Americans fleeing Donald Trump and the housing bubble in the Lower Mainland have been presenting opportunities for northern B.C.’s real estate market.
“Right now we are experiencing a lot of American interest in our area – a direct result of the Trump administration,” said Doug Phair, managing broken and owner of RE/MAX Wrightway in Burns Lake. “This is positive for us.”
William Lacy, past president of B.C. Northern Real Estate Board, said the housing bubble that is forming in the Lower Mainland has also been a big driver of the real estate market up north in the past two years.
“This is seeing people cashing out of their homes and buying up vacation land, or potential retirement homes for the future,” said Lacy. “These are mainly people in the later stages of life and those who are nearing retirement.”
In addition to the older demographic leaving the Lower Mainland, Lacy said the younger home buyers who are unable to afford a home are also leaving as a result of frustration.
“So they are looking for employment opportunities, and then secondly a home in that community where they can find employment.”
Rural communities that have the telecommunications infrastructure that can support work-from-home industries are enabling people to live the more rural lifestyle and yet still work in the corporate world.
“More of the resort, waterfront areas are seeing more of this impact, but it will most likely grow in the coming years,” said Lacy.
But with increasing opportunities, there could also be some challenges for rural communities such as Burns Lake.
“If there is a mass of people moving here, the bigger problem will be a housing shortage thus an increase in values and perhaps a housing start,” said Phair. “There haven’t been any of those in our area in any amount for about 20 years.”
In June 2016, an inventory of existing residential parcels within Burns Lake found 66 vacant parcels that could be “relatively easily developed” for residential purposes.
Burns Lake’s real estate market is particularly attractive to buyers due to its low average prices. For the past 10 years, home prices in the Burns Lake area have seen a slow and steady growth, according to data provided by the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board.
“Overall the word that come to mind is consistent,” said Phair. “We’ve seen a steady slow increase in market values with a consistent amount of transaction annually.”
“It’s interesting to note that the tragic explosion at Babine Forest Products in 2012 shows little negative impact on our average home price,” he continued. “I did experience a decrease in the number of trades immediately following the mill explosion, but I’m of the opinion that it’s now returned to what it was prior to the fire.”
Although Phair says that Burns Lake is somewhat “insulated” from the world, the local real estate market can still be affected by external factors.
“Whether global uncertainty or political unrest south of the border, or banking trends, it all has an effect on things,” he said.
When asked if uncertainty in the forest products industry could affect the local real estate market, Phair said it’s too early to tell.
“That’s a crystal ball question that only time will reveal; there are other aspects of our community such as recreational values that augment who we are and will be positive in its affect while the forest sector does its thing,” said Phair. “When things are rolling, they are rolling… when they’re not… there’s still a heartbeat here in Burns Lake.”
“I’m confident the trends will continue.”