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Moving to Comox...

Nov. 26, 2021, 3:47 p.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Posted by:
Also @Vikb, off-topic but I would be interested to hear why you moved to Comox (and from where) and how you are liking it. We are thinking about a change of scenery and after having visited a few times this year we are "Comox-curious". Seems like a great place to live and a good base for the surrounding area which we really like. We'll probably try to spend some more time there next year but in the meantime curious to hear your thoughts.

Neils asked this ^^ over in the Shore Gas Hording Thread. I moved it here since it was OT over there.

We lived in Victoria for the last 10 years. It's a fine place to live in Canada for a metro area of ~300K people. We lived pretty central/close to downtown. That was great for cycling/running/skateboarding places, but we didn't live in the best house or best neighbourhood. We had been talking about moving for a while, but couldn't agree on where to move to. The main candidates were #1 - Nicer area in Victoria, #2 - Comox Valley, and #3 - BC Interior. My preference was Comox, but I could have been happy living elsewhere. My work is PT remote these days so I am location independent for $$. My GF works in healthcare and has another 5-6 years of FT work left. So she needed to be somewhere that had a job for her. We are also in our low-50's so being somewhere with a hospital and a reasonable suite of services starts to make a lot of sense as you get older. 

My GF got a job offer in Comox so that made the choice pretty easy. Selling the house in Victoria was fast. Buying a house in The Comox Valley [TCV] was not easy at all. We were open to Cumby, Courtenay and Comox, but the supply of houses relative to the number of buyers was low. We looked at renting first for a year, but rentals were scarce as well. One benefit of moving from Victoria to TCV is that houses were cheaper in relative terms to what we were used to. We eventually got a house in Comox and moved in August 2021. The housing/rental market can change pretty fast so who knows what you might deal with if you decide to move here, but I'd say give yourself a lot of time to find a place to live so it's less stressful.

So far we are pretty happy. The new house is close to my GF's work [~7 min bike commute on quiet roads]. It's a nicer house and nicer neighbourhood than where we lived in Victoria. We've got fun MTB/running trails ~3kms away. I can ride to the Cumby trails ~15kms away in under an hour. The ferry to Powell River is less than 30mins away. I can ride to the Deman Island ferry in less than 90mins for access to Hornby. With some driving it's easy to add a bunch more outdoor related destinations into the mix. Comox has a population of ~14,000 people so it's very quiet. Good bike shops and coffee shops. I can walk to our local brewery in 15mins or bike there in 5mins. People are friendly and in a good mood. I guess that's common in smaller areas without bigger city pressures.

Courtenay is close enough to bike to anything I need and the larger population adds in the typical big box stores and movie theatre, etc...  The airport is close enough I can walk there in an hour from home or drive there in 7 mins. I fly to Toronto to see my parents and I was happy to see flights don't cost any more than from Victoria, but there are, understandably, fewer flights to the smaller airport.

Despite a much smaller population base it seems like there is a much more active/vibrant MTB scene here. Lots of trail runners as well if you are into that. Lots of kayakers/SUPers also. Mt. Washington is 30mins away if you are into skiing/boarding in the winter. 

I've visited the TCV a bunch of times while living in Victoria so I had a general sense of the place. Now that I am living here the total amount of trails and sporting options is mind boggling. I'll go out for a big ride taking up most of the day and realize I just covered a tiny portion of the trails in that area. We are planning rides from the house to Powell River on the ferry and back. That'll be fun and add a whole other set of trails to the mix. There are loads of bike camping options we can ride from our door in the North Island as well as the Sunshine Coast.

The only real negative I can point to is that cell service in Comox could be a lot better!

Nov. 26, 2021, 4 p.m.
Posts: 628
Joined: Oct. 23, 2003

I've lived in Campbell River for that past 5 years and absolutely love this area of the island, between Courtenay and here it's got everything you need and nothing you don't. Lot's of bike trails and past Campbell the back country access is pretty much unlimited.

I wont talk about buying here cause what happened 5 years ago isn't what I experienced selling my place here this past month. It was listed for 2 days we had 18 showing requests and 9 offers and I ended up selling for 76k over asking price, interestingly enough bought by people who were looking in Courtenay but couldn't find anything.

Best of luck to moving here I can't speak for everyone but Island life is just better. especially the farther you get from Victoria.

