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Real estate market spirals downward

If you bought your house for $100,000 in 1997, its now probably worth only $50,000 to $75,000, says real estate appraiser Bill Henderson, who sees a decline in real estate values throughout the northwest and the islands.
The islands have experienced an average decline of between 5% and 10% each year since the market peaked in 1997. In 1997, 154 properties sold on the islands, well over double the 66 which have sold so far this year. Mr. Henderson, of Appraisals Northwest is based in Terrace, travels to the islands regularly, and points out that the average has exceptions. Some properties have seen their value drop more, while a few have actually increased. The rate of change for individual properties depends on the type, location and price as well as other factors, says Mr. Henderson.
Real estate agent Catherine Hewgill moved to Masset a year and a half ago, and began marketing houses immediately. She says that the real estate market, relatively speaking, is okay. There is activity in the market, and it is increasing.
Ms Hewgill uses the internet to market properties and says she has had interest from the Canadian prairies, the US and as far away as Scotland and Germany. Selling a house can take anywhere from 30 days to 2 years, says Ms Hewgill, depending on the price of the property and how motivated the seller is.
Recreational and retirement property sells well, says Ms Hewgill. People are attracted to the islands slower pace of life and a feeling of security because of its remote location. Generally people with disposable income are buying because jobs are not an issue for them.
Local people are also buying, says Ms Hewgill, and many of her sales are to islanders.
Richard Osborne with Landquest Realty of Vancouver has been marketing properties on the islands since 1971.
"Like all of the other smaller communities in Northern BC with forest based economies, the market is very soft. We're making some sales, but things have to be priced to sell. I believe activity is up a bit this year although prices have not increased," says Mr. Osborne.
Mr. Osborne's company specializes in recreational real estate all over BC and markets all over the world, but he says most of the sales on the islands recently have been to other islanders.
"There's still people who want to buy things and if something is a good value, it will sell," he says.
While the drop in value is bad news for those wanting to sell, it's good news for buyers.
"In time, market demand will improve and values will be trending upward again. My personal opinion is that there are good investment opportunities in Island real estate right now. There are few if any other places in the world where properties can be purchased at similar prices. It appears this fact is appreciated by some international investors; I have noticed a number of properties recently purchased by US and European buyers," says Mr. Henderson.