. MacLeod said.
"We’re seeing pricing level off, which I don’t think is a bad thing," Mr. Garman said; "you can’t sustain the continual run-up that we’ve seen." With low inventory and steady demand for properties in Oak Bay, "we’re inching our way to a balanced market, but it’s still definitely on the seller’s side," he said. Victoria, in comparison to Vancouver, has seen more natural appreciation of property values.
Although both he and Ms. MacLeod noted significant interest from foreign buyers, a 20% tax on foreign buyers implemented at the provincial level earlier this year has notably curbed that interest.
However, Ms. MacLeod said, the strength of the American dollar relative to the Canadian makes this less of a concern for buyers from the U.S. She noted that foreign buyers make up 3.5% to 4% of the market in Victoria. Oak Bay, she said, "because of its location and proximity, will always maintain its value."