Nov. 26, 2021, 4:21 p.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Posted by: Adam-West

Best of luck to moving here I can't speak for everyone but Island life is just better. especially the farther you get from Victoria.

Ya the selling part of the equation is easy on the island! Where did you move to after the sale?

We love it here on the island. I came out for 2 weeks in 2009 to kiteboard at Nihtnat Lake and I went back to Calgary and told my [new at the time] GF I was moving to the island in 2010. She decided to come with me and when I told my boss I was moving she thought it was such a good idea she moved the company HQ to Victoria! 

10 years in and no regrets so far.

Nov. 26, 2021, 4:29 p.m.
Posts: 628
Joined: Oct. 23, 2003

Wow, lucky guy to wanna make a move and then have the company move with you, you must have some pull in that organization.

Believe it or not, Campbell River has gotten a bit to busy for my liking, so we've bought ourselves a pretty decent place in Port McNeill, we'll have ocean and mountain views, an awesome brewery within stumbling distance, all the back country access I could ever hope to have, a much lower mortgage and best of all not even a traffic light.

I think the island real estate market is it's own little entity, I don't think we can ever really expect it to go down when pretty much 90% of the country would live here if they could.

Nov. 26, 2021, 4:42 p.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

I was working remote at the time so my move didn't really affect the company, but I think the same things that were getting to me after 17 years in the Calgary area were getting to my boss. So when I said I was moving to Victoria she realized she didn't need to be in YYC either as our work was all project work all over Canada.

Your new place sounds rad. I went from living almost downtown Victoria to Comox so it seems super sleepy to me, but I can see how I might feel differently in another 10 years!

I look a house as a place to live not a way to make money. So I just make sure my mortgage payment/maintenance is not worse than renting something similar and then I don't worry about the house price. If it goes up great, if it stays level great and if it goes down that's not great, but it's not the end of the world. That said I agree with you that Van Isle and particularly the mid-island is pretty attractive to such a large chunk of people it's hard to see prices cratering. 

All the best in your new place up island. :-)

Nov. 26, 2021, 4:52 p.m.
Posts: 763
Joined: June 17, 2016

Thanks for your extensive response, Vik. Much appreciated!

It's almost uncanny how you already answered most of the questions I had but didn't even ask yet! Sounds like there are many similarities with our situation and what we are looking for in a place to live.

To give a bit of context, we are early 40s, have been pretty happy in North Van for the last 9 years but we're starting to feel a bit crowded in here. I've been working remote forever so I'm location independent. My partner has had some big changes to her situation in the past year which are mostly not good at all but one positive outcome is that she is now also location-independent. We like the idea of a smaller, quieter place which is still lively and has good walkability/rideability and lots of outdoor opportunities. Proximity to a decent hospital and to an airport are also requirements. Comox seems to check all the boxes.

We'd probably want to rent and indeed it seems like a pretty tight market but we're not in a hurry. Are there any particular areas in Comox you would recommend?

Thanks again for the great info! I may come back with more questions at a later stage.

Nov. 26, 2021, 5:02 p.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

I don't know Comox well enough to really get too specific about where to live. The dang place is so small that [we live on the north edge of town] if you lived on the opposite edge of town and we biked towards each other we'd meet in less than 10 mins. So it's probably hard to go wrong. 

I don't think renting would be a problem just assume it will take a while to find a place.

Nov. 26, 2021, 10:44 p.m.
Posts: 1308
Joined: May 11, 2018

I've been living in Comox part time for 4 years now. Previously lived all over southern BC and considered many towns. Ended up in Comox for work reasons as much as anything else. As someone who still enjoys what Vancouver offers I can say that there are many great things about the Comox area and a few things that make us keep keeping a place in the city. Since you have already heard all the good, I'll give you a few of the points my wife and I started to notice after a few years.

Everything Vic said about Comox is true. The extent of trails here is good and for someone coming from Calgary or Victoria, it's got about twice as much to ride. That said, there are some definite limitations. The trails systems although great, get a bit monotonous after a while. When I live in Van and get bored of Fromme, I go to Seymour or Cypress or Squamish or Whistler, or eagle, or the wood lot or any number of incredible riding spots within about an hour and a half. Campbell river is alright, Parksville is kinda fun Duncan is a 2 hr drive each way (uggh). In short, the variety and extent of trails in Vancouver is exceptional. This is a much smaller selection and on significantly more tame trails.

