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.
The main types of land ownership in British Columbia include:
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
(Percentage of Land)
|Newfoundland and Labrador||95%||35.3|
|Prince Edward Island||12%||0.07|
Source: BC 2010 Crown Land Report
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
Private Land Area
|South Coast (Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii)||9.4%||970,000|
|Kootenay (Revelstoke and Nelson)||8.7%||689,000|
|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 Rangeland||33%|
|Estuaries and Wetlands||17%|
|Barrens, Glaciers, Alpine||Less than 1%|
|Mining||Less than 1%|
|Recreation||Less than 1%|
|Freshwater||Less than 1%|
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Use||Lease Term Length|
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 Use||Annual Rent|
|Urban/Rural||5% of Land Value|
|Seasonal||3% of Land Value|
|Remote||4.50% of Land Value|
Source: Government of British Columbia