March 16, 2022 • Buying
Invest in the Dream: Is buying an investment property in Banff right for you?
By Kate Barker with Brittney Huerlimann and Paula Shakotko
Living in Banff National Park is a unique experience, and buying a home here is no different. The Town of Banff officially incorporated in 1990 and it was the first municipality to incorporate inside of a National Park in Canada. Purchasing a house in this mountain community, however, isn’t as simple as buying a dream home and visiting the mountains when the season is right.
The townsite covers 3.93 square kilometres, and its boundaries are fixed by federal law. This means the town cannot expand to accommodate new homes, which prevents the adverse effects of urban sprawl on the surrounding natural landscape. For many residents, this connection to nature is what initially drew them to the mountain oasis.
From a real estate perspective, there is another layer of complication since no further land can be developed. This limits new buildings to existing spaces, creating a bit of a squeeze for new home construction. As a result, Banff restricts its residents with a Need to Reside policy that includes working in the town, owning a business in town and being involved in its day-to-day operations, or being related to someone who’s had a continual land lease in the park since 1911.
With the policy in place, many people overlook Banff as an investment opportunity. “There’s a perception that no one can buy in Banff,” says Brittney Huerlimann, Realtor with RE/MAX Cascade Realty, which means most people don’t even look at the area when considering an investment property. “But in reality, anybody can buy! If you’re looking for an investment, Banff has a stable rental market with excellent return.”
“There’s never a lack of tenants in Banff,” says Paula Shakotko, Associate Broker and Owner of RE/MAX Cascade Realty, “Due to the short supply of rentals, owners can choose who they want as tenants and there’s a high chance of success.” The need for housing in Banff means good landlords will be rewarded with excellent long-term tenants, or with seasonal tenants who come to work during the summer or winter.
The process for buying an investment property in Banff is similar to buying an investment property anywhere. A minimum down payment of 20% is required, and you need to declare the intended purpose of the property. If the intended purpose is rental, the tenants need to satisfy Banff’s Need to Reside policy, but not necessarily the owner. Beyond that, there’s paperwork from Parks Canada to lease the land, mortgage paperwork to finance the purchase, and a lawyer to make sure everything is legit.
Despite how daunting it may look to buy in Banff, the process really isn’t that different than anywhere else. Because there are a couple extra considerations, it’s key to work with local professionals to ensure you’re completing all the elements. “Working with a local realtor is key,” says Huerlimann, “You want someone who has the connections, who knows the Parks Canada paperwork, who knows what institutions are willing to finance homes in Banff, and who has local expertise to navigate the ins and outs of this unique area.”
With excellent properties available in a thriving rental market and a team of locals willing to help you every step of the way, it’s time to consider investing in Banff!
Because the townsite of Banff is within the national park, you can’t purchase the land. Instead, you lease the land, and own the buildings sitting on it. This can seem scary to a lot of buyers who are expecting high lease fees and who aren’t sure what this means. In basic terms, you still have to go through all the steps to buy the assets on the property with your lawyer. You sign your land lease and you may have to renew it after a number of years. Lease payments are tied up in taxes, so you don’t notice the nominal amount you pay each year. You can basically treat this property like your own, following town bylaws like you would in any other community.