Houses in Castlegar are selling fast as supply falls short of demand. (Stock photo)

Castlegar’s housing market is hot

Houses in Castlegar sold within two months on average within the first five months of 2017.

Houses in Castlegar sold within two months on average within the first five months of 2017, according to a Castlegar real estate broker.

Derek Sherbinin, broker at Century 21, says homes sold about 36 per cent faster between the beginning of January and the end of May than they did during the same period last year.

“Last year it was … just over three months to sell your property — about 95 days to sell your property — and this year it’s two months,” he says.

That’s on average. In more desirable areas, the number of days on market has fallen even lower.

“Emerald Green is on the south end of town, it’s kind of a family neighbourhood … and stuff there is selling in less than seven days,” says Sherbinin.

Sales during the period were up 20 per cent from 2016, though the number of listings has not significantly increased, only rising approximately one to two per cent, according to Sherbinin.

He says prices have only increased two or three per cent on average, though in some areas — like Emerald Green and Ootischenia — prices are up as much as 10 to 12 per cent.

Sherbinin has also seen an increase in the demand for raw land and he expects things to pick up more as the year goes on.

“We’ve had a really poor beginning of the year because we had so much bad weather, so a lot of all of this activity happened in the last two months,” he explains. “So when we’re comparing it to the year before, our marketplace started earlier the year before. So even though the stats show that we’re kind of on par from last year, we’re on par in a much shorter period of time.”

Sherbinin says it’s currently a seller’s market with a shortage of listings, and he expects that will drive the prices up as the year goes on.

Time will tell if the trend continues, but for the past three years, things have been relatively stable in Castlegar real estate.

Last year, the number of Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales was about 140 units in Castlegar, up about 37 per cent from 2015, according to Taylor Pardy, market analyst with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

“However the past three years have been relatively stable, despite 2016 being a little stronger. And this is kind of the overall story in Castlegar, in general, is just relative stability,” said Parody.

He attributes the recent increase in housing demand in B.C. to an increase in population.

In the Regional District of Central Kootenay in 2016 there was an increase of 485 people in addition to a positive natural population growth — the difference between the number of births and deaths in any year — he says.

Homebuyers aren’t the only ones facing a shortage of listings. Those searching for rental housing are also coming up short.

Pardy reports that as of October 2016, Castlegar’s vacancy rate for apartments is only 1.2 per cent.

And the options for those residents with low incomes or on income assistance are even fewer.

Deb McIntosh, coordinator for the Castlegar Community Harvest Food Bank, says that there’s a shortage of affordable rental housing available.

“They can’t afford to rent, there’s not enough housing stock, and especially those that are on assistance or on disability, their amounts haven’t correlated with the cost of rent going up,” she says.

Those who find rental housing available often find that it’s outside their price range, but McIntosh says it’s not necessarily that the units aren’t appropriately priced.

“I’m not saying that the places, in some cases, aren’t worth it, and many of them are worth that and probably some more, but it doesn’t help those that are on very limited incomes,” she says.

McIntosh is also one of Castlegar’s city councillors.

Asked if the city offers any incentives for building rental housing in Castlegar, she said, “It’s up to developers and we have talked to some, but it’s really hard to get a developer to build something that is not going to bring in profit. So we really need to advocate and work with the province to bring in some affordable housing units that the province sponsors.”

Castlegar has some of these housing units already, but McIntosh says they’re either full or unattainable for some.

“We just need to make sure that those most vulnerable have good homes. If you have a good roof over your head there’s much more that you can do,” she says.

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