Buying a home in Banff takes more than money
''There is a lot of secrecy about real estate in Banff,'' says one young, upwardly mobile executive. Another complains about what he labels a ''senseless regulation called 'need to reside' and complains of what he feels is a hostile attitude whenever the subject of real estate comes up with the residents here.Skip to next paragraph
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''You just have to know the right people in order to buy a home here,'' someone else responds.
Nearly 7 million visitors trek to the Banff National Park area each year, yet only a few ever succeed in planting their roots.
The notions that this town doesn't take to outsiders and that there is a battle for Banff going on is not without foundation. But Dan Mullaly, townsite manager, and Stuart Curran, co-owner of Banff-Canmore Realty Ltd., clarify the conditions and rationale for acquiring property.
Banff, a 2,564-square-mile park, is run from Ottawa through the federal Department of the Environment. It is one of 28 national parks administered by Parks Canada. Technically, it is not a town; it is a park. A cordial voice in Ottawa will tell you it's a ''visitor's service center.''
In effect, Banff has no self-government, but park administrators consult with a local seven-member advisory council and an eight-member body dubbed the joint committee.
This unusual system influences procedures for buying real property. For one thing, to acquire property in Banff (the land is leased and the improvement is sold outright), the buyer must secure a ''consent to assignment'' from Parks Canada, which may issue a land lease if certain conditions are met.
Mr. Mullaly explains the history of land leases in the area as follows: In 1909 the government offered automatically renewable 42-year land leases, with rent review every 21 years. In 1966 the courts ruled that the crown did not have the right to issue perpetually renewable leases because the process was tantamount to freehold ownership.
In 1969, when rent amounts were still proportionately about the same as in 1909, the government ruled that it was entitled to a 10 percent return on the value of its land, and rents were raised. In 1980 the tax bases were redefined, and land rents were raised again.
Today, rents per leasehold, regardless of lot size, run $250 or less a year for homes and $100 a year for condominiums. By most standards in the United States, this still constitutes a bargain.
Rents now are reviewed and may be raised every 10 years; land leases have a nonrenewable term of 42 years.
''Home buyers are concerned with security of tenure,'' Mr. Mullaly said, ''but we maintain a hands-off attitude. As long as people pay their rents, we don't bother them.'' He said Parks Canada is not obligated to renew all leases, but in practice it does renew most leases.
''We are particularly accommodating to a business or resident who is performing a service or playing a role in the park,'' he added. ''Some lease renewals are denied for properties in remote areas because of wilderness factors , or if there are violations of the laws.''
Perpetual leases from the old days are valid, and they can be reassigned, providing there have been no substantive changes affecting the land itself.is no difference attributed to land value. Naturally, to come upon an old lease sweetens a transaction by adding an extra measure of security.