First-Time Home Buyers Driving Surrey Market

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Patrick Blennerhassett

Canada’s 2011 census revealed Surrey was Canada’s third-fastest-growing city, with population growth outpacing Edmonton and Calgary – two cities that are part of a booming oil sector and not hemmed in by geography. The question is, who are the roughly 1,000 people moving to Surrey every month?

One thing’s for sure, they’re moving to the Fraser Valley in record-breaking numbers.

At the end of May, the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) posted its highest sales numbers in seven years. In May 2014 there were 1,633 sales through the Multiple Listing Service, 18 per cent more than in May 2013 and 11 per cent more than in April 2014.

The biggest increase has been in single-family detached homes, which make up 60 per cent of sales. FVREB president Ray Werger, who’s been selling real estate in the Fraser Valley for 22 years, said he’s noticed a new trend in Surrey.

“The baby boomer generation [is] either helping their kids get into the market, buying detached homes with basement suites for them or their elderly parents as well.”

Werger noted that though it’s hard to track these numbers on a wide scale because the FVREB can’t ask homebuyers specific financing questions, the demographic sectors eating up properties in Surrey are clear.

Shayna Thow, director of sales for BLVD Marketing Group – which handles marketing for two Surrey developments for Vancouver’s Fairborne Homes Ltd. – said Surrey has become a viable option for first-time homebuyers who can’t afford to buy in Vancouver. While the average price for a single-family detached home in Greater Vancouver has soared to more than $1.36 million, the average price in the Fraser Valley is still under $655,000.

“We are seeing over 50 per cent of our buyers coming into the Surrey market as first-time purchasers who will be living in the home as a primary residence,” said Thow. “The majority are under the age of 35 and are utilizing family members to help aid them with deposits and getting into the market.”

James Stewart, chairman of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association and a business lawyer in Surrey since the ’80s, said the association has seen an influx of company leaders, with their companies in tow, moving south of the Fraser River.

“There are young families that are moving to Surrey because of affordability. But there are also a lot of affluent people moving to Surrey who are business owners, professionals. People who could actually live wherever they want to, but choose to live on the larger, newer, fresher properties in Surrey because Surrey as a community is evolving.”

Werger agreed. He recently sold a home to the senior vice-president of a Prince George specialty wood finishing company who’s moving himself, his wife and his entire operation to Cloverdale.

“I said, ‘Why are you guys bringing the company down here?’ and he said, ‘Most of our customers are offshore, so we don’t need to be up in Prince George. We’re tied into the transportation grid here a lot better.’”

Surrey by the Numbers

300,000: Number of people by which Surrey’s population is projected to rise in the next three decades

1 to 4: Estimated ratio of Surrey residents to Metro Vancouver residents by 2046

25%: Approximate percentage of Surrey’s population that is under the age of 19

10,000: Average annual number of new residents in Surrey

18.7 per cent: Surrey’s portion of Metro Vancouver’s regional population

Source: City of Surrey

© 2014 Real Estate Weekly

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