Should you buy an Airbnb in Dead Mans Flats or Harvie Heights, instead of Canmore?
This is a question I get from prospective clients all the time! If you’ve taken a look at a local map of our area, you’ve likely wondered what communities are nearby that could potentially offer options for different types of properties. Likewise, driving through the Bow Valley you’ve probably wondered what the deal is with Harvie Heights, or the interestingly named Dead Mans Flats.
While these communities are small, they do have unique features that make them just right for some folks and certain types of properties. But do they make for good locations to have an Airbnb investment property?
Today, let’s discuss:
As always, feel free to connect with me directly via text, email or call if you have any questions about our area or specific listings you’re seeing. I’m always happy to help and no question is too small!
Before we consider these other locations, let’s take a look at Canmore. Why do properties here perform so well?
In a way, Canmore has been able to capitalize on what nearby Banff cannot do: vacation rentals. Local zoning and bylaws allow for nightly rentals in specific buildings and locations, making them a key piece of the local economy and real estate market. They don’t really undermine housing like they do in other markets as well, because these properties were purpose-built to be visitor accommodation.
In addition to this flexibility, Canmore has world-class scenery, restaurants, shopping and trails – similar to Banff! That’s why we’ve seen major movie and TV productions move in – films like The Revenant and smash TV series like The Last Of Us.
All of these things make Canmore a great place to visit for not just a vacation, but for a honeymoon, getaway, wedding, life-changing sports adventure or business retreat. Mass appeal and solid features with “wow” factor live up to the draw and keep guests returning. And if you own an Airbnb – you’re in the guest business!
So what about Dead Mans Flats? Read on below.
Let’s talk about Dead Mans Flats. It’s a small town in the Rockies, it’s near Banff, it’s easy to get to… So why are the properties cheaper here? Is it a good place to have an Airbnb?
The answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean its the best place in our area to have an Airbnb.
Dead Mans Flats is a small hamlet just east of Canmore. It has some light industrial, residential, a few older hotels and some commercial spaces. A major appeal for folks considering Dead Mans Flats for a home, is that it is a bit cheaper than Canmore due to the small commute. When it comes to owning an Airbnb here, the only option for now is Copperstone Resort, with Sparrowhawk Lodge coming to completion in 2024 and 2025.
In terms of the list of items Canmore has noted above for guests… well, Dead Mans Flats has very few of these items. Sure – there are mountain views. But where can guests go to enjoy them? How about shopping, trails or restaurants? What would cause a guest to seek out Dead Mans Flats, other than to learn the interesting origin of its name?
Property prices and revenue potential are lower here for a few key reasons – something we will discuss below.
Harvie Heights is an even smaller hamlet, this time on the western side of Canmore, closer to the Banff Park Gates.
Much of what you can see of Harvie Heights is exactly what is along the side of the Highway 1: a few commercial buildings and lodging options that can appear any way from dated, to unoccupied, to under construction. The rest is around ~60 residential lots in the benchlands behind, mainly cabins and homes from an earlier age, on septic and well. These residential lots can be highly sought after, due to their private nature. The properties themselves can be in tough shape though, if they haven’t traded hands in a while.
For nightly rentals in Harvie Heights, the buildings along the TransCanada are where your options lie. Older buildings like Banff Boundary Lodge have units coming up, as well as the small new development of Skyridge coming online soon. The most important consideration for Airbnb hosts here is noise from the TransCanada. This is a highway that never sleeps – something that could weigh on future reviews from guests.
Like Dead Mans Flats above though, Harvie Heights has little in terms of reasons to visit… in fact, it doesn’t have much of anything at all. Your guests will be driving into Canmore for anything they might need…
Canmore, like Banff, has a Seasonal Tourism Economy that is somewhat of the reverse compared to other mountain markets. Locales like Whistler are dominated by winter activities due to their ski-hill focus; they tend to be one-season resorts where the winter is the only game in town, and they struggle to fill in other season (though they are always growing in that regard).
The nature of the Alberta Rockies, particularly Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise is that it is a summertime destination. Travellers from all over the world flock here for majestic scenery, iconic views and stunning wildlife. Our winter season is strong as well, and shoulder seasons are growing – but its always going to be about the Summer.
If you own an Airbnb here, you own a small hospitality business. Around 70%+ of your revenue will be made in the months of June through September, with ideally 100% occupancy at the highest rates in July and August. Nice! During this summer season, I like to say that operators can basically “throw anything at the wall and it’s going to stick.“ Dated properties, less-desirable locations. It all seems to rent well.
In the busy season, guests have little choice when everything is booked. Who cares about a drive down the road? No restaurants? We just need a place to stay inbetween hikes!
So in the Summertime, you can still expect to be booked. But at lower rates than premier location properties in Canmore. Things will get a lot harder in the shoulder and winter seasons, where options abound and properties must compete to attract guests. Occupancy numbers can be greatly reduced, affecting your overall return for the year.
Let’s say a soft holiday, Valentines Day, fell on a Wednesday this year. All things considered, and with lots of options, why would I stay far away from all of the things I’m taking my romantic interest on a mountain getaway for? Your guests will be thinking the same thing.
The “B” location will always affect potential revenue compared to properties in Canmore. And while the value can be there as purchasing costs are lower, it’s important to consider factors like housekeeping operations costs. These could be higher as cleaners must travel to your remote unit, while they’d prefer cleaning several closer together in the core of Canmore.
If you’re trying to navigate the Bow Valley Airbnb landscape, don’t be afraid to reach out to me directly. I have helped dozens of families acquire the perfect property for their vision and goals. Canmore, Dead Mans Flats and Harvie Heights can all provide great options, and understanding the marketplace is a key first step to starting your search!
Feel free to connect with me anytime if you have questions on our communities, market activity, or how these properties can work best for you.