The ski hill is close but if you are into skiing and moving somewhere that is difficult to get out of, Nelson, Rossland, Revelstoke and Golden all offer far better skiing options.

The island is great but the ferries suck. I work in Vancouver as well so when we come over, the 4 hour trip (1.5 hrs driving, 1.75hrs on the ferry and 0.75hrs waiting for said ferry) is balanced by the fact that we are staying for a week or more. Some people go to Whistler for the weekend, but IMO it feels like work to leave the island for a weekend.

In terms of places to move here, it really depends on what type of neighbourhood you are looking for. Comox near "downtown" (if you can call it that) has some really good options. You can walk to schools, grocery shoping, bike shops etc. It's quiet and kids actually play outside. The houses are mostly 20-40 year old homes. A little further out you can find some newer subdivisions that are a 10 min bike ride from town (25min walk) and have newer homes (0-20 years old) and are equally quiet and safe. If you want something closer to the ocean, Lazo is my favourite as it is still close to town but feels like you are miles away. If you don't mind a 20min drive to everything you can go out to little river or somewhere out towards Seal Bay where you can buy a house with a little land on the ocean for the price of a townhouse in North Van.

The island is great, but not for everyone. We love it as a part time home but whenever my wife and I talk about moving here full time, we can't quite commit. Luckily, we don't have to and enjoy both living experiences.

Nov. 27, 2021, 6:18 a.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Living on the island the ferries do suck. Most people I know here don't leave the island a lot. Once you get used to the slower pace here heading over to the mainland feels pretty jarring. I've twice been on trips where we planned to stop and ride in Whistler, but when actually faced with the hustle/bustle in the area we just kept driving to Pemberton before we stopped. Plus when faced with a $200+ cost to go and come back it's hard not to look at what we have available here and feel satisfied.

I try and appreciate the ferries are also a great benefit to islanders. If there was a no cost car bridge from Vancouver to the island this place would be a total shit show. One of the things I love here is you can be hanging out in a world class bit of outdoors landscape with your friends on a summer weekend and not see any people. If the bridge existed we wouldn't have found parking at the trailhead!

In 10 years of living here I've left the island to ride the S2S less than once a year. Pre-Covid/Aging Parents/Aging Cat we would head to the US desert or the Baja for a long trip every winter. In the context of a month+ road trip the ferries were inconsequential and getting dusty in the desert reset my brain so I was super stoked to play in the Island forests for another year.

These days I've really lost my interest in driving a lot. Particularly to recreate. Partially it feels great to complete an activity with 100% human power. Partially I feel like we can't treat the planet like an all you can eat buffet. Doing stuff [mostly] on foot/bike//skateboard forces you to make good choices about where you live. It does limit the areas you can access. That might bore some people. I try and look at it as an opportunity to really get to know a place deeply.

We'll still do road trips [I'm not a purist on the issue], but we'll amortize the driving to Moab/Sedona/Baja/etc... by staying for a month or more and getting a lot of riding/hiking done.

Island life isn't for everyone, but for those folks that it speaks to it's pretty sweet. The nice thing about renting is that you are not committed long-term. If you don't love it you can let the lease expire and leave. That's a lot easier/cheaper than buying/selling a house!

Nov. 27, 2021, 8:23 a.m.
Posts: 763
Joined: June 17, 2016

Thanks @RAHrider for your input! You make some good points to keep in mind. I'm not too worried about the trail variety but I'll have to ride more in the area to know for sure. Yeah ferries suck but honestly I think we wouldn't need to travel to the mainland that much. Ironically we sometimes feel a bit of "island fever" right here in North Van, being closed in by mountains, sea, and the US border. When we were on the island we somehow felt we had more options for day trips, and we loved it was so much quieter.

Also thanks @Adam-West for your perspective. We spent a bit of time in the Campbell River area last September. Interesting that you found it too busy, lol. We had a great time there (we absolutely loved the kayaking on the east side of Quadra) but would not want to move there. If we do end up in Comox it will be close enough.

This thread is a treasure trove and has fuelled our stoke but we are not in a rush and more research is needed. What we will probably do is do a few "test runs" where we rent a place in Comox on Airbnb or something for a few weeks and just live and work there for a bit to get a feel for the place.

