It’s the perfect storm. The small-town boom happening now in B.C. is something we predicted when we launched this magazine three years ago. At that time, it was already obvious that Lower Mainland real estate was out of the reach of many, and that smaller communities offered better value and lifestyle. But who could have known that a global pandemic would drive this movement to a whole new level?
Where once we touted ample and affordable real estate in right-sized communities, today the housing inventory is low. Developers tell us they’re racing to build new phases of master-planned communities. The law of supply-and-demand is driving up home prices nearly everywhere. While property may seem to be virtually selling itself at the moment, we applaud the longer-term vision of partners who have continued to support our publication, knowing that we will be celebrating the benefits of small-community living long after the current boom subsides.
Our network of developers, builders, realtors and economic development officers tell us that many factors have cumulated in the “perfect storm.” Foremost, work-from-home and the need for more home-office (and home-schooling) space is becoming permanent, spawning the work-from-anywhere wave–so why not from beautiful B.C.? Families find they need more personal, recreational and outdoor space and perhaps more bedrooms or even self-contained suites, as young adults return home in a tight job market or we move our parents out of care homes. Urban dwellers want to escape small apartments and a lifestyle that depends on using cramped elevators and recreational spaces in cities.
Financially, low interest rates make it easier for first-time buyers with FOMO to get into the market, and even for existing home homeowners to comfortably upgrade. Even despite recent increases, you can still get more house for the money in small towns versus the city (incredible homes under $1 million)–prices may be up more than 10 per cent, but on a $500,000 property, for instance, that increase is still nominal compared to a seven-figure urban home. And as the cost of building materials and the hassles of urban permitting processes continue to increase, the option to relocate to a spacious rural property becomes even more appealing.
The pandemic has reminded us to appreciate the importance of community, and more and more of us are embracing local values in what we consume, buy and how we live. International travel restrictions have kept us close to home, with the ability to explore nearby small communities. While empty urban Airbnb’s are converting back to long-term rentals, rental income on small-town properties has been increasing their value, as a new wave of visitors and investors checks them out–and likes what they see and experience. Some are even inspired to buy or start small businesses there.
This dramatic increase in demand for small-town living has happened so quickly, imagine what’s going to happen once the travel advisories and restrictions are eventually lifted? Without discounting the tragic toll this pandemic has had on our families and communities, we are trying to see the silver (or perhaps green) lining of a post-pandemic lifestyle change that could be world-altering. Demand for small-town living could continue to grow as high as B.C.’s peaks and as broad as its lake vistas and oceanside horizons. If you’re thinking about making a life change, we hope our stories on financing a new-home build, buying a business and some of B.C.’s quirky little unincorporated towns might inspire you.
Stay healthy and take good care!