Trevor Bolin The 1# Realtor

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Dear Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver, as I am sure you can imagine with all the chaos of this election being over, the people of the north wonder where they stand on many important issues.  We all watched as you championed for the coast, the mainland and the island.  With being such a blue (federally) and red (provincially) region we understand why you did not pay us a visit at all during the 90 days around the election.  However, in the coming weeks and months, it may be a great time to plan a trip in the north. 

 

Did you know we are light out until midnight during the summer months, and light again by 4 am?  I have found living here my entire life, with my family dating back to 1927, it is perfect for working in industry.  Now yes, my family came here for the farming, and the ability to work in the light until midnight and go again at 4:00 am had some huge advantages, the four months of summer weather however offered the equal disadvantages.  So when the oil and gas industry started to prove a great economy in the 1960's, we stayed and enjoyed an agricultural economy in the four months of summer, followed by an industry of oil and gas in the other eight months of the year,  we will just call not summer.

 

Here we are 90 years later as my family marks it 90th birthday in Fort St John, the same year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday and as The Alaska Highway celebrates its 75th.. yes we came a decade and a half after the highway was built.  Fort St John and area is a very unique part of the province that not many people in the south get to experience like we the locals do.  Just like everywhere else we complain when its to hot (which is over 25 degrees for us), and we complain when its to cold (which is under -25 degrees for us), but we show up in both of those seasons, we work hard so that the citizens can enjoy a great quality of life, and so that other parts of the province, country and hopefully soon the world can power there homes, heat and cool there offices, and enjoy the luxuries that 2017 has to offer.

 

The City of Fort St John is known as The Energetic City, where families grow and businesses flourish.  Times have been tough for Fort St John and area families the last year and a half.  With the downturn economically on natural resource prices, we have all felt the sting of what that is like once again.  Fort St John has a very promising future ahead with the right aid in governance on industry happenings.  Besides the fact we complain a complain a little when its hot or cold, and that we still show up and believe that we are making the world a better place, what this little corner of the province can bring to the entire province is huge. 

 

We have only longed for one thing and that’s to be accepted and included in a province that is very different not only between the north and the south, but region by region.  Yes our fracking and exploration appear in TV shows and sitcoms about how dangerous they are.  The extremely controversial Site C dam is under a constant microscope that leads the 2142 workers to question what’s going to happen day by day.  Oil and gas exploration and transportation that people don’t who have never been parts of it, just don’t understand the importance.  I was fortunate to grow up in an industry town in which when I turn my light switch on, I don’t need to question it because it comes from an hours drive.  When I go to a locally owned gas station, I don’t question whether or not I will be able to fuel my car, I have seen it being made.  When the temp drops cold enough, the furnace needs to be used (usually October for us), I know that gas that’s heating my kid’s home is from this region. 

 

You see, I am proud to be from the North, I am proud to be from BC and I am proud to be a Fort St John local.  So although this could have been a lot shorter in order to get to the question I am going to ask.. I felt you needed to understand some of the way we live and look at things in this part of such a very different province.  We don’t have to all live in the same area to want the same things; we don’t have to have the same political colors, or cultures.. We all just want the same things.  Your desire to have a great quality of life is no different then mine, your desire to have easy access to medical parallels mine, the need to see your children and grand children grow in this beautiful province is also something we can share in common.  The great Rocky Mountains may separate us, but they don’t make us different, just unique.

 

So I would ask to the both of you, please take the time to understand the North and the important role we play in this province and can continue to play for all the people of British Columbia.

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Yes, It Is Election Time … Again!

 

So it seems every couple years, we in the North join the rest of the province, the rest of the country, or our counterparts here in the North for our say in who is going to run the government for the next four years.

 

Some background on me if you didnt know, is that I have been in politics for almost a decade, and I have watched elections, like hockey fans watch the Stanley cup.  This includes locally, provincially, nationally and internationally and every election between.  I am what you would call a self confessing ‘Political Junkie’, and I mean that in a good way.  I don’t watch it for the drama that now seems to be the norm like it was in the last US election, I watch it to see the will of the people; for the passion of those dedicated to what they believe.

