The Exodus to Greener Pastures

Tatiana-2

Tatiana Kostiak at her Powell River home with her dog, Tucker. She bought the home for $265,000.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April 25, 2017

POWELL RIVER

On a recent trip to Squamish, Tatiana Kostiak reflexively referred to her new hometown of Powell River as ‘home’ despite having lived in Squamish for over a decade. She sold her duplex in Squamish and moved to Powell River last year and bought a three bedroom, two bathroom home for $265,000. It’s already appreciated to over $300,000. And she is loving every moment of her new life in Powell River.
“I am absolutely loving my life here. I needed a change and couldn’t have made a better decision. I’ve made some really good friends here quickly, and it has felt quite seemless actually. I would say almost all of my friends in Squamish have come to visit and can see why I love it here.  Having been in Squamish for 13 years at that time, it was feeling like it was their time to enjoy what is really great about Squamish. I grew up on 10 acres in the middle of nowhere. I prefer less ‘busy’. I’d also wearied of the polarization regarding the Woodfibre LNG project,” she says.With average price of a single detached home still under $300,000, Powell River has become an affordable refuge for those leaving the perennially overpriced Lower Mainland market—and that now included Squamish. Non-residents, in fact, have made up about 50 per cent of Powell River buyers over the last few years, and prices have gone up 20 per cent, Neil Frost, president of the region’s real estate board, told the Canadian Press recently. With affordable ocean views and oceanfront properties with a small town feel, local realtor Paige Anderson anticipates the market to keep increasing in value, although she hopes there will be more inventory on the market. “We are low in inventory and that has resulted in prices going up and competing offers,” she says.
Local realtor Curtis Youngen says Powell River is a sellers’ market right now, and there is a shortage of homes on the market, but that hasn’t stopped queries from Squamish. “My Squamish clients tell me Powell River reminds them of Squamish 15 years ago,” he says.
Jennifer Weaver moved to Powell River for two reasons: an exciting real estate opportunity, and the chance to give her son a fresh new start. The family bought a mobile home in Squamish nine years ago, an affordable option nine years ago that was big enough to accommodate the dogs and all the outdoor gear. They renovated the mobile home extensively, and when the real estate wave hit Squamish, they decided to make their move. Their options were to either buy a tiny apartment, try to rent or leave town. They settled on the third option and moved to Powell River last year, selling their mobile home for $190,000 and buying a three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot with an ocean view for $225,000.
“We chose to leave Squamish, which was tough because of our great friends and a town we had grown to love living in.  We also left good jobs to venture into the unknown which is never easy to do. But we had started a family and we were excited to put down new roots, with new adventures, knowing our friends would still be there.  Most of our good friends have already been to visit us as the summers here are stunning and warm and it’s nice to have a spare room to offer visitors.  Powell River really isn’t that far away, if you enjoy taking the ferry, or a 25 minute direct flight from Vancouver,” she says.  
Weaver says she is enjoying the endless hiking trails, including the world renowned Sunshine Coast hut to hut hiking trail, as well as some great biking trails. Miles of sandy beaches, backcountry skiing and recreation camping, over 30 lakes, a great rec complex including two sheets of ice as well as a paved outdoor pump track is making the family’s life enjoyable.  

SUNSHINE COAST
When the Giris had their second child in 2016, they knew they would need a lot more space than the one-bedroom, one-bath 550 square feet condo they had been living in Squamish. Although they could sell and buy another place in Squamish, they decided to look at places that were similar to Squamish but where their money would go far for what they could buy. After looking at interior towns such as Kelowna, they finally decided to cash out and move to the Sunshine Coast city of Sechelt. The Giris wanted to move to a place that was close to nature, and yet close enough for them to see family who lived in Squamish and Vancouver. The sunshine coast city of Sechelt seemed like a perfect fit.
“After looking at each area closely we decided to move to Sechelt, surrounded by water, it had all the things we value the most, especially the recreational outdoor activities we enjoy like hiking, biking, going to the beach, dog parks, trails, skim boarding and an elementary nature program school.  The drive to the ferry is only 25 minutes, the ferry itself is free (one way) and it is only 40 minutes long to get to horseshoe bay,” says Amit Giri.
They had bought their condo in 2014 when the prices were quite low in Squamish. It enabled them to cash out and buy a new 3 bedroom 3 bath waterfront town home with garage and yard for only $369,000. Giri says he feels a lot more relaxed since moving from Squamish to Sechelt in July 2016. “The extra funds from the house sale has taken a lot of financial pressure off of me and allowed me to spend a lot more time with my partner, two young boys and the dog. I no longer have to think or dream about having a yard, garage and space for my family. I realize that dream every day now,” he says.

