Vancouver (in the other Olympics country) is winning over the British

York Membery, Mail on Sunday
July 27, 2008

Almost 650,000 Britons have moved permanently to Canada and the government there is keen to attract even more - particularly skilled workers, such as teachers, nurses and IT experts. The attractions are obvious: low crime and a high standard of healthcare as well as clean, modern cities, vast open spaces and a common language.

Traditionally Toronto and Calgary have been the favourite destinations for jobseekers and high-flying executives, while Vancouver in the west has been the pick for pensioners. But this is changing as the city starts attracting young couples.

Milan and Alison Khara, both doctors, moved to the affluent West Side of Vancouver from London eight years ago with their daughter Sejal, 14, and son Rohan, 11, although they had intended to stay for just a year.

'My wife was doing a fellowship in radiology,' says Milan, 44. 'But the contrast in living standards was stark. Costs were rising in London and the daily grind of commuting as well as having two small children who needed fresh air made us take the plunge.'

The couple also found that the hours and pay for doctors in the Canadian health care system were an improvement on the UK.

'We miss Britain and especially Marks & Spencer - and we regularly visit our family,' says Alison, 42. 'But we feel settled in Vancouver. Our children feel at home - especially our third, Ronak, five, who was born here so he has a Canadian passport.'

After renting for a year, the couple bought their first property in 2000 for $950,000 (469,000) and sold it in 2007 for $1.9million (940,000). They then used their profit to buy their current home for $2.9 million (1.4 million).

While the country has enjoyed soaring prosperity and property prices in the past five years - a rise of 102 per cent in Vancouver - the market has not yet been hit by the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, 70 miles away, are helping to fuel this boom but it is the city's other qualities that are attracting househunters, too. Nestled between the Pacific and the mountains, the city boasts a temperate climate.

'I fell in love with Vancouver after a ski trip to Whistler,' says Nicola Way, 39, a Vancouver-based estate agent who moved there 12 years ago from East Horsley, Surrey. Initially working as a ski instructor, Nicola has gone on to set up AssignmentsCanada.ca, a property marketing website.

After renting, she bought a one-bedroom apartment in 2004 for $227,000 (122,000) and sold it in 2007 for $359,000 (177,000) and then bought a four-bedroom house on Vancouver's East Side for $675,000 (333,000).

'Initially I'd meet expats who'd come across in their 50s but now the tendency is to see more young families,' she says. 'The older expats tend to prefer Vancouver Island where real estate is cheaper and the weather is slightly warmer.'

This year house sales have been brisk, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association and new apartment blocks are 'springing up like dandelions' in the city centre.

Nicola Way adds: 'Even though Vancouver boasts Canada's hottest property market, I believe it's still undervalued and that prices will continue to rise.'