Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Smithers "Old Church" and the Meditation Gardens

Part Two of: Looking for the Soul of Smithers BC
I was foot weary, alone, and while a friendly face is always welcomed what I needed most was a moment to rest.  I slogged southward on King Street, as I had heard good things about a "Meditation Garden" at the "Old Church"; I was hoping for a place to put my feet up.  A day earlier, Evi, had told me that a group of volunteers would be planting annuals there, but, the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia meetings I was attending kept me away. I don't mind a bit of gardening or lending a helping hand.


The "Old Church", formerly St. James Anglican Church had been built in 1913 the same year the Grand Pacific Trunk Railway rolled through the newly established Town of Smithers.


The Anglican congregation eventually outgrew the Old Church and vacated to a new location in 1975.  The simple little church, left to the town, fell into a deep silence and a state of disrepair.

The salvation of the "Old Church" was one of those projects that the local Smithereens, (love that name), obviously take a great deal of pride in; as by this time in my travels, several locals had directed me there for a "look-see".   On the throes of being torn down, an Australian, of all people, (I wish I had his name, as all great initiatives require leadership) urged the Town to preserve one of Smithers oldest remaining buildings as a place for use by the Arts and for non-profits.

In 2004, the building was restored and today serves as a community assembly and concert hall holding up to 90 souls at a time.

[While most small communities provide tremendous tax supported assets to "sports" (massive fields, ice arenas, swimming pools, lights, washrooms etc.) too few resources are usually given to the "arts" it is nice to see that Smithers and its' Smithereens are behind both.]

Old Church, Smithers BC
The "Old Church" is situated on a standard sized lot, one block east of Main Street at the corner of King Street and First Ave. Unfortunately by the time I arrived the building, run by the Bulkley Valley Museum, was closed, fortunately, the non-denominational meditation garden was still open.

Meditation Garden, Old Church, Smithers BC
They're great and worth a visit.  Along the east side of the "Old Church" is a brick walkway, a transition zone of a sorts where you can begin to shrug off your worldly concerns.  Gates confront you at a covered entry.  You must decide to enter.  Mazes were once used by monks for meditation purposes but here the space is restricted and so a circular pathway must suffice.  Flanked by two lengthy wood benches it is a place for quiet thoughts and simple appreciation.  The goal of such spots is to still your thoughts for a moment, forget the past, to stop thinking about the future and simply to be mindful of the present.  The beauty of this place helped to set my mind at rest, and yes, my feet were happy too...

Happy feet

Forget days past, heart broken, put all memory by!
No grief on the hill-side, no pity in the sky,
Joy that may not be spoken fills mead and flower and tree.


~William Morris (1834-96) from Fair Weather and Foul

Stephen Mullock RI
is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Looking for the Soul of Smithers BC


Just returned yesterday, from a series of Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) strategic planning sessions held in the northern British Columbian city of Smithers B.C.  While there, before and after the meetings I explored Smithers, on foot, looking for the differences between Smithers and cities like Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope and Harrison Hot Springs. Would I find Smithers a more complete, a more alive, for lack of a better word let's call it a more soulful place to live.  I went looking for the Soul of Smithers BC.

Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers BC

Smithers is like an island surrounded by a sea of mountains and  foam of trees. Hudson Bay Mountain towers above all, its white caps remote, serene and beautiful. Lower down, ski runs have been carved. This is a community that embraces and thrives on winter.

I met a lot of people from Chilliwack and Agassiz while I was there.  It is easy to pick out the strangers and a friendly enough question to ask is "where are you from"?  It gave me a chance to talk about common friends like Earla Legualt and Ken Schwaerzle and to promise to send along regards.

Just like Vancouver, Smithers has a dedicated view towards wilderness and parks with extensive trail circling most of the city.  Unlike the large block of land that forms Vancouver's Stanley Park, Smithers offers an extensive trail system which almost encircles the entire town.  I spent a number of hours walking through wetlands (mosquitoes apparently like me), along the Bulkley River and into deep aspen forests. These places helped me still my thoughts and bring me back in touch with the natural world. The preservation of these places demonstrates something great and unexpected in a small town...soul.



Smithers like Chilliwack has a Main Street called Main Street.  Wide brick sidewalks and an imported Bavarian Alpine style greet the visitors in a neat and tidy and just likable way.

