<<< back to article list

Thinking of an island property? Do your homework!

Blog by Robert Matthews | July 18th, 2018

For those thinking of purchasing an island property - whether on Bowen or Gabriola or Quadra or anywhere in between - here's the type of things to keep in mind, ranging from location and water supply to beach access and even archeological issues. (First published on my blog a couple of years ago, updated to include recent issues).  

Here's some things to consider*: 

  1. How long will it take to get there? How many ferries and how often do they run?

  2. What can you build on the lot? What are (the powerful) Island Trust rules?

  3. What are you looking at? Sun in the morning or afternoon, or none? (West is best.)

  4. What are the nighbours like? Talk to neighbours - what kind are they? Will they help watch your property? Any by-laws you ought to know (not told to you by owners) and of course the big questions:


  • Water well ... running at 1 or 10 gallons a minute?

  • Is it a shallow well or deep well? Is there a water storage system?

  • Does the well produce water in the dry summer months? Like now?

  • How many wells are in the overall area tapping the same water?


  • Is the house built to code?

  • Are there outbuildings on the property? Any building over 108 sq. ft. may need a building permit. 

  • Does the house have an oil tank?

  • Is it conforming zoning or is it non-conforming? Never assume zoning can be changed by getting dispensation from the zoning authorities. 


Bad septic fields could stop your enjoyment cold ... never mind cost a fortune

  • Does the septic system work properly (or at all)?

  • Has the tank been pumped, when last?

  • How old is the septic system? Is it a gravity or pump system? How old is the pump?

  • Can you see or smell it? Also see dollar bills floating in the air ...

  • How close is the septic field? Is it uphill or downhill from the well?

  • On rocky surfaces ... is the tank above you or below ... pumps?

  • What about the neighbor's septic field? How close is it?

  • The Sewerage System Regulations have been changed in 2005/2007. Did the owner comply?


In Canada, you do not own the beach. Your property ends at the high water mark.

  • Does the property have sensitive shoreline status?

  • If it's low bank, is the beach leased out to a clam operation?

  • Is it a "let's party" beach during the summer?

  • Is there a water license?


  • Are there proper permits for any docks included with the property? This is a relatively new issue, in light of new government regulations against illegal docks. Read about the issue here. While the issue has been confined to Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast thus far, other coastal areas may be next. 

A client of mine searching on Gabriola a few years ago came up against another key consideration: Archeological sites. The property he considered purchasing was adjacent to a beach with potential historical First Nations significance. We obtained expert reviews to confirm that the site was in fact not historically significant. My client therefore has peace of mind that any future redevelopment or continued beach access won't be hindered by archeological considerations. 

As with all property purchases, it pays to do your homework, and work with a Realtor who has your best interests in mind. 


* (courtesy of Jurock's Facts by Email)