Real-estate round-up of '09

Last year came in like a lion, but went out like a lamb.

That’s the conclusion of one Fort St. John realtor, who says 2009 set the stage for a real-estate boom in the next few years.

Trevor Bolin says last January, February, and March were the worst months, and Fort St. John hasn’t witnessed such a downturn in real-estate for more than a decade.

But, just as things were starting to look dismal, Bolin says something unusual happened.

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Then summer began picking up, and by fall and winter, the market began looking good.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board sent out a report supporting Bolin’s account.

It says in Fort St. John, 594 properties sold, at a total value of $154 million. And while that number is down from the ’08 total of 751 sold properties, 34 more houses were sold in December of ’09 than in the same month in ’08.

Now that the two-year property-value freeze has been lifted, residential property owners will likely see a five per cent increase from the ’09 B.C. Assessment.

Bolin says even he was surprised that the market picked up so quickly.

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He says homeowners who see a five to six per cent increase should count themselves lucky, especially during the recent economic downturn.

As far as tax concerns go, Bolin adds just because property values rise, that doesn’t necessarily translate into higher taxes. Fort St. John’s mill rate is expected to be determined this April.

Meanwhile, he says the average price of a Fort St. John home last year was $285,000, which is up $2,500 from ’08.  Bolin says property values will likely increase in 2010.

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Bolin adds there were numerous new home buyers in 2009.

He says low mortgage interest rates had inspired some apartment-dwellers to buy their first home. He predicts interest rates will rise slowly throughout 2010, but will still be lower than normal.

Bolin also expects the oil and gas industry to continue to be a contributing factor in Fort St. John’s real-estate growth.