Interior Properties Real Estate owner Susan Colgate (left) says that wildfires this summer have not put a lasting damper on the Cariboo real estate market or people from other places wanting to relocate to the Cariboo. She is pictured here with realtor Adrian Kreis, receptionist Tovi Pare and independent mortgage broker Diane Buchanan. Gaeil Farrar photo

Interior Properties Real Estate owner Susan Colgate (left) says that wildfires this summer have not put a lasting damper on the Cariboo real estate market or people from other places wanting to relocate to the Cariboo. She is pictured here with realtor Adrian Kreis, receptionist Tovi Pare and independent mortgage broker Diane Buchanan. Gaeil Farrar photo

Demand for real estate in the Cariboo remains strong despite wildfires

Affordability continues to be a draw for people relocating to the Cariboo region

The real estate market in the Williams Lake region remains just as strong as it was in the spring before wildfires put a damper on sales, say realtors.

“The market is hot,” said Susan Colgate, owner of Interior Properties Real Estate. “It’s like a spring market in the fall.”

She said there are not a lot of properties for sale at the moment so it is a bit of a seller’s market.

They have a lot of qualified buyers who are wanting to relocated to the community from other areas of the province and people who live here, who are looking for their first home, to downsize, or change location within the area.

During July and most of August she said they had more than 30 sales in progress that had to be put on hold because of the wildfires and inability of people to get insurance on their purchases while the city and rural areas were on evacuation order or alert, or considered too close to an active wild fire to qualify for a new insurance policy.

But insurance restrictions in most areas in and around the city started being lifted at the beginning of September allowing the completion of the outstanding sales.

“All of our clients were very understanding and flexible about extending closing dates,” Colgate said. “The sold sign just stayed up a bit longer.”

Colgate herself was evacuated from the 150 Mile House area with four children, four dogs and two horses.

“I’m super grateful to our community pulling together to support one another and get through an unforeseeable state of emergency that we could never have imagined,” Colgate said.

“I appreciate all of the businesses, firefighters and volunteers that came from all over the country and the world to protect our homes. The support was just unbelievable.”

While Horsefly was not in a wildfire evacuation zone, Michelle Wong, who owns Horsefly Realty with her husband, Victor Khong, said they were in Vancouver when the evacuation order for the Spokin Lake fire came down. Road closures prevented them from returning home right away and discouraged people interested in property from visiting the area over most of July and August.

Wong said they had about six sales in progress that had to be put on hold because the buyers couldn’t get insurance while the wildfires were still active close to the properties.

Toward the end of August she said insurers began assessing properties on a case by case basis and the interest in properties in that area continues to be as active as it was in the spring.

“This year was extremely busy in the spring and we do feel there is a pent up demand from buyers and sellers to get things going again,” Wong said.

Typically she said people are not wanting to make a move in winter, especially in a rural areas such as Horsefly that experienced three very heavy snowfalls last winter.

“If people are serious about looking to buy or sell a place there is still time this fall but most people don’t like to move in winter,” Wong said.

Court Smith, owner of Sutton Cariboo Realty and vice president of the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board, agreed demand for housing in the Williams Lake, Quesnel and 100 Mile House area has remained strong despite the wildfires.

He said their office is back to about 75 per cent of the activity they enjoyed before their phones stopped ringing when Williams Lake was evacuated on July 7.

“There is an ongoing demand for housing and the fires don’t seem to have deterred people from continuing to look and buy,” Smith said. “We still lack a real good inventory of homes and properties.”

Looking back at their records he said there is a fairly consistent 50/50 split between first-time home buyers and people moving around within communities and people who are moving to the Cariboo from regions such as the Okanagan and Lower Mainland where housing is more expensive.

“Affordability still remains a driving factor in the Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Quesnel areas,” Smith said.

Anita Crosina, owner of Crosina Realty, agreed that demand for housing in the region remains strong despite the wildfires and insurance issues.

“I don’t think the wildfires will affect real estate prices for a bit because there is a shortage of residential properties and there are more buyers out there than sellers.”

By comparing prices on the internet, she said buyers and sellers have become very educated on market trends but sellers do need to be aware that if they set their prices too high their property won’t sell.

She is also concerned about the long-term impact of the wildfires on ranching and logging/lumber industries in the region.

“It will take a long time for this area to recover,” Crosina said. “Trees and grass don’t regrow overnight.”

Glen Holling RE/MAX manager said his office has spent quite a bit of time in the last few weeks phoning various insurance companies helping clients to find the insurance they need to complete their purchases. He also advises people to compare insurance options with several agencies to find the insurers with the policies that best suit their needs.

“We have been working on a piecemeal basis to get things done,” Holling said.

While the insurance problem is resolving itself within the city he said there are still people in rural areas having difficulty getting the insurance they need to complete their purchases.

“Out west is the biggest problem so far,” Holling said.

He said the real estate market has started to come back to near normal over the past two weeks in Williams Lake.

“Looking back on it I think we were extremely lucky,” Holling said.

“We are not where we were before the fires but things are improving.”

See more on this topic and how it relates to home owner’s insurance on Page 5.