Single family home sales skyrocketed in the summer months of 2020 in Chilliwack as many people from Metro Vancouver look for more space. (Black Press File)

Single family home sales skyrocketed in the summer months of 2020 in Chilliwack as many people from Metro Vancouver look for more space. (Black Press File)

OPINION: Is COVID-19 turning Chilliwack into a bedroom community?

‘Vancouverites are choosing detached homes in more remote communities over apartments in busy areas’

Could a global pandemic that led to more telecommuting combined with Lower Mainland real estate unaffordability turn Chilliwack into a bedroom community?

Between the agricultural sector and the increasingly diverse commercial and industrial base in Chilliwack, OK, the city will never become just a commuter nest, but a recent University of British Columbia (UBC) study makes some interesting observations.

While Vancouver apartments have been taking twice as long as normal to sell during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chilliwack homes are being snapped up faster than ever.

“It appears that Vancouverites are choosing detached homes in more remote communities, over apartments in busy areas. Now that there is more remote work available people are fleeing the big city, for the hope of more work/life balance,” that according to Sam Mehrbod, a Vancouver-based Realtor and CEO of Roomvu.

“We are seeing the same trend in San Francisco Bay area sales where residents are moving away from the core of San Francisco to the Marin county area. These are interesting observations when comparing pre- and post-COVID-19 average B.C. assessed value of sold homes in various areas.”

While homes languish, somewhat, on the market in some Metro Vancouver areas, the study posted on the Roomvu blog found Chilliwack bucking the trend.

The metric used is the number of days to sell 15 per cent of listings, and while that increased in virtually all sectors in the Metro Vancouver area, it fell by a third in Chilliwack. Pre-pandemic, the average time to sell single family homes in Chilliwack was 18 days to sell 15 per cent of listings, while post-pandemic (during) that dropped to 12 days.

And while attached homes – townhouses and apartments – did not do as well, the number of days to sell did not change before or during the pandemic despite how much more difficult showing homes has become.

“While the other areas are languishing, the sub-market in Chilliwack continues to grow seemingly immune to the adverse effect of the pandemic,” according to the report. “In fact, Chilliwack seems to be doing slightly better during the pandemic than before.”

• READ MORE: Record September real estate sales in Chilliwack and surrounding area

• READ MORE: Skyrocketing August home sales in Chilliwack and surrounding area

(A caveat in all this Roomvu blog information has to be that the study is produced by a private company whose service is selling Realtors on video listings. And the implication from the conclusion, focused on the Vancouver market, is that as pandemic rules force physical distancing making open houses a challenge, why not try a virtual tour, ahem, a service Roomvu provides?)

For years I’ve heard anecdotally from realtors in Chilliwack that more and more buyers from points west are moving to town. Not just investors buying up undervalued properties – although that’s part of it – but people are moving here, whether it is for lifestyle reasons, for more reasonable prices or, now, the pandemic.

If you have $800,000 of housing to consider, you commute from your Surrey townhouse to downtown Vancouver and telecommuting is now a thing, suddenly Chilliwack looks damned appealing.

And beyond anecdotes, the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB) addressed this very issue in its latest press release about the record-breaking sales numbers last month.

“Realtors are finding that many of their clients over recent months are from the more metropolitan Vancouver areas who are moving away from crowded areas and want a house with a yard, and easier access to outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and biking,” CADREB president Kim Parley said.

Those of us in the housing market, presumably, get some benefit in this situation. But this is not good in the long run. Houses that sold for $600,000 in Chilliwack just five years ago are going for close to $1 million today, evidence that the unaffordability crisis plaguing Metro Vancouver is right around the corner for us.

Look out Chilliwack, them city folk are a-comin’.

• RELATED: OPINION: Beautiful B.C. – Isn’t it great? Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!

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