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Squamish real estate values up 8% to 16%

BC Assessment releases its latest valuations; Hybrid work culture contributes to the continuing increase in home values.
With workers able to do their jobs remotely in places further away, such as Squamish or Pemberton, there could be an increased incentive for getting a bigger place in a more rural setting filled with outdoor recreation amenities.

The most recent valuations of Squamish homes show that assessments have increased 8% for the median value of single-family homes, while strata homes have seen a 16% uptick.

BC Assessment published those figures on Jan. 3.

Assessments are done in July every year.

The provincial body also listed the median price for single-family homes as $1.49 million on July 2022, up from $1.38 million the previous year.

The median for strata homes is $843,000, as of July 2022, up from $725,000 the previous year.

The valuations are increases, but they fall short of the big upticks recorded by BC Assessment last year. Previously, these hikes were between 29% to 35%.

During that time, the town's upticks in value were among the upper echelon of BC Assessment's percentage increases.

Andy Yan, the director of SFU's City Program, said that according to his calculations, Squamish has the 22nd-highest increase among the 33 communities that were outlined in BC Assessment's Lower Mainland division for single-family homes.

Pemberton increases

By contrast, Yan said the highest valuation increase for single-family homes this year was a not-too-distant neighbour in the Sea to Sky.

For percentage upticks for single-family homes, Pemberton led the way with an increase of 16%. The median house price there is about $1.33 million, up from $1.15 million the previous year. 

"It's a race that you don't really want to win," Yan said.

Strata assessments

However, Squamish ranks higher on the scale of increases when it comes to strata homes.

Yan said that compared with 19 other communities, the district is 6th regarding increases in valuation. There are fewer communities in BC Assessment's Lower Mainland strata division, because some communities have little to no strata homes, he said. 

Pemberton is not on the list for strata homes, but Whistler has the fifth largest increase for strata valuations, with a 17% bump. White Rock leads the way for that category with an uptick of 21%.

Yan noted that the increases in Squamish values aren't necessarily tied to how much money people are making in town, which highlights the ongoing affordability crisis.

Regarding increases in Squamish and Pemberton, Yan noted that one possible factor is the continuation of the pandemic's work-from-home culture.

"How much of this is people from the Lower Mainland not having to come to work, in certain cases?" said Yan. "There is a kind of liberation of certain people out of the workplace. They don't have to report in as often. They can work remotely."

With workers able to do their jobs remotely in places further away, such as Squamish or Pemberton, there could be an increased incentive for getting a bigger place in a more rural setting filled with outdoor recreation amenities.

Other experts had similar views.

Tsur Somerville, a UBC Sauder School of Business professor, said that hybrid work is a significant factor.

"There's lots of evidence that not people are not going back … to the office market full-time," said Somerville. 

"So all the things that apply during COVID still seem to apply, though not perhaps as much for everybody."

Keeping things in perspective

However, valuations should be taken with a grain of salt.

"We always have to remember that these are July 2022 values," Somerville said, noting the delay between the assessment date and the release of the data.

"Therefore, they don't reflect all the effects of interest rates and the slowdown in the market and all those things. And so values are likely to be lower now than they were July 1."

Finally, there's also the overall picture of how things are going in the province.

"Recognize that Squamish is sort of tethered to what's going on with population growth in B.C. broadly, and what's going on with prices in the Lower Mainland," said Somerville.

He noted that people are coming to Squamish for its individual appeal, but there are also bigger forces at work.

"As long as the Government of Canada is talking about 500,000 people in terms of immigration numbers — well above what we've seen historically — that's going to put pressure on housing markets, and even housing markets that are a metropolitan-area adjacent."

Squamish long-term home?

Thomas Davidoff, another professor with the UBC Sauder School of Business, said the big question is whether working professionals will want to live in Squamish long-term.

"I think the big issue is — is Squamish a place where professionals realistically are going to want to live going forward?" said Davidoff. "And if it is, then this is the beginning of a long, long trend towards higher prices. If not, maybe there's a retreat as supply catches up and people decide they just can't make a go with it making a living there."

Much of this hinges on whether the town becomes an employment sub-centre — a place where people can find work in the community, thus skipping the commute to the Vancouver area.

He said on a large scale, this could look like a bigger software company setting up a headquarters in the area. On a smaller scale, this could look like professionals working from home. One example could be lawyers who have their own small practices in town.

There are some signs to look out for as to whether the town's real estate market will keep going on its upward trajectory.

"I think for Squamish, the obvious ones are how many people get recalled every day to Vancouver who were sort of work-from-home?" Davidoff said.

Another is whether professionals find jobs and homes in town.

Finally, Interest rates and inflation are other markers to look for.

"[If] inflation goes away, and rates are back to levels that we were more familiar with recently, prices [could] run away again," he said.


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