100 MILE HOUSE

As an entrepreneur, mountain biking lover, and a well-known community member, Craig Davidiuk always thought of himself as the quintessential Squamish guy—until last year when he decided to pack his bags and move with his family to 100 Mile House. Even though he misses Squamish and the friends he made over the years, it’s a decision that has worked out quite well for him and his family. Craig and Courtenay
“I can focus on my family now, I can take an entire Friday off if I want to spend more time with my son. The quality of life is ten times than we had in Valleycliffe. We sell promotional products and I have found out that the market here is hungry for products we have. I have found a new market to tap here. It was a really great decision,” he says.
Higher taxes in Squamish along with a challenging business environment and a booming local real estate market all galvanized Craig and his wife Courtenay to make a decision to leave Squamish. It helped that Courtney also wanted to be close to her family in 100 Mile House. Above all things, the real estate equation worked out very well for the family. They walked away with $200,000 in their pocket after cashing out of their Valleycliffe home. That extra cash enabled them to buy a beautiful home in 100 Mile House for $340,000, a five bedroom lakefront property with a two-car garage and a separate office space on half an acre. The next-door neighbour is 12 feet away and there is a green belt trail for hiking and biking just steps from the home. Most importantly, they only pay $1000 towards for their monthly mortgage payment, which means they can spend more time with their son.
“I pay close to $1000 for taxes and utility and the day care cost is about $25 bucks a day. In Squamish, our property prices went up 20 to 30 per cent in the last three years, and they were expected to go up another 5 per cent. It was the same for our campground and it didn’t make any financial sense any more to continue here,” he says.
100 Mile House realtor David Jurek often sees people from Lower Mainland make their way to 100 Mile House, and now he often gets queries from Squamish. “With the prices shooting up in Squamish, as they have in other areas surrounding the lower mainland we have seen people cashing out and making their way to our area. Some still commute for a few days a week or work remotely, while other are changing careers or taking an early retirement,” Jurek says.
The real estate prices are a big draw as the area is still within four hours drive of the Lower Mainland with the average house price being $282,000 and an average house with acreage is $385,000 based on February 2017 sales, Jurek says.
“Our area has a nice mix of single family homes on large residential lots within a short drive of town and then an abundance of acreage properties from an acre or two up to large ranches. We are also know for one of the last places to offer affordable waterfront. We have hundreds of lakes in the area all with their own attractions. An average waterfront home last year went for $349,000 and there was 124 waterfront properties sold,” he said.
Real estate sales have increased by 67 per cent last year compared to 2015 and the prices have gone up 10 per cent although inventory remains low. Jurek expects sales to go up next year. For those looking to make a life in the Cariboo region, economic opportunity abounds, says Joanne Doddridge, the director of Economic Development and Planning for 100 Mile House.
“There are a number of existing businesses either for sale or will be for sale in the foreseeable future as owners look towards retirement.   As for new start up opportunities the field is wide open.  We see all sorts of areas ripe for picking; including value added in the agricultural and forestry sectors, tourism product development and small cottage type businesses.  Unique retail products and services for seniors are an obvious opportunity, along with trades to accommodate a busy construction industry in the upcoming years,” she says.  
100 Mile House is also seeing global “work from home” professionals locate to our area, and internet based businesses, some of which have established a brick and mortar outlet shipping product across the globe,” she added.

PARKSVILLE

Jessica Reid recently called the local bookstore in Parksville and found out that the person she was talking to had moved from Squamish. It’s nothing unusual for Reid to hear about people like her: People who have moved from Squamish to find a community where it’s still possible to get a home with a yard without taking on an intimidating mortgage. Reid moved to Parksville more than a year ago for work for a family business, but that was one of the reasons. “We recognized that the real estate was still affordable here, and that if we wanted to get into the market it would have to be here. We also recognized that there were few rentals, and that if we could get a down payment to buy we would actually be saving money,” she says. 
With less than two hours away from Vancouver, Parksville and the surrounding areas are a place where many Squamishers like Reid are calling home. Reid says the town reminds her of what Squamish was 15 years ago, a small town with beautiful landscapes, amazing weather, and lovely people. The local economy can accommodate several service oriented businesses, she adds. “Dog walkers, beauty salons, home care; there are lots of people moving here which means lots of related service opportunities for business entrepreneurs,” she says.
Parksville realtor Jill Tuggle says there is a lot of new residential construction, and the real estate market is currently ‘very active’ with benchmark average in February 2017 of $450,000 compared to $380,000 only a year ago. Many long-term residents are feeling the timing is open for them to down-size to their next journey, opening up options for many Buyers to find a solid comfy home to recreate as their own…from modest bungalows to custom oceanfront beauties. 
With more than 44,500 residents, the Parksville Qualicum Beach region is among the fastest growing and progressive areas on the east coast of Vancouver Island, says Kim Burden of the Parksville Chamber of Commerce.  Easy access to major transportation linkages helps make it both a thriving place to do business and a popular vacation destination.
“The region enjoys a skilled and educated labour force and a growing population; in fact, projections show compared with similar-sized regions, we will experience the second-fastest growth rate over the next 25 years.  While the Tourism industry leads the way with its contribution to the economy, small business is one of the largest employers and there is a rise in the number of knowledge-based companies such as web hosting companies, software developers and high –tech manufacturers. Food producers, wineries, breweries, Agri-tourism and Aquaculture featuring world-class scallop and oyster farms are thriving.  Entrepreneurial spirit seems to envelop the region giving it an enthusiastic energy,” Burden says.
There is a ‘significant amount of residential and commercial construction underway and the City of Parksville has recently awarded contract for the construction of a water filtration plant to service Parksville and part of the regional district of Nanaimo known as Nanaimo, a project that can generate jobs in the region. For a complete look at what Parksville-Qualicum Beach has to offer go to www.workpqb.com

Comments

  1. Patricia Leslie says:

    We moved from Squamish to Kelowna last year. I was able to apply my Whistler tourism experience to a job in the wine industry, so we sold our house in Squamish and invested in a larger income-generating property in Kelowna. We miss our friends and family in the Sea to Sky Corridor, but they visit all the time! Squamish is a great town, but we don’t miss commuting to work, the high property taxes and utilities, and the rain!