Trevor Bolin The 1# Realtor

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We spent most, if not all, of the mid to late 2010's hearing about the ultra low unemployment rate in Fort St John.  Help wanted signs quickly started outranking for sale and for rent signs by about two to one.  It was just accepted that companies ran with 70% of the staff they actually needed for operations, wages skyrocketed to the $108,000 average income we had seen in 2015 and life was a race to the finish line.

 

And then 2016 hit us like a ton of bricks, every media outlet was reporting on the massive lay offs, high unemployment applications and the soaring unemployment rate.  We heard and read that for the first time in 30 years that Fort St John and the great white north was the highest unemployment rate in the province, providing the lowest GDP, what, we went from the highest GDP provider to the lowest, how does this happen in one year?  Everyone going forward followed LNG stories hoping for the big break that something like this new fascinating industry would bring for us.  With a soaring unemployment rate came a dropping real estate market and a tough retail time for all people, families and businesses in the area.  As with the good times, also comes the tougher times and the same way to get through one is used to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

 

Throughout 2016 it was as if we had warped into a "have not area", people forget how good the good times were and started to accept that the bad times may just last longer than most can handle.  As the days got shorter and the nights plenty colder, people hunkered down to go through a fall and winter with limited to no oil and gas activity in the area as if this is the new normal for The Energetic City.  

 

Hold on just a minute, we are The Energetic City, there is something different about us than anywhere else in the world that deals in any resource sector such as we do.  Other area's have oil, or gas, or farming, or forestry, or hydro electric or even tourism ... what makes us unique?  Oh thats right, we have all five of those industries and we do it better than anyone, anywhere.  We choose to live in an area of the country with less shopping choices for winter wear that we need 7 months out of the year.  We choose to live in an area of the country that has two road seasons one being winter and the other being potholes.  We choose to live in an area of the country where we know spring doesnt really come until we get past May long's final storm ... we are the North, we are Fort St John.

 

Now here I am driving around this morning and noticing hotels that have been built in the last couple years are filling up, noticing help wanted signs starting to pop up, and with help wanted signs popping up, Real Estate signs are going down with solds on them.  I right away pull over to check with one of my favourite apps, Indeed Jobs, to see what is happening in the job market.  Low and behold, something is changing, there are 414 avaiable jobs in Fort St John, which is double from this same time in 2016.  I move onto my second favourite app, Real Estate tracker, and it cant be true, jobs are double what they are and real estate listings are half of what they were ... could this be a sign that things are fast tracking even faster than I figured in my last blog?  You tell me.

 

I heard over lunch today that companies are planning to drill upwards of 180 holes in 2017 with a start after break up.  So with 180 new holes starting in the third week of June, what does that mean for new positions or employment ontop of the 414 jobs already available today.  To come up with this, I had to think back to when I was a kid on my dads rigs and count the sort of employment we are in for in this area.  So, lets do the math, every new exploration is up to 136 positions made up of direct and indirect employment.  From land agents, surveyors, chainman, road crews, equipment operartors, truck drivers, oil company employees, drilling company employees, and other various staff that amount to an incredible number of hours worked.  Let's do simple math just for an idea of what we are in for, 180 holes multipled by 136 positions equals 24,480 jobs... and we thought the 414 posted today were a lot.

 

The moral of the story, is investigate for yourself, look around and whats happening in the community, have coffee for an hour and just listen to the excitement in people's voices about how times are getting back like they use to be.  My final peice of advice, times are not going to be like they use to be ... this is unchartered water going forward even for us and if we think we are ready, we are just comforting ourselves, this is truly the decade of the north.  #godsavetheking

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As we sit here in the middle of February after what has been called  the worst down turn in a generation, the question on everyones mind is "what's really happening for 2017".  In order to give some answers to that, I have to clear a few misconceptions around my answers first.

 

1- I am not a medium, fortune teller or psychic

2-I am as invested in your home or business and our market as you are.

 

Okay, now that we got those pesky disclosures out of the way .. here is what I foresee happening over the next ten months; thats right, scary thought but it is only ten months until we welcome 2018 as we just did 2017.  In order to foresee what is in store for our market, I often look to the past.  Not that the past will tell you your future, but it will show you the cycle period we are in.  I for one am grateful 2016 is behind us, it brought one of the toughest business and Real Estate markets we have seen in decades, but is that all it brought?  I would like to think that it brought so much more.  Yes homes were selling for tens of thouands less than the prior year (some as much as $70,000 less), some local businesses did not make it through the tough times we as northerns experienced together, but what are the benefits going ahead?  Let's lay them out ...

 

In 2015 I did an interview on housing in FSJ with Energetic City, in that interview I was quoted as saying 2016 will be an amzing time for buyers.  Looking back at some of the sale prices of 2016, I was correct and some great deals were had.  Now, as I mentioned we sit in the middle of February and realize this to will come to an end, this year.   The first part of 2017 will offer discounted prices on a per month style supply and demand.  Currently we have approx 10 months of housing supply on the market.  This means based on average buying patterns we are seeing, without any new activity, announcements, jobs or changes .. we can last 8 months before we run out of homes available.  If 2016 showed us anything, it is that a lot of buyers held off to find the "bottom of the market", or to secure brighter times ahead.  I expect a lot of first time home buyers to arrive early in the season this year looking for those deals they heard about in 2016.  I expect 2015 levels of corporate transfers in the late spring and summer.  Both of these factors will shorten our housing supply by two full months.  The rumours of the fall that people were leaving FSJ in droves was proven false last week when the official Cencus records showed  Fort St John grew last year in population... so in the worst economy in a generation, the city grew in population, does this give some hints to the following couple years to come? 

 

Mark my words, this has the making for the perfect storm as we lived though in 2003-2008 and 2010-2015.  With more people moving to the community than housing was available at any season.  Builders did not even have the jump start they needed in order to try and get started, let alone any means of playing catch up.  We very well may find ourselves in a housing shortage by 2018.  If the past has taught us anything about housing shortages, its that prices can be affected as much as 16% in a single year.  So what does this mean for buyers and sellers broken down in simple math:

 

2015- Market increase +/- up 4%

2016- Market decrease +/- down 6%

2017- Market increase +/- up 3%

2018- Market increase +/- up 9%

2019- Market increase +/- up 14%

 

I will leave you with one thought on all of this, which if you have ever asked me my opinion on the market, you have heard this before .. It never matters when you buy, only when you sell. #youhearditherefirst

 

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