How to Buy Land in BC?

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Are you looking to buy the perfect piece of land to build your dream home on? Or maybe you’re a real estate investor looking to invest in some undeveloped BC land? Whether you are going to develop the land as an end-user or as an investor, there are some unique quirks to consider that makes buying BC land different from simply buying a finished home. This page will take a look at different land types in British Columbia, how to find land for sale, how to buy land, and how to finance your land purchase.

What You Should Know

  • Raw land requires a down payment of 50%, while vacant land can have a down payment of 35% or less
  • Private land for sale can be found by using a real estate agent, searching online, or by directly asking landowners
  • Most land in British Columbia is Crown land, with only a small percentage being privately owned
  • You can lease Crown land for residential development

Types of Land in British Columbia

The main types of land ownership in British Columbia include:

  • Private Land
  • Federal Crown Land
  • Provincial Crown Land
  • First Nations Treaty Settlement Land
Types of land

Just like other provinces in Canada, most land in British Columbia is provincial Crown land. In fact, 94% of BC is made up of provincial Crown land, the second highest percentage in Canada! British Columbia is a vast province, but private land ownership is concentrated in certain regions. 67% of Crown land in BC is forest, while only less than 1% has agriculture or rangeland. 14.2% of BC's land are parks and protected areas.

Provincial Crown Land in Canada by Province

Province
Crown Land
(Percentage of Land)
Area
(Million Hectares)
Newfoundland and Labrador95%35.3
British Columbia94%88.7
Quebec92%124.8
Ontario88%78.4
Manitoba78%42.5
Alberta63%40.6
Saskatchewan60%34.2
New Brunswick43%3.0
Nova Scotia30%1.6
Prince Edward Island12%0.07

Source: BC 2010 Crown Land Report

Private Land in BC

Did you know that less than 5% of BC’s land base is privately owned? Private land is land that is owned by individuals or corporations. The West Coast region, including Victoria and Nanaimo, has the highest proportion of private land ownership in the province at 9.4%. Kootenay has the second highest private land ownership rate at 8.7%, followed by Thompson-Okanagan at 7.9%. A large portion of private land on Vancouver Island, Kootenay, and the Okanagan were given as railway grants to companies for railroad construction. The South Coast, which includes Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey, and Whistler, has a 7.2% private land ownership rate.

Private Land Ownership Rates in British Columbia by Region

Region
Private Land
Ownership Rate
Private Land Area
(Hectares)
South Coast (Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii)9.4%970,000
Kootenay (Revelstoke and Nelson)8.7%689,000
Thompson-Okanagan (Kamloops)7.9%656,000
South Coast (Vancouver and Whistler)7.2%308,000
Cariboo (Quesnel and Williams Lake)5.5%458,000
Peace (Fort St. John and Dawson Creek)5.1%887,000
Omineca (Prince George)2.6%413,000
Skeena (Prince Rupert and Kitimat)0.9%227,000

Land Use/Cover Type of Private BC Land

Land Use/Cover Type% of Private Land
Agriculture and Rangeland33%
Forests22%
Shrubs18%
Estuaries and Wetlands17%
Urban8%
Barrens, Glaciers, AlpineLess than 1%
MiningLess than 1%
RecreationLess than 1%
FreshwaterLess than 1%

How to Find Land For Sale in BC

Private land for sale can come in two forms: raw land or vacant land. Raw land is land that has been undeveloped and untouched. This means that it won’t have access to services or utilities, such as water or electricity. It might also not have road access, or may only be accessible by plane or boat. Raw land can include forests and shrubland that are privately owned.

Vacant land is land that might have been partially developed by previous owners, or may have access to services or utilities. Vacant land might not be as remote or challenging to develop as raw land, which means that vacant land is generally more expensive than raw land. Vacant land can include plots of land in existing urban areas, or agriculture and rangeland with road access.

Since these plots of land are privately owned, you’ll need to purchase them from their owners. Land owners might work with a real estate agent and have their land listing posted on MLS. You can also search for land listings online, or contact current owners to see if they’re looking to sell. Some owners might be selling their land on their own, called for sale by owner (FSBO). You might be able to find these listings advertised online, or even by driving around and seeing FSBO signs. Working with a real estate agent yourself can help you find land for sale easily.

