MLS average selling prices. (Chart courtesy of BC Northern Real Estate Board)

MLS average selling prices. (Chart courtesy of BC Northern Real Estate Board)

Quesnel an affordable home ownership option

Real estate numbers reveal local advantages

When you’re thinking of buying a home in B.C., the northern region is one of the most affordable options available, and if you’re thinking of buying a home in northern B.C., Quesnel is one of the most affordable options available.

Altogether, Quesnel is one of the most desirable spots to get real estate, from a home ownership stance.

The statistics on these conditions were released in a report by the BC Northern Real Estate Board (BCNREB), authored by Rory Conroy.

“Home ownership in most of northern British Columbia remains very affordable, especially when compared with the Vancouver region,” said Conroy in his assessment. “The aggregate Housing Affordability Indicator (HAI) for northern B.C. for 2022 is greater than 30 per cent for the first time, checking in at 31.6 per cent, a 13.2 percentage point increase over the 2021 HAI. Despite a trend towards greater affordability in the Lower Mainland, the affordability of home ownership in northern B.C. is exceptionally favourable when compared with 124.2 per cent for the Vancouver area.”

But things aren’t all rosy. Conroy spotted that overall affordability in the northern portion of the province, although still a bright light within the province overall, did get worse. Affordability got a little harder.

The Cariboo in particular was a tale in extremes. The percent of median household income needed to finance home ownership is a leading indicator of how well a community can accommodate home buying. Canada Mortgage and Housing says that the affordability target is about 30 per cent. In 100 Mile House, it was a whopping 61 per cent, according to the research, while Quesnel and Williams Lake came in at 34 per cent (numbers rounded) while northern B.C. averaged out to 31 per cent.

So what were the actual prices?

“In all measured communities except Kitimat, the average price for a detached single-family home in northern B.C. increased in 2022 over 2021,” the report said. “For Smithers, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and Prince George, the increase was significant. The average price in northern B.C. in 2022 was $451,576, a 10.7 per cent increase over 2021 prices.

Prices in 2022 varied widely from community to community. 100 Mile House saw the largest increase, of 17.4 per cent, to $484,713, contributing to that community’s worst-in-study affordability. Price George recorded the highest average sales price at $524,221.

For the second year, no community in this study recorded average house prices below $300,000. In fact, only Quesnel and Kitimat had average house prices below $400,000 in 2022.

Kitimat now claims the lowest house prices in northern BC. The only community where prices declined in 2022, Kitimat reported an average sale price of $379,133. Quesnel boasted the lowest average house prices for the previous five years, but with an average sold price of $392,092, the community now holds the second position in that important measure.

The vice-chair of the BCNREB, Prince George’s Kristine Newell, and the board’s Cariboo representative, Horsefly real estate agent Victor Khong, told The Observer that “The Quesnel market has active listings rising to pre-pandemic levels in early 2019. As the snow melts, more properties come to market as the season progresses. The Average Days On Market is trending to early 2019 levels, reflecting more balanced market behaviour compared to 2020 and 2021.”

In the Quesnel area, real estate professionals reported 48 (79 in 2022) sales worth $13.4-million ($22.8-million in 2022) in the first three months of 2023. In addition to the 23 single-family homes that sold, six parcels of vacant land and six homes on acreage have sold this year. There were 180 (66 in 2022) properties of all types available for purchase through the MLS system in the Quesnel area as of March 31st.

Quesnel’s trading volume in March “has been fairly consistent since 2021,” Newell and Khong said. Average prices have risen from $272,745 in 2021 to $354,195 in 2023.

The real estate markets during and immediately after the pandemic were highly abnormal, as a general rule, so now is when the truth of any given market will start to show up again. Quesnel saw an overall drop in first quarter (Jan.-March) property sales of 39 per cent, this year over last, and general inventory is low. Prices are trending a bit higher than usual, but in the view of Newell and Khong, “compared to other areas in BC Northern, Quesnel remains one of the most affordable.”

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