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FORT ST JOHN, B.C. — Local realtors are weighing in on the state of commercial realty in Fort St. John, with most being hopeful about the future.

The conversation was prompted by a Facebook post about a long-vacant property being sold in the city.

Chad Bordeleau, owner of Century 21 Energy Realty in Fort St. John, says many buyers are looking for single-bay shops in the area and calls retail in the city “a bit of a hit and miss.”

“Vacant land has been very quiet, especially in and around the city itself. I think it’s just in terms of the building cost,” Bordeleau said.

He adds that more commercial properties are being leased now than sold. Within city limits, there are 31 active commercial listings. Including properties surrounding the city lines, the listings increase to 41.

Bordeleau says this isn’t a lot, adding that there is a need for commercial buildings in the city.

“It just comes down to the individual and if people are willing to jump out and build it, and I find that there’s a little bit of hesitancy right now in doing new construction in terms of commercial, just coming down to the cost,” Bordeleau said.

On the other hand, he says they have seen quite a few multi-unit properties that have been sold, such as sixplexes and apartment complexes. Only two multi-unit properties are left for sale, Bordeleau said.

“This year alone, we’ve seen, on our system, 11 multi-family complexes [sold], so definitely seeing a bit of a demand there for the apartments,” the owner of Century 21 said.

According to him, that is above average.

Kevin Pearson, a realtor with Century 21, agrees that leasing opportunities have been “pretty good” lately.

“A lot of leasing at office spaces. Shops have really picked up lately. There’s been a lot of demand for that,” he said.

Pearson says he is optimistic about the market, which is above average compared to the rest of the year.

“Right now, I think, is the busiest I’ve been commercial-wise for this whole year, so I think that’s a good sign,” he said.

Pearson adds that a wide variety of investors are still looking at the area, looking for a certain investment return.

“That’s sometimes a little bit higher returns than they would see down south, so that’s kind of the appealing part,” he said.

“Our prices are quite a bit lower than they would see down south.”

The capitalization rate in the region is almost double compared to the Okanagan, according to Pearson.

“It’s what we usually measure property on for investment purposes,” he explained.

In the Okanagan, Pearson says they’re happy to see a 4 per cent capitalization rate, whereas, in Fort St. John, they see between 7 to 8 per cent.

Trevor Bolin, a realtor with Remax and a Fort St. John city councillor, also says they are starting to move some of the land and buildings that have been on the market for a long time.

He says it’s a nice change, as Fort St. John has been in a challenging commercial market since 2014-2015.

“We’ve got companies looking at expanding into Fort St. John. We’ve got national franchises that are expanding,” Bolin said.

He says he thinks the sign of a “true change” is the commercial and industrial markets.

“It’s a huge benefit for people who live in Fort St. John to see more shopping, more retail, more industrial, more commercial, and we deserve that,” Bolin added.

Bolin predicts that the market will be a bit quieter over winter as there are a lot of projects that are nearing completion.

“I think we’re probably gonna see an expanded growth starting this spring, and I think you’ll see more buildings popping off, more subdivisions starting to fill as we go forward.”

Northeast BC Realty declined to comment on the state of commercial realty in the area.

For 2021 in northern B.C., Fort St. John recorded the lowest housing affordability indicator, according to the BC Northern Real Estate Board.

In the first half of 2022, Fort St. John saw 353 properties worth $145.1 million sold.

According to a Mid-Year 2022 BC Real Estate Investment Review from Avison Young, office investment was slow in the first half of 2022 in the province.

Demand for industrial assets reportedly remained healthy, though multi-family properties tapered in the year’s second quarter due to rising interest rates, according to the real estate company.

Investor interest in land deals and acquiring land for redevelopment also remains strong in the first half of 2022.

Avison Young is a commercial real estate company founded in 1978 with headquarters in Toronto and more than 100 offices worldwide.

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.