Les Steinke is one of many Vancouverites moving to the suburbs and beyond, drawn by the promise of more room, friendlier prices and the prospect of fewer lengthy daily commutes post-pandemic.
The housing development board at the retired West End resident’s co-operative forbid him to park his new 25-foot motorhome in the building’s parking lot. He wanted to live near the vehicle, which is set to arrive in July, so was looking to move to the suburbs, likely south Surrey, when BIV spoke with him in mid-March.
“My move is for lifestyle reasons,” he said.
Many other Vancouverites are considering leaving the city because they have been working from home during the pandemic and expect to continue to do that at least part-time – and residential square footage is cheaper the further out you go, said Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) president Chris Shields.
A Research Co. survey in early March found 38% of respondents expected to be able to work from home at least three times per week once the pandemic ends.
The FVREB conducts monthly surveys of members. It asks those who have sold homes in the first two weeks each month where the buyers were moving from.
Recently, the brokers reported that the percentage of buyers who said they were from Vancouver has been higher than in past years.
Between December 2019 and February 2020, 9.16% of buyers said they were from Vancouver. That rose to 12.42% between December 2020 and February 2021.
Shields said sales and prices have risen more in his region than in the one the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) oversees.
Sales growth in the Fraser Valley region, which includes Surrey, soared 64% in February, compared with the previous month. In the REBGV, sales in those two months were up 56%.
Prices, too, have increased more in the FVREB region than in the one governed by the REBGV.
The price of a benchmark single-family detached home in the Fraser Valley region increased 19.9% in February, compared with the previous February. In the Greater Vancouver region, prices for those homes were up 13.7% in February, year-over-year.
“Our townhomes and condominium prices have increased at a faster pace as well,” Shields said.
“Anecdotally, what I’m hearing from my colleagues is, yes, not only are they seeing buyers move from Vancouver out to the Fraser Valley, but if they have listings in the valley, and [they have] multiple offers, they’re seeing a lot of those offers are coming from Vancouver realtors.”
The lion’s share of purchases in the Fraser Valley are still being made by locals, who are moving within the region, Shields said.
But he added that he has noticed a trend in people living in the western Fraser Valley who want to move east to get more home for their dollars.
A ReMax study last fall found increased demand in B.C. for properties with more space and more extras such as a home office and proximity to green space since the start of the pandemic.
Real Estate Investment Network vice-president of research Jennifer Hunt said Vancouverites are increasingly willing to move to suburbs because, in the past few decades, those communities are starting to have vibrant dense hubs, where residents can live in condominiums and make most trips on foot or by transit.
Considerable new development has taken place in the Brentwood, Metrotown and Lougheed neighourhoods of Burnaby, she said.
Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake area has evolved in the past decade with the construction of many condominiums, as well as the Evergreen Line SkyTrain terminus. Across the river, SkyTrain has helped the Surrey City Centre neighbourhood evolve into a hub.
Hunt expects that if the SkyTrain extension to Langley from Surrey gets closer to reality, real estate prices along that route will rise.
“SkyTrain positively impacts real estate prices because it draws people,” she said. •