Top 5 B.C. investment towns: Surrey

Surrey is right on track to overtake Vancouver as British Columbia's largest city.

The latest estimates show more than 470,000 people currently live in the city, and about 1,000 additional migrants move there each month.

The City of Surrey projects the community's total population will reach nearly 600,000 by 2021 and hit 740,000 in 2041, as more interprovincial migrants flock to the area and nearly 40,000 new immigrants arrive in the Vancouver census metropolitan area (CMA) each year.

This growth trend is and will continue to be the largest source of success for real estate investors buying in the area, Muir says.

Market trends

Since the majority of newcomers rent, CMHC Analyst Richard Sam expects that the city's rental market will only continue to strengthen, a trend already evidenced by its falling vacancy rate, which dropped to 4.2% in October 2010, down from 6.1% from October 2009.

Average apartment rents are also trending up. CMHC reports that the average monthly rental rate in October 2010 was $811, up from $804 in October 2009, but $184 less than the average of $995 for the Vancouver CMA.

The average rent for a townhouse did soften, however, falling to $1,147 in 2010, down from $1,176 in 2009.

Sam says real estate investors are playing an increasingly important role in the market, since less than 5% of all housing starts in the Vancouver CMA are purpose-built rentals.

Now, nearly one quarter of all rental units in the Vancouver CMA are owned and rented out by investors, while more than half of the renters live in secondary rental units, which include detached homes, townhouses and accessory suites.

This transformation in the Vancouver CMA has opened up many opportunities for beginner to intermediate investors, who now can move into the market by purchasing detached homes, townhouses or even condominium apartments despite somewhat higher prices.

At this point, however, investors should not be looking to make profits from rising home values.

Muir expects that the average residential price in the Fraser Valley district, which includes Surrey, will slow to just 0.8% in 2011, down from 6% last year.


Surrey's prime location gives it great access to Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the United States and international markets, making it a preferred destination for business and trade.

Still, Surrey's economy remains largely supported by the agricultural sector. More than 8,500 hectares of Surrey's total land space - which represents 18% of the Vancouver CMA's agricultural land reserve - is used for farming. But business is starting to boom in the city.

The total number of business licenses issued jumped to 15,451 in 2010, up from 14,411 in 2009, while the number of business incorporations rose to more than 3,100 in 2010, up from 2,660 in 2009.

Investment in the industrial, commercial and residential construction all experienced market increases, also, with the total for all three types rising from about $860 million in 2009 to roughly $1.2 billion in 2010.


In 2010, Surrey committed to invest $465 million in infrastructure projects and upgrades - a plan that is estimated to create more than 4,600 jobs. In addition, the federal and provincial government have pledged to invest $5 billion in infrastructure projects in the area.

This investment is expected to create more than 23,000 jobs. Consider the construction of a new city hall and community plaza, which is the most comprehensive infrastructure project in Surrey's history.

This $50-million, 200,000-squarefoot project, set to be built on the south side of 104th Avenue, east of University Boulevard, will include a variety of recreation facilities and community centres.

Surrey also stands to greatly benefit from the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) and the new Port Mann Bridge. The SFPR is a four-lane highway beginning at Deltaport Way, running along the south side of the Fraser River to 176th Street, or Highway 15, in Surrey.

This 80-kilometre-an-hour road is expected to cost $1 billion and be completed in 2012. It is estimated it will create 7,000 jobs by 2021.

The provincial government decided in February 2009 to replace the Port Mann Bridge, which spans the Fraser River, with a new 10-lane bridge. This project is slated to be completed in 2013. As part of this $3 billion project, the province and Translink will offer a Highway 1 RapidBus service, which will take riders from Langley to Burnaby in less than 25 minutes.

For the rest of the Top 5 article, pick up a copy of our May issue, on newsstands now.

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