When Matias and Emily Swalwell got married four years ago today, they had big dreams for the life they would live in their hometown.
Matias was well on his way to a cabinet-building apprenticeship while Emily planned to build her business teaching horseback riding. They worked hard to save, spending a few years living with Emily’s parents when their twin daughters, Ruth and Audrey, were born.
When they found out earlier this year the rental house and acreage they’d been living in since September was on the market, they started trying to find a place to call their own.
“Ideally, we would love to find a five-acre parcel, with room for the horses and a nice yard for the girls,” Matias said.
However, the current real estate market meant the search for their dream property – or even a place to call home for the next few years – has been nothing short of discouraging.
“Any of the places that we want to look at, by the time we see it, other buyers are saying ‘we’ll give you everything you want with no subjects,’” Matias said. “We just can’t compete with that.”
Ron Kelly, of Royal LePage 100 Mile Realty, said the 100 Mile House region is into its second year of a real estate boom and it’s not uncommon for buyers – many of whom are relocating from other areas – to put in offers with no subjects.
“That’s the market right now,” Kelly said. “This sort of thing is cyclical, but I’ve never seen it last this length of time or to this extent.”
Kelly recommends potential buyers sort out their financing before placing any offers, a process that can take a fair amount of time. He said many people don’t realize there are two sides to mortgage approval – the buyers’ income, credit rating and ability to make their payments and whether the house they want to buy will qualify for lending.
“The bank isn’t going to lend you $500,000 on a house that is only worth $300,000,” he said. “So they have to make sure they have their ducks in a row. If they have to spend two weeks getting financing, that’s not going to work.”
Securing financing in time to get an accepted offer is a dilemma faced by Isabelle Harper and her husband, Andrew. The Harpers had purchased a house and property near Fawn Creek Road a few years ago, with plenty of space for their hobby farm and to raise their young daughter. But when Andrew lost his job after the Chasm sawmill closed, the family went through a period of uncertainty and were forced to sell.
They’ve spent the past eight months living in a 30-foot travel trailer on their parents’ property. Andrew is now back to working full time and they are searching for a new place to buy.
“There were three or four places that we went to look at and we wanted to put an offer on, but there were already accepted offers,” Isabelle, who has lived in the area for 20 years, explained. “Or the seller wanted full price with no subjects.”
Competing with buyers who don’t need financing and are offering above the asking price has made the process nearly impossible, Isabelle said.
“We have a good budget but people are just coming in and swiping it out from under us,” she said. “We feel really discouraged. We are scared to even try to put any other offers in.”
With their family and friends in the South Cariboo, the Harpers want to stay in the area but are worried they may be forced to move elsewhere. They’re grateful to have a place to stay for the time being but say they need a long-term solution.
“I’ve never seen it like here before, and we don’t know what to do,” Isabelle said. “Should we stay here? Should we try to move on?”
The Swalwells were lucky enough to find a rental home after their landlord sold their current house, but admit the rental market is as bad or worse than trying to buy.
And while the influx of out-of-town buyers has put the search for their dream property on hold, they do acknowledge there are benefits to having new residents in the area.
“They leave the coast with lots of money and they can afford to support the local small businesses,” Emily said. “I have the biggest waitlist I’ve ever had right now for (riding) lessons, and everybody I know who does lessons is full because the demand is so high. And it’s wonderful.”
On the advice of their realtor, they will wait to see if the market cools and keep saving for a larger down payment. Despite the stress, they said their dream of a quiet life in the community they love is still alive.
“We just want a simple life, with room for our horses and a place to raise our girls,” Emily said. “I don’t know why it has to be so hard to live such a simple life.”