 

We in Canada are very fortunate to be able to vote every four years on a local representative.  We don’t have to vote for party leaders unless we are card-carrying members and they are in a mess and need a new leader between general elections; we get to vote for our friends, our neighbours, or in this case, our co-workers.

 

Every election I sit back and watch as the latest slogans, tag lines and promises are made, and I watch for the reaction of people.  You see, every election since the dawn of time we have candidates vying for that one seat (or more if municipal) as they promise jobs, great change, and/or more and better accountability.  The one thing being in politics for as long as I have has taught me, is not to believe anything anyone promises you.  Instead, look at what they have done and what they are doing right now in the position we have put them in.  Elections shouldn’t be about the leader of a party; that’s what formed government the day after the election is about.  Elections are about who have you called or run into; who have you emailed in the last few years and expressed your concerns to; who do you trust that for the next four years you can continue doing that? Its not about the popular vote here in BC or Canada, its needs to be about your trust with one individual.

 

In the last paragraph I mentioned how “elections aren’t about what party, that’s what formed government is for;” I want to explain that for a moment.  You see, the party during an election isn’t that important; all of these folks running in the ridings throughout this province are just people with similar ideals on free enterprise, work, schooling, social programs or unions. It is when they come together after an election to form government when that becomes vitally important.  We are a two party system in BC, similiar to the United States of America.  We have independents, and small second and third tier parties that do get some headway, but ultimately it is a decision between the left and the right.  For an exmaple, if you are a "right" voter (Liberal or Conservative in BC under one party), but dont like the leader of the party so you vote independent, you are actually voting left (NDP).  This is how vote splitting occurs when as many or more independents are running than are members of parties. 

 

The North Peace riding hasn’t always been Liberal because of the Leader of the party, or because the colour of the flag, and it sure isn’t because of the name of the party.  It is because we have been blessed with some great MLAs over time that have shared the ideals of the BC Liberal party and knew that we could get more for this region by standing as a united group than we could by standing alone.

 

When I was a child, my Dad, being as involved in the oil and gas industry as he was, would watch the BC and Alberta elections very closely.  In those days, our livelihoods in Fort St John were made up of the votes being counted on that one night, just as they are today.  In the 1990’s when the NDP was elected and formed government in British Columbia, we went from a “have” province to a “have not” province, and my Dad sat us kids down and said “we are fortunate that Alberta is Conservative and that is where I will work until BC elects a free enterprise government.”  Well the sad truth is that over 50,000 people had to do the same thing during those times, and it was harder on families than anyone in those days would care to admit.

 

Well here we sit just over a month until BC heads to the polls once again to decide between the NDP and The BC Liberals.  Dad, God rest his soul, wouldn’t know what to do if BC became the second province in the country next to Alberta to have an NDP government.  I can almost hear him now, fearing Saskatchewan as the only option left viable for industry, if the voters in BC decide to follow our neighbours in Alberta.

 

Closer to home however, we have a full slate of candidates and each one of us will have to use our best judgement as we elect them as our voice in government for the next four years.  I for one can tell you I am not voting for a color of a banner, or flag, logo, slogan or promise.  I will let you in on a secret: I am voting for the same guy I voted for in four previous municipal elections.  I am voting for the guy who I have sat beside for three terms of government.  I am voting for the guy who I have argued with until neither of us even remembered what we were arguing about.  I am voting for Dan Davies because he is the right man for the position.  I am voting for Dan Davies because Fort St John and the North Peace need to be represented at the table of a formed government.  My hope in turn for the oil, gas, mining, forestry and hydroelectric industries, in which hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people depend on this free enterprise government for current and future jobs, is that you vote for those very same reasons.

 

Wasn’t 2016 enough of a change for us? Do we really want to have anymore drastic changes when things are just getting back to the way they were?  On May 09th (the day my son turns 11), I will be voting for no promises, no slogans, no catch phrases or impressive one-liners. I will vote for experience, I will be voting for representation, I will be voting for Dan Davies.

 

This message was brought to you independent of any parties and was not endorsed by anyone, but me :)

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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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