Realtors say home-buyers are hedging their bets that proposed LNG projects will go ahead in northern B.C., snapping up cheap properties in the Hazeltons where three bedroom houses are selling for less than $48,000.
Based on sales this year to date, the median price for a home in the Hazeltons in 2014 is $130,000, while the median for the same period in Smithers is $264,000, according to realtors.
A three-bedroom home on a 0.87-acre block in South Hazelton is currently on the market for $48,000 and a four-bedroom bungalow in New Hazelton recently sold for $69,500.
Calderwood Realty agent Kelly Mattson, who works exclusively in the Hazelton area, said buyers from Vancouver and Alberta were choosing to buy in Hazelton over Smithers, where an equivalent home typically sells for about $100,000 more.
Mattson said first-time home buyers, renters and camp-workers from other parts of Canada were taking advantage of the low prices in the hope of making a profit if pipeline projects are approved.
“We have mostly buyers that are from out of town and have been working in Houston or somewhere, or renting in other places, that want to move here because they want to own and take advantage of the economy improving,” she said.
“Because prices will go up probably 30 to 40 per cent if the pipeline goes [ahead] just by the sheer volume of people coming here.
“There’s going to be two camps with over 1,000 people [in the Hazelton area] and someone will say, ‘well we’ll buy and the price will go up’ and then as long as they sell or hope to sell before the pipeline camps close then they can make back their money that they would have spent on rent.”
RE/MAX realtor Ron Lapadat agreed more out-of-town buyers were purchasing property in the Hazeltons, including buyers with direct ties to LNG projects.
“[There are] more outside buyers looking at the area and moving there because of the more affordable prices, in fact probably some buyers that are associated with the potential LNG expansion that’s happening in the north west,” he said.
“We are getting some people who are involved with that who are moving here to the Hazeltons and they do like the cheaper prices for sure.”
British Columbia Real Estate Association economist Brendon Ogmundson said new demand for housing across northern B.C. had been growing since 2010.
He said the upward trend, which is on pace to rise by about nine per cent in 2014, was directly tied to resource development, including LNG projects.
“It is something we’ve been tracking in more northern parts of the province, mostly because you do have the LNG anticipation but there is a lot of mining and other mineral projects going on and it’s also kind of a resurgence in the forestry industry as the US economy recovers,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things going right in the north right now.
“The LNG is certainly a big part of it, if those projects go ahead, there is obviously going to be a real need for housing while those projects are being built.”