August 29, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

The housing onion 

Peeling back the layers of Squamish’s residential real estate boom

click to enlarge District of Squamish planning director Cameron Chalmers. Photo by Dave Buzzard
  • District of Squamish planning director Cameron Chalmers. Photo by Dave Buzzard

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“Back in 2000, when I was living in Whistler, the Squamish real estate guide had two sections,” says Jess LaFramboise, an agent with Macdonald Realty. “It was under $200,000 and above $200,000. That was it. Now you can’t get anything for $200,000. Back then, there would be detached homes all over the place you could get for that.”

Denise Salmon is the Remax Masters agent that found the Daniels their home and became their friend. Like LaFramboise, she’s borne witness to a remarkable turnaround in the market.

“When I came into the market, it was at a 20-year low,” she remembers. “By my third year, business started to pick up. What we found was people were starting to discover Squamish. There was still an overall impression that it was a logging town, a blue collar town, but that perception was starting to change. People were migrating down from Pemberton and Whistler. They were the forerunners of the recognition that Squamish was a lot more than they initially thought.”

Perhaps the biggest agent of that change was the province’s plan to overhaul the highway in time for the 2010 Olympics, thereby altering the realities of every community established on its shoulders. Product, suddenly, was much closer to the bustling market in and around Vancouver.

“That was the big push,” says LaFramboise, “the cause of momentum in Squamish.”

Managing Momentum

If you could peer over the fence into the Daniels’ backyard, odds are you’d see Jill wandering their grassy expanse with a garden hose, her tightly wound curls pulled straight back into a ponytail. Chatty to the nines, she’ll detail the work she and David have planned for the inside and out of their home. For his part, David will probably be in the city. He fires up his car in the wee hours of the morning and strikes out to Vancouver, where he works as a product supplier. They could’ve settled in Langley or Abbottsford, and, indeed, they trawled both markets for a suitable abode. But neither place offers the staggering views and endearing recreation that is coming to define Squamish. Painting a fence in the shadow of the Chief, with Mount Garibaldi enriching the opposite horizon, is infinitely more appealing than doing the same in the gloom of some industrial edifice standing amid the sprawl and snarl of the TransCanada Lower Mainland.

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