The Wide World of Real Estate February 15, 2024

Coldwell Banker Around the World: February 2024

Sam Shalom     2/8/24

Picturesque Nelson, BC, is set roughly halfway between Vancouver on Canada’s west coast and Calgary in the Canadian Rockies. Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains and set on the west arm of Kootenay Lake, the city of 11,000 residents is home (and vacation home) to people who love life outdoors in all four seasons. Nelson’s stunning natural architecture is bejewelled by the town itself—its waterfront, some 350 heritage buildings, a restored streetcar, a thriving arts and artisan scene and a rich offering of restaurants and live music.

“It’s a small town, but it’s got a big town feel,” says Kevin Arcuri, co-owner of Coldwell Banker Rosling Real Estate in Nelson. “People are continually amazed with what Nelson, for its size, offers.”

We caught up to Kevin after a showing and got him to talk a little more about Nelson, British Columbia, and what makes it so attractive to the anglers, hikers, single-track bike riders, photographers, skiers, snowshoers, paddle boarders, kayakers, beachcombers, gardeners, wildlife lovers, mountain climbers, artists, artisans, foodies and mountain types who either call it home, or who are counting the days until they can get back.

What’s the feel of the place?

There is a definite lifestyle here. Everybody has to work and has to make a living, but there’s something here called Kootenay Time. If we get 15 centimetres [half a foot, or so] of snow, you’ll experience Kootenay Time. Some businesses will put a sign in their window saying Back at Noon, and they’re away to enjoy the skiing while it’s there to be enjoyed. Everyone understands it. It’s a little quieter here in Nelson. It’s a little more challenging to get to because we’re not on the Trans-Canada Highway, but that’s also what keeps it quaint and feeling the way it does.

What’s a perfect weekend day for you?

Well, of course, I am a realtor, so…. but a perfect day these days would be getting up early and going cross country skiing with my wife or taking a drive along the lake. In the summer, I love to fish, as well. There’s a popular trail out of Nelson called Pulpit Rock that is good in spring, summer, winter and fall. There’s a good growing season here, too, so a perfect day would include some time in my garden. I start my garden in early April and we’re still getting food out of it in October. The garlic will be up in the spring. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, potatoes, carrots, artichokes. You name it, we can pretty much grow it here.

So, sitting at home and watching TV, not so big in Nelson?

Not ideally, not unless there’s a reason for that!

What are the main industries?

Originally, Nelson was a mining town. It has evolved. It has had to re-invent itself from being just an industrial-type town. What they ended up doing was undertaking a heritage revitalization program. They stripped the facades from the original buildings and now Nelson is full of original heritage buildings. We’re not designated as a resort community, but tourism has become a main draw. I hear it from clients from out of town all the time. They’re just amazed at how a small town can have so many high-quality restaurants. I was with some people from California, and they could not say enough about the restaurants and the quality of the food. They were blown away.

What are the major modes of transportation?

Car, definitely. We have great city transit. We have a streetcar that runs along the waterfront. But it’s an active town, too. E-bikes have become huge in Nelson.

What’s a little known but cool fact about Nelson?

I’m not sure if you remember it but there was a movie back in the 1980s called Roxanne, starring Steve Martin and…

Daryl Hannah, yes!

…it was a re-creation of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, and it was filmed in Nelson around the time of the whole heritage building transition. It’s great to be able to pick out the sites from the movie here at home.

Is Nelson affordable?

When I started in the business 16 years ago, the average sale price was, probably, you could find a house for $250,000 (CAD). That’s your average three- or four-bedroom, 2,000 to 3,000-square foot house on a 6,000 square-foot lot. Now, we’re taking $600,000-plus. So, things have changed. But we still are more affordable than many of the mountain towns that Nelson gets compared to, including Fernie, Revelstoke, Squamish or Whistler. Nelson has very little vacancy as far as rentals go. We’re always below one percent there and it’s been that way for years.

What do you want people to know about Nelson?

It is worth checking out, for sure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from real estate clients that there is just something about this place. Everybody is friendly. The food is great. It’s got a low-pressure vibe. I’ll go back to what I’ve said before: it’s the lifestyle.

Territory summary

Nelson is in the Selkirk Mountains on the west arm of Kootenay Lake in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. Along with Castlegar and Trail, Nelson forms the population and commercial core of the West Kootenay region.

Key Facts

  • Population (2016): 10,664 (area 25,000)
  • Population change 2011-2016: + 3.1%
  • Total private dwellings: 5,106
  • Age cohort percentage: 0-14 (15.1%), 25-54 (41.2%), 65+ (18.7%)
  • Major language spoken: English
  • Currency: CAD

Industry Facts

  • Median list price of homes in Nelson, January 2024 ($604,308). Source: Houseful