Nov. 27, 2021, 8:36 a.m.
Posts: 763
Joined: June 17, 2016

For perspective I should probably also add that we normally travel internationally a lot and going forward we also plan to spend considerable time in Europe every year. All my family and many of my friends live in The Netherlands and my partner loves travelling in Europe as well.

Finding out Comox airport has pretty reasonable connections to Amsterdam via Calgary was a bit of a revelation to me.

So I'm not too worried about feeling stuck on the island.

Nov. 29, 2021, 8:07 a.m.
Posts: 8359
Joined: Jan. 18, 2004

Thanks for all these comments. 

I've lived in Victoria for university, then Whistler (4 years), then Vancouver (10 years?) for work.  We now have a couple kids and want to buy a house and get a new job. 

I'd been looking at Campbell River pre-pandemic and 3-bedroom ranchers were $350K.  We could have moved the family there and afforded that easily but didn't. Now those same places are much more expensive, and finding anything that doesn't need work costs more than $500k. Something nice seems to be 600K+.

I may be stuck in Vancouver for awhile now. 

I wonder if prices will ever tank.  That's what I need to get into the market in this province now.  But if that happens, it probably means much worse things for the economy as a whole and then what would the job market look like? 

I have an admin job at UBC that has good good benefits and vacation etc but sure would love to live the Island life you're all talking about.

Nov. 29, 2021, 9:04 a.m.
Posts: 5338
Joined: Feb. 3, 2006

I've lived in the Comox Valley for most of my life. It's an absolutely fantastic place to live for the most part, particularly if you are into the outdoors. 

Some yummy stuff to check out:

- Hot Chocolates / Cakebread bakery on 5th street - Fantastic locally made chocolate and baked goods. Hard to go back to anything else. 

- The CBC, Biblio Taco and Ryders pizza in Cumberland.

- The Church Street taphouse in Comox is great, and while youre in the neighborhood, the Church St. Bakery, like three doors down, has awesome wood fired pizza. 

- Atlas Cafe in Courtenay. Fantastic menu. Always super consistent.

- Avenue Restaurant and Toscano's (delicious fresh made pasta) in Comox are great too. Toscano's in nice and close to Marina Park as well, super nice to take a walk around the marina after a good feed. 

- Kingfisher Resort and Spa is fantastic for a stay-cation. Good food and the hydropath is pretty cool. 

Some places that are great to check out too:

- The Tea Centre on 5th street. The guy that runs this place was personally driving deliveries to all of his clients at the beginning of the pandemic. Smells AMAZING. 

- The Airpark walkway. Great place for a stroll when you want to keep your shoes clean. 

- Nymph Falls Park / Bearbait / Comox Lake Dam / Bevan Trail network. Off-leash dog walking, endless multi-use trails. Some fun family bike riding. Good swimming spots. 

- Trent River falls. 

- Paradise meadows trail network on Mt. Washington. 

The list goes on and on. Welcome to the community!

Nov. 29, 2021, 11:08 a.m.
Posts: 3743
Joined: May 23, 2006

Posted by: Vikb

These days I've really lost my interest in driving a lot. Particularly to recreate. Partially it feels great to complete an activity with 100% human power. Partially I feel like we can't treat the planet like an all you can eat buffet. Doing stuff [mostly] on foot/bike//skateboard forces you to make good choices about where you live. It does limit the areas you can access. That might bore some people. I try and look at it as an opportunity to really get to know a place deeply.

Man you wanna' lose interest in driving try living in the lower mainland! lol...if I moved to the ils. I'd probably be driving every day to recreate somewhere. FREEDOM!

Except if I was on my road bike or lived near a trailhead.

Nov. 29, 2021, 3:09 p.m.
Posts: 2200
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Posted by: tungsten

Except if I was on my road bike or lived near a trailhead.

Well it would be pretty dumb to go to all the trouble of moving to the island and end up somewhere that you weren't near a great trailhead. ;-)

People do this weird thing [I've been guilty of it in the past] is to find a place to live that they don't actually really want to be and then spend all their time driving away from it to be better places. The solution is to live where you want to be.

 Last edited by: Vikb on Nov. 29, 2021, 3:11 p.m., edited 1 time in total.

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