Talk to realtors in Williams Lake and they will say they have been busy.
“It’s nuts,” said Anita Crosina, who has been in the Williams Lake real estate business for more than 40 years. “I’m going to say it’s been like that for a year or more.”
She said she is not exactly sure why the industry is so busy, except that it is almost impossible to find a rental unit in Williams Lake and there is not a lot of residential building going on.
Properties are selling quickly and if clients are working with a realtor who is keeping an eye out for them and the right listing comes up it is gone in a day or two, Crosina added.
“Of course realtors have access to the listings before the general public does, so if you have got a realtor working for you, you probably have a better chance of getting something than if you are working on your own or jumping from realtor to realtor.”
Clients will get better service if they deal with one realtor, she added.
Susan Colgate has been a local realtor for 13 years and said Williams Lake’s market has always been consistent, but she is seeing more buyers relocating to the Cariboo from the Lower Mainland and other areas.
Rural sales are definitely up and showing stronger numbers, she added.
“There have been some dips, but a lot of good consistent increases, and the other thing that helps is that interest rates are super low and it’s a good time for people to be making changes if they want to.”
Referencing July numbers from the Northern BC Real Estate Board she said average house selling prices are up in July compared to the previous year.
The average home price has gone from $286,048 in 2018 to $306,249 in 2019 and $318, 783 in 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are staying more local and reinvesting in their communities, she added, noting there are more people doing repairs and updates to their homes as well.
“Williams Lake is an amazing community and a great place to raise a family, and the secret is getting out,” Colgate said.
“I think a lot of people, maybe from the Coast and other areas, are rethinking living in a townhouse or condo when they could be raising their children on some property.”
The initial shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic did have an impact on the real estate industry, said Tanya Rankin, noting as time went on and Williams Lake slowly opened up, a pent-up buyer demand for housing took on a life of its own.
“It has condensed an active spring selling market to a very condensed seasonal market, meaning you’ve got this real offset of supply and demand. There are far more buyers than sellers, creating a very strong sellers’ market.”
While sellers might want to wait until a safer time to buy, buyers are wanting to have a safe place to live, making for an ‘odd’ market, she added.
A realtor for 30 years, with a small break when her children were young, she described the present market as ‘unprecedented’ and very stressful for realtors.
“If you love what you do, the stress that goes along with it for your buyers and sellers is extremely difficult on them and when you care for people, it affects you.”
For example, she said, everything goes into multiple offers, there is always someone furious at a realtor, or disappointed if they don’t get a home they wanted.
“If you are the listing agent, they cannot help but think they should have had another chance. It’s one of those markets where someone is going to be very disappointed and someone else is going to be very happy.”
Echoing Colgate, Rankin said the prices have been increasing and she attributed that to a lack of supply, and said the COVID-19 pandemic has really compounded it.
The market is also a touch fickle, she said.
“You’ll list something or see something another agent is listing and think ‘oh my gosh that is going to sell immediately,’ and then it hasn’t even had an offer. That makes no sense, but I think that also could just be like anything in the summer. When the weather turns nice, everyone puts their house buying on hold and goes to the lake.”
Pauline Smith, owner/realtor with RE/MAX Williams Lake Realty, agrees any properties that are priced right are getting accepted offers within a few days, and that 2020 is likely even busier than last year due to the market delay caused by COVID-19.
“We’re calling August the new June,” said Smith, noting while prices are going up the cost of owning a home in Williams Lake is still affordable compared to other southern cities in B.C.
She believes the Cariboo is especially attractive because of that affordability factor, coupled with its nearby lakes, rivers, biking trails and new highway improvements which makes the trip to the coast quicker and easier. Of course, the people here are friendly too, she added.
“Williams Lake is a great place to raise a family.”
Her advice to anyone considering buying a home is to have your financing in place and be ready to make a fair, solid offer.
“If you don’t have that in place in can be heartbreaking for both the buyer and the seller.”
Smith, Crosina, Colgate and Rankin said they are seeing a strong mix when it comes to who is buying homes.
Some are from the Lower Mainland, others are from Alberta or back East who may have always dreamed of living in B.C.
Twenty years ago it was unusual to have someone call and say they were thinking of retiring in Williams Lake, whereas now that is not that uncommon.
Locals also make up a good number of the buyers, whether it’s the younger generation being able to buy their first home, or someone wanting to move up or into a different area.
Similar to other sectors, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, measures are in place to practice social distancing and when going into view a home, realtors are asked to wear a mask, pack hand sanitizer and use it, and encourage clients to do the same.
Before the pandemic, realtors may have drove to a house showing with a client, but now everyone is going in separate vehicles.
Crosina said she does worry about interest rates going up in the future for young people who have purchased higher priced homes.
“The worst I’ve seen it was in 1982 when the foreclosures were ridiculous because interest rates went up to 22 per cent in some cases,” she recalled. “Rates will have to go up sooner or later. Consistently for years and years they were at eight per cent.”
Editor’s Note: The housing prices for 2018, 2019 and 2020 in Williams Lake have been corrected to reflect values provided by the BC Northern Real Estate Board.