Looking for your new home? How about Surrey? Guest post from Kelly Bohl

First-time buyer? Got a new family? Upsizing? Downsizing? Looking for a convenient location or something a bit more private? Whatever your housing needs, we can fulfill them in Surrey. By interpreting some of the statistics from both the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) and the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), we can help demonstrate Surrey’s affordability for modern homeowners.

Both the FVREB and REBGV make their statistical packages available to the public, but it’s a lot of numbers to take in and compare in one go if you’re not used to it. Both Boards also offer a press release about the number of sales each month and compare that figure to past months, but for most buyers the past prices show a trend when what you’re most concerned with is what the price is now.

What I love about the FVREB statistics package – I’m a real stats geek; show me the data! – is that not only do they break down all the activity by new listings, active listings, and sales for detached homes, townhomes and apartments, but also by region or municipality of the Fraser Valley. They even break Surrey down into Surrey-Combined, which is comprised of Surrey-Central, Surrey-Cloverdale, and Surrey-North. South Surrey is combined with White Rock. If you look at the package it’s very detailed and involved but it’s very complete.

For March 2012 we’re not seeing record sales and prices, but that’s good for home buyers. Prices everywhere have been at a sustained high with low mortgage rates but all signs and experts have been pointing to what’s called a “market correction” or prices coming back down to – arguably – more reasonable numbers (Torobin, February 23, 2012).

Prices in Surrey are lower than Vancouver, that’s no surprise. What may surprise people is what you have available throughout the different areas. Surrey isn’t only the Whalley/Central City corridor or the Cloverdale Rodeo – although that is coming up Victoria Day weekend – and our negative media image is largely over-sensationalized. Surrey is the fastest-growing city in all of Canada and we’re going to see the usual problems when you attract newcomers with a mix of urban and suburban neighbourhoods, employment and business opportunities, and convenient transit and transportation options. But the crime rates of Surrey and Vancouver are similar given their populations. Basically Surrey is statistically no worse than the City of Vancouver.

But back to housing. The Surrey-Combined region saw a total of 528 sales for March 2012, counting for 37% of the total sales for the FVREB. Of that number 286 were detached homes, 149 were townhomes, and 93 were apartments/condos. That means just over 20% of detached home sales in the Greater Vancouver region were in the Surrey-Combined area. The next numbers you’re likely interested in are prices, and we use the concept of the benchmark price as well as the average price. The benchmark price refers to “the typical property within each market” (REBGV, 2012) taking into consideration “items such as lot size, age, number of rooms, etc.” (Ibid.). Average price is strictly a mathematical calculation of the total value of all listings in a market divide by the total number of properties listed for sale in that market, regardless of size, age, type of home, etc. The benchmark price is more useful for buyers because it lets you know what you can expect to pay for a “typical” home in a given market.

For a detached home in Surrey North (e.g. Fraser Heights) and Surrey Central (e.g. Fleetwood) benchmark prices are $532,800 and $550,100, respectively. Average prices for those areas are $555,721 (Surrey North) and $569,955 (Surrey Central). Surrey Cloverdale is slightly higher at a benchmark of $563,700 and an average of $573,875. For all of Greater Vancouver the benchmark price is $1,056,400. Comparable benchmark prices to Surrey are found in Pitt Meadows ($508,900), Port Coquitlam ($550,800), and slightly lower in Squamish ($496,400).

Looking at townhomes brings more distinction. The Surrey Central benchmark price is $308,200, Surrey Cloverdale is $324,200, and Surrey North is $262,000. Greater Vancouver’s benchmark townhome price is $480,900 and prices similar to Surrey are found in Maple Ridge ($274,500), Pitt Meadows (318,900), and slightly higher in Squamish at $334,500.

Apartment benchmark prices are even more dramatic. Surrey Central is $199,800, Surrey Cloverdale is $231,500, and Surrey North is $190,000. Greater Vancouver’s apartment benchmark is $375,100; almost $124,000 higher than the Surrey-Cloverdale benchmark. Prices competing with Surrey are found in Maple Ridge ($185,600), Pitt Meadows ($225,200), Port Coquitlam ($235,200), Squamish ($231,400), and – surprisingly – Whistler at $240,400, provided your budget can accommodate the higher living expenses (food, parking, transportation) of living in Whistler.

There are no comparable benchmark prices in Vancouver, but if you’re looking at Surrey you already know that. So what can you get for your benchmark range of $532,800 – $555,721? A search of detached homes on the MLS with those minimal criteria (price, area) brings up 81 potential matches. They range from new coach-style houses on smaller lots, to investment properties rezoned for future development, to family homes on 10,000+ square foot lots, to older homes on average 60’ x 120’ (7200 square foot) lots. Just for detached, single-family homes there is a lot of choice available in Surrey. The choices only increase for townhomes with 199 potential matches in the $262,000 – $325,000 price range. Apartments/condos in Surrey offer 191 potential matches between the $190,000 – $232,000 price range, and even specifying a minimum of two bedrooms produces 109 potential apartment/condo matches. And that’s only what’s currently on the market right now; Surrey is home to several new townhouse and apartment/condo development projects that are not yet available for purchase, which will only offer new home buyers greater choice in a city that provides so much already.

Recreation and amenities are also a big deal for Surrey residents, with shopping, recreation, leisure, and cultural experiences available all over the city. There are updated City recreation facilities in many neighbourhoods, the award-winning new library at Central City, and the large Surrey Museum and Archives in Cloverdale. Surrey is also a city of parks with lots of natural areas, huge park reserves such as Bear Creek, Tynehead, Surrey Lake, and Green Timbers Urban Forest are just a few of the green spaces we treasure here.

And don’t forget education. Surrey has a large school district (www.sd36.bc.ca) with a range of public and private school options from Montessori elementary programs to the Khalsa School in the Newton community. Of course we can’t forget the incredible Bing Thom-designed SFU Surrey campus at Central City. The five-level campus and office tower house a number of technology-oriented departments and offer satellite offices for some of the Burnaby campus departments, and many of the classrooms and labs outshine even newer departments up on the mountain. The partnership with Central City has been a boon to established mall tenants and to the University, as well as attracting new tenants, increased customer flow, and even providing a space for community celebrations such as the Canucks celebration events during the Stanley Cup finals last year.

Sure, Surrey has its critics, but this is a family-oriented community and we do our best to look out for each other. We’re close to everything yet large and diverse enough that rarely do we need to leave home for anything. Come on out, visit our parks, and check out what we have to offer. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!


Kelly M. Bohl has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology and is currently a master’s degree student in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. She has worked as a teaching assistant in the department and as a private assistant to Homelife Benchmark Titus realtor Dennis Fung (www.surreyproperties.com) for the past ten years, and is a born-and-raised Surrey resident in the Cloverdale area. Kelly is not a licensed realtor but offers this information based on her 15+ years’ experience working in a number of real estate offices and with several realtors in that time.

For information about purchasing or selling property in the Surrey area please contact Dennis Fung at 604-230-7788, by email at dennis@dfung.com, or your own real estate professional. Not intended to solicit properties already listed for sale.


References and Links

City of Surrey. http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/3606.aspx

City of Vancouver. http://vancouver.ca/aboutvan.htm

Torobin, J. February 23, 2012. Central bank targets home equity credit lines. The Globe and Mail.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/carney-issues-fresh-warning-on-debt/article2347476/

MLS Home Price Index. http://homepriceindex.ca/hpi_tool_en.html

Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. http://www.rebgv.org/home-price-index

Surrey School District. http://www.sd36.bc.ca


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