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Real estate market stronger than ever


Squamish might never see an end to the booming real estate market, according to market analyst and Sutton West Coast Realty owner John Spencer Nairn. With the continuing development of Highway 99, developers are flocking to Squamish to meet the demands on the city of Vancouver's newest bedroom community.

"We're finding strong demand from North Vancouver," said Nairn. "And the commute to Vancouver is now shorter than from the Fraser Valley, so we're getting a lot of interest from the valley."

There are currently eight $1,000,000 plus homes for sale in Squamish, and "in a couple years time, it will be quite common to see $1,000,000 homes," said Nairn.

But the Squamish market is still attracting young urban dwellers hoping to buy moderately-priced homes in their favourite recreation destination, and the future looks bright for Squamish, he said.

"Squamish is going to be able to absorb it because there's going to be people moving into the area by choice," he said. "Squamish is going to become the market town, if you like, of the Sea to Sky corridor with all the stores that will be moving in and the shopping areas. From Pemberton south, Squamish is going to be where people shop."

The fact that 20-something professionals can afford a home anywhere in the Lower Mainland is "man-bites-dog" news, according to the Vancouver Sun's recent three-page spread on the virtues of Squamish real estate. Moderately priced homes and a stabilization of the number of under $400,000 homes are on the rise, said Lisa Bjornson, Black Tusk Realty Manager. There was a substantial increase in the sale of detached and attached homes from July 2004 -when nine detached and four attached sold - to July 2005 - when 28 detached and 14 attached sold, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

The trend mirrors a recent REBGV report stating that the residential housing market "remains brisk" throughout Greater Vancouver, but that a higher demand than supply is not eliminating affordable housing prices.

"While prices are increasing, there are many properties priced within affordable ranges," said REBGV president Georges Pahud.

Developments in downtown Squamish will offer townhouses and condos at under $300,000 while $300,000 ranch-style homes are currently available in Valleycliffe and Brackendale. And Garibaldi Highlands continues to see rising real estate prices.

The trend of increasing housing prices in Squamish began in 2002 and continued to rise with the low supply of listings in 2003 and 2004. The increase may have seemed extreme, but it actually brought Squamish to a normal level, said Bjornson. Prices continue to rise due to increased international attention, high gas prices and highway construction. But the price increases are merely on par with other communities in the GVRD, said Bjornson.

"Squamish no longer exists in a bottle," said Bjornson. "We were undervalued. We had ground to make up. Now, finally, homeowners are getting the equity from investments that they were due."

Although the REBGV still lists the Squamish benchmark price at $422,688, Bjornson said the board can get facts wrong because the selling of several newly developed townhouses may not make it onto their website.

"Squamish is such a small market, they'd have to phone us every month to get the right numbers," the real estate office manager said.

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