B.C. home sales rose nearly 43 per cent in August, year-over-year, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), but were up 55.9 per cent in the Fraser Valley and soared 63 per cent higher in Chilliwack to lead the entire province.
The Valley housing boom, which continued into the fall, reflects a switch in housing demand that has seen people opting to move from central urban cores to suburban locations as more are working from home and others seek more housing space for less money.
The average home price in the City of Vancouver is now $1.07 million, while it is $820,000 in the Fraser Valley and in the $585,000 range in Chilliwack and Mission, the BCREA reports.
There is also the attraction of employment as Surrey – the fastest growing city in B.C. – continues to post impressive job gains.
This year, Surrey’s biggest companies recorded the largest one-year increase in their average number of employees since 2017: up 8.6 per cent from 2,653.6 in 2019. This surge was more than double the annual average employment growth experienced over the past two years for Surrey’s largest businesses.
Prospera Credit Union, which recently built a new headquarters in Surrey, had the highest one-year employment growth in the city. It increased 50.9 per cent to 649 employees in 2020.
The City of Surrey had the highest five-year public-sector growth in job creation. The municipality increased its employee count to 4,000 in 2020.
Other major employers include the Fraser Health Authority, the local school district and Kwantlen Polytechnical University, all of which have seen at least a 15 per cent increase in staff over the past five years.
Four of B.C.’s five largest industrial land transactions in the first half of 2020 were in the Fraser Valley, according to Avison Young, including the largest, a $10 million sale of 4.8 acres in Langley.
Surrey and Delta are leaders in industrial development, highlighted by the $190 million, 470,000-square-foot World Commodity Trade Centre now under construction in Surrey’s Campbell Heights industrial zone, part of China’s global Belt and Road initiative.
A surge in investment has also been fired up by the new $3.1 billion Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, recently approved, that has triggered one of the largest land plays in British Columbia.
Projections are that the SkyTrain corridor will spark a population increase of at least 120,000 people over the next two decades. Land prices in the corridor have soared. In September a half-acre Langley site zoned for high density and close to a proposed transit station, sold for $4.5 million.
Real estate action is also flowing east.
On September 21 the District of Mission passed a bylaw designating nearly 300 acres of Mission riverfront land for comprehensive development under an Official Community Plan. This plan process is expected to take two years, but Martini Group of Vancouver has a conceptual plan for 87 acres in the District Waterfront Revitalization Project, which Martini wants to develop sooner into a large industrial project, including manufacturing sites, which the company claims would generate at least 1,000 new jobs.
Meanwhile, land in Mission is already selling at record high prices.
Earlier this year, two acres of waterfront industrial land in the waterfront district sold for $3.2 million, according to Jag Cheema, a real estate agent with Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty in Mission,
“We are seeing a lot of buyers coming from Greater Vancouver,” Cheema said, and it is not just for industrial property. The veteran Mission agent noted that a 0.89-acre Mission residential site, zoned for single-family housing, sold in September for $1.1 million after receiving multiple inquiries.
Abbotsford and Chilliwack were touted last year as “emerging as destinations for new industrial development and subsequent sales and leasing activity” Avison Young.
Chilliwack, where the new Molson’s-Coors brewery moved into last year after leaving Vancouver, is seeing a surge in residential and commercial investment.
There has been a recent upswing in multi-family rental sales – average per-door prices are in the $150,000 range based on recent transactions reported to Western Investor – and when the 1.9-acre Cascade retail centre was listed this year it sold at the full asking price of $4.5 million.
One of the largest Valley residential projects is Creekside Mills at Cultus Lake near Chilliwack, a 79-acre “agri-hood” development with 129 detached houses, now selling from $700,000 by Frosst Creek Developments Ltd.