House Hunting in Alberta, Canada: A Timber Chalet in the Rockies


This timber-framed, five-bedroom home is in Canmore, a valley town in the Canadian Rockies near the southeast boundary of Banff National Park, in Alberta province.

Built in 2004 on a third of an acre, the 4,802-square-foot house is inside Silvertip Resort, a master-planned golf community situated along the lower benches of Mount Lady Macdonald.

Prospective buyers needn’t be golfers, said Christopher Vincent, a senior vice president of sales with Sotheby’s International Canada, which has the listing. “One of the nice things about it is our golf season is so short that the course creates a lot of privacy the rest of the year,” he said. “Wildlife comes wandering through, and you can go and walk the cart paths.”

A flagstone walkway leads to the front door, which opens into a small foyer facing the wood staircase. To the left is the great room, an open-concept expanse containing a living space, dining area and kitchen. At one end is a stone fireplace that rises the length of the wall to meet the vaulted ceiling. At the other end is the kitchen, which has an island that seats five, honed granite counters, dark wood cabinets, two sinks and open shelving.

The room is lined with glass doors and windows, one side of which opens onto a spacious stone patio with a gas fireplace overlooking Canmore and the mountains to the west.

The master suite, on the ground floor, has a stone fireplace and access to the patio. The bathroom has a walk-in shower with a bench seat and a double vanity with tabletop basin sinks.

There are three bedrooms upstairs, one of which is directly above the master bedroom in the house’s tower, with a vaulted ceiling and fireplace. The two bedrooms at the opposite end of the hall share a bath with a large soaking tub.

The fifth bedroom is on the lower level, along with a full bath, a 1,300-bottle wine cellar and a media room with a retractable movie screen over the fireplace. The attached two-car garage has storage for skis and bicycles, as well as a pantry.

The town of Canmore, with about 14,000 year-round residents, caters to the throngs of tourists who come to the Rockies to hike, climb, ski, kayak, fly-fish and bicycle. “We’ve got close to 100 restaurants, big grocery stores and boutique food shops, lots of wine shops,” Mr. Vincent said. “It’s definitely not your typical small town.”

Banff National Park, Canada’s oldest national park, is about five miles from Silvertip and covers 1.6 million acres. The many attractions include abundant wildlife, glacier-fed lakes, skiing on Mount Norquay, fishing on the Bow River and a 16.6-mile paved biking path between the town of Banff and Canmore.

The nearest international airport is in Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, about 65 miles east. Private planes may land at the airport in Springbank, just outside the western border of Calgary.

Canmore just completed a record-breaking year for home sales, said Brad Hawker, the broker and owner of local firm Royal LePage Rocky Mountain Realty. The 562 total sales in 2019 represented a 13.7 percent increase over 2018, he said.

The median sale price also rose, ending 2019 at $607,740 Canadian ($465,000), a 5.6 percent increase over 2018, Mr. Hawker said, noting that the climbing sales are a reflection of steady demand from second-home buyers and active retirees, as well as a healthy local market.

“The local segment of the housing market is driven by tourism, and that has been strong, so the local economy is strong,” he said.

Market conditions are dramatically different in Calgary, where 1.2 million residents make up Canada’s third most populous municipality. The city’s economy is heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry, so when the price of oil crashed globally in 2014, heavy layoffs and lost revenues sent the housing market into a tailspin, said Ann-Marie Lurie, the chief economist for the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB). Unemployment is currently around 7 percent.

“We’ve seen about an 11 percent price adjustment since 2014,” Ms. Lurie said of the city’s falling home values. “The worst hit by far were the apartment and condo products, where the adjustment was more like 17 percent.”

In 2019, the median price for a home in Calgary was $410,000 Canadian ($314,000), a 2.4 percent drop from $420,000 Canadian ($322,000) in 2018, according to CREB. The median price for an apartment fell by about 4 percent year over year, from $252,500 to $242,000 Canadian ($193,000 to $185,000), as did the median price of a detached house, from $484,000 to $465,000 Canadian ($370,000 to $356,000).

While buyers from Calgary represent a significant portion of the Canmore market, the city’s economic decline hasn’t had much impact on sales in Canmore, except at the highest end, Mr. Vincent said.

“When oil crashed, it looked like our market would tank, but the opposite happened,” he said. “A lot of folks took early retirement, left the city and came here.”

Canmore townhouses and condos, which are popular with second-home buyers, start at around $600,000 Canadian ($460,000) for a three-bedroom without a garage, and $700,000 Canadian ($535,000) with a garage, Mr. Hawker said.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Alberta. And unlike some other Canadian provinces, Alberta does not tax home purchases by nonresidents.

A lawyer handles the transaction. Legal fees average around $2,000 Canadian ($1,500), agents said. The seller pays the agent’s commission.


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