How to Buy Land in BC

Once you’ve found the perfect plot of land, it’s time to buy the land. Buying land involves a few extra steps that you should take beforehand to make sure that your land purchase is in line with your plans. Here are some things to consider when buying land in BC

  • Zoning

    Your land's local government, whether it be a municipal or regional district government, will have zoning bylaws that regulate the use of the land and what can be built. You'll need to request zoning bylaw amendments, which might involve public hearings or permit applications, if you want to change the zoning of your specific plot of land. For example, this would be needed if you're buying land that is zoned for agriculture but you want to develop it as residential land,

  • Utilities

    Access to utilities is important if you want to build a home, and lack of access can mean additional costs. Besides water and electricity, you'll also need to think about sewage, gas, and telecommunication services, such as phone lines, cell phone service, internet service, and cable. While land in rural areas can be cheaper, the cost of utilities and services are often higher.

  • Surveys

    Topography surveys and site surveys should be done so that you know exactly what you are buying. This includes the property lines and boundaries, along with the geography of your plot of land. This can affect your home's foundation in cases of loose soil, slopes, or floodplains.

  • Property Taxes

    You’ll need to pay BC property tax on land, even if you don’t build a home on it or develop the land. Property tax will need to be paid even if you are renting provincial Crown land. Knowing how much tax you'll need to pay every year can help you decide if buying the land is worth it. Checking the property's tax records and doing a title search is also a way for you to make sure that there aren't any liens or encumbrances on the land.

How to Finance a Land Purchase in BC

If you don’t have enough cash to purchase the land, you’ll need to find a way to finance the land purchase. This can include land loans, construction mortgages, or using a personal line of credit, personal loan, or HELOC. You may even get financing from the seller of the land.

Down Payment for BC Land Purchases

The size of the minimum down payment required by a land loan lender will depend on the type of land that you’re buying. If you’re buying raw undeveloped land, you may be required to make a down payment of at least 50%. If you’re buying vacant land, the down payment can be 35% or less. Raw and remote land is riskier, which will come with a higher down payment requirement.

buying land in bc
  • Land loans let you purchase land, but lenders can require you to make a down payment or deposit based on the purchase price of the land.
  • If you’re planning on building a home on the land, a construction mortgage or builders loan lets you receive financing for both the purchase of the land and for the construction of a home.
  • A personal loan, line of credit, or HELOC are options that aren’t directly tied to the land purchase. You won’t need to make a minimum down payment if you rely on these options only, but they will need to be enough to cover the entire cost of the land. For example, if you have $200,000 available credit in your HELOC, you can use it to purchase up to $200,000 of land without any down payment.
  • Sellers might be willing to finance your land purchase. This is also called vendor financing, or vendor take back mortgages. Rather than borrow money from a bank or land loan lender, you’re borrowing money from the seller. You’ll make payments to the seller of the land over a period of time.

There are many different ways to borrow money in order to buy land in BC. To learn more about ways to finance your purchase, visit our land loan options page.

buying land in bc

Crown Land for Residential Development

Crown land can be used for residential purposes, but it requires an application which includes a site plan and management plan. Applications also have advertising requirements to inform the public of your application to use Crown land or the disposition of Crown land. Crown land can be purchased at market value.

If you choose to lease Crown land for residential purposes, you will need to pay rent. The length of your lease depends on the purpose of your lease, with it being up to 30 years if you're planning on building a permanent home.

Lease Lengths for BC Crown Land

Residential UseLease Term Length
Urban/Rural30 Years
Seasonal15 Years
Remote10 Years

The rent paid will depend on the assessed value of the Crown land, with the minimum annual rent being $500 per year.

Annual Rent for BC Crown Land

Residential UseAnnual Rent
Urban/Rural5% of Land Value
Seasonal3% of Land Value
Remote4.50% of Land Value

Source: Government of British Columbia

The calculators and content on this page are provided for general information purposes only. WOWA does not guarantee the accuracy of information shown and is not responsible for any consequences of the use of the calculator.