The Fraser Valley’s widening housing price gap: The Changing Valley, Part 2

Houses in Langley now cost an average of nearly $300,000 more than those in Abbotsford and more than $500,000 than those in Chilliwack. That gap has widened substantially in recent years as prices have increased across the region.

By Tyler Olsen | October 21, 2021 |6:15 am

This is the second story in The Changing Valley, an ongoing series on how housing and migration are changing the Fraser Valley. For the first part, and a look at the accelerating growth in the region, click here. For immediate access to every story we write and more in-depth news about the Fraser Valley, subscribe to our daily newsletter below. 

Call it the Chilliwack discount—or the Langley tax.

After a decade of exploding house prices, it’s never been so profitable to sell a house in Langley and buy in Chilliwack or Abbotsford.

House prices have always been cheaper the further one gets from Vancouver. And as prices have risen quickly over the last decade and especially the last two years, those pre-existing disparities have been magnified, making the cost (or benefit) of trading one community for another dramatically higher than 10 years ago, a new analysis of Fraser Valley home prices by The Current shows.

The ramifications of the changes are significant and have implications for migration, traffic, and the affordability of housing for thousands. It’s also one reason growth in the Fraser Valley has begun to outpace that elsewhere in the region, as The Current reported in the first story of this series.

In 2011, the average sale price of a house in Langley was around $120,000 more than in Abbotsford. The average Abbotsford house price was about $100,000 more than those in Chilliwack. Today, those gaps have more than doubled. Average house prices in Langley are close to $300,000 more than in Abbotsford, and the average home price in Abbotsford is about $230,000 more than in Chilliwack.

We’re bringing independent, local-first, in-depth reporting to serve you and our community.

Subscribe for free and plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

A domino effect

There’s not a lot of mystery about what’s going on. A lack of housing in Vancouver is driving up prices there and pushing people further east. That’s been especially true through the pandemic, as people have sought out space for themselves and their families.

“You have to go further into places like Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack if you’re looking for a suitable family-sized housing product that’s affordable,” said Brendon Ogmundson, the chief economist for the British Columbia Real Estate Association. Ogmundson, who grew up in Chilliwack, says the pandemic has created more “relocation demand” but the smaller size of Fraser Valley communities makes it harder for them to absorb the flood of demand from larger centres without seeing a spike in prices.

Within the Fraser Valley, house prices have risen at an almost identical rate—about 160%—in Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack. But that also means the price gap between the communities has grown at the same rate. (If house prices are too abstract, imagine you’re at a grocery store where an apple costs $1 and an orange costs $2. If the price of both doubles to $2 and $4, the differential between the two also doubles from $1 to $2.)

For people and families, the increasing price gap between cities can influence life-changing decisions. Ten years ago, a person looking to sell a house in Chilliwack and buy a new one in Langley could expect to pay about $225,000 more. Today, the cost is about $580,000. On the flip side, a person can sell a house in Langley, buy a similar one in Chilliwack, and pocket the difference.

Get FV Current in your inbox.

Plug in to the news that matters in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, and the rest of the Fraser Valley.

By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Fraser Valley Current. You can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Having trouble with the form? Contact us at contact@fvcurrent.com.

When the discount disappears

The situation for townhomes and apartments, however, is more complex.

A Langley townhome now costs around $135,000 more than one in Abbotsford, a gap that has tripled in the last decade. And apartments cost about $100,000 more—a gap that has at least doubled. (Figures vary slightly depending on the precise measure one uses.)

But the discount in moving from Abbotsford to Chilliwack nearly disappears when you only look at townhouses and apartments. The difference in townhouse prices between Chilliwack and Abbotsford is only about $30,000 and has actually shrunk over the last decade. And apartments now actually cost slightly more in Chilliwack than in Abbotsford on average.

The Mission house market also appears more similar to Chilliwack than Abbotsford. House prices there are about $260,000 less than in Abbotsford, but townhouse prices are nearly identical (they were about $50,000 cheaper a decade ago), while the cost of an apartment has remained close to the same as those in Abbotsford.

The growing price differentials are a key factor driving growth, and change, in the Fraser Valley. This spring, experts at the Canadian and Mortgage Housing Corporation found that house prices in the country’s largest cities, including Vancouver, have “fueled much greater migration” to smaller communities. Not everyone moves great distances, but as people look to the east to save money on housing, the result has been a “ripple effect,” that has pushed people further into the Fraser Valley, CMHC analyst Anthony Passarelli told The Current.

We’ll take a closer look at those ripples, accelerating migration trends, and what it means for Fraser Valley residents in upcoming Changing Valley stories.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

Tags in this Article

Latest Articles

The key news happening in the Fraser Valley.

Environment   Lifestyle

May 27, 2022

Can one of Canada’s best trail networks survive development?

Abbotsford’s McKee Peak has some of the country’s best hiking and biking trails. A new city plan says it will embrace and preserve those trails, but users aren’t convinced.

News

May 26, 2022

The bureaucracy of disaster: what happened on Othello Road?

Three houses were destroyed on Othello Road, but it took more than two weeks for work to begin to save the remaining properties. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request, we now know why the process took so long.