Someday, I am hoping to see one of our smaller BC communities develop a "unique to the BC area" set of architectural guidelines that, in this case, would say "Smithers" and no where else in the world.  Okay, that is just my wish; I realize a lot of people like the friendly atmosphere that a European Village scene suggests.

Main Street, Smithers, BC,

The housing, in contrast, was very exciting especially this one block.

From the grace of a North American Arts and Crafts house...

to a Leed Platinum Net-Zero Modern residence....

in just a few steps; amazing range in such a small town.

I was interested in the cultural life and found a strong presence in this community from a Tuesday open mike night at the Blue Fin Sushi Bar, music festivals to the farmers market there were plenty of linkages for people to meet and greet one another. I bought some tickets in support of the Bulkley Valley Folk Music Society and a chance to win a Rayco Acoustic Guitar worth $3,200.

One story I heard from former REFBC Governor Charlie Northrup was that the residents of Smithers had successful rebuked the Canada Post suggestion of the installation of super-boxes.  Residents in Smithers want pick up their mail at one common post office and, hopefully, bump into a neighbour or two. Recognition that a community's strength requires such face to face encounters to keep it alive.

It was a short stay, productive meetings and a wonderful glimpse into the heart of a fine community.  I am looking forward to a return trip someday soon I hope.

A part two will follow in the coming days about what is perhaps the most soulful corner in Smithers.

All pictures and content copyright © to Stephen Mullock.

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sun Rays on the Fraser River


Fraser River Sun Rays © Stephen Mullock
It seems that 2011 has seen its fair share of cloudy days, so, when the sun began to peak through the clouds, last night, it felt like magic.  I found these Sun Rays back-lighting a Fraser River island in dreamy landscape and did my best to capture the moment.

Imagine living here...

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chilliwack Real Estate Market Mid Month and Canuck Fever


Before getting to the statistics - Go, Canucks, Go!   Tonight, the Stanley Cup will either be awarded to the Vancouver Canucks or the Boston Bruins. I think this is Johnny Canuck's year....

 

Moving away from hockey back to real estate I thought that the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) end of May survey was quite interesting for sellers and buyers involved or considering a sale or purchase in the Chilliwack* - Fraser Cheam real estate market:

The BCREA 3 page report breaks down activity within British Columbia (BC) by Real Estate Board including the Chilliwack* Fraser Cheam area serviced by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board.

This BCREA report documents the current, challenging, real estate market for Sellers and Real Estate Agents that this blog has been writing about.  Some of the more important statistics include:
   
     (a) Inventory, the number of residential properties available for sale, is up by 5.5 %, when comparing end of May 2011 to May 2010, making this a very competitive market for Sellers and an opportunity for Buyers;

     (b) There were 20% fewer sales in May than one year ago;

     (c) January to May 31, 2011 shows 13.8% fewer sales than the January to May 31 period in 2010. As pointed out in my review on June 1, 2011 the real estate market in Chilliwack has been showing accelerating slippage in recent months - a real concern.

     (d) average Chilliwack* Fraser Cheam residential prices May 2011, for all types - single family & strata were 4.8% lower than one year ago in May 2010.

If you like statistics the economic team at BCREA do a terrific job especially when specific sub-markets such as the Chilliwack- Fraser Cheam area can be isolated from the speculative markets in Vancouver.

What to do, if you are selling?
  1. Hire a professional Realtor© with local knowledge and extensive experience,
  2. Keep up to date through sites such as this Blog with general trends in the market,
  3. If market prices are in decline and your Realtor© after a careful market analysis suggests a price adjustment - do so.
  4. Keep your property ready to show and make access easy,
  5. Good luck plays a part in all sales do not hastily reject an offer. And, finally...
Go, Canucks, Go!

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Benjamin Harrison the "Harrison" in Harrison Hot Springs


As discussed in the previous post the "Harrison" place name was first used in 1828 when Governor Simpson named the Harrison River in honour of Benjamin Harrison a deputy Governor of the Hudson Bay Company (HBC).  Because "Harrison" is a name assigned to such areas as Harrison Hot Springs, Harrison Mills, Harrison Lake, Harrison River, Harrison Bay etc. I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the man and his role with the Hudson Bay Company that in the early 1800s established itself with a series of Forts throughout our province, then called New Caledonia, for purposes of the fur trade.

Hudson Bay Forts in Southern British Columbia

The Royal Charter of 1670 gave the Hudson Bay Company immense powers which included the right to make laws, administer justice, undertake military action, wage war or make peace with non-Christian people as well as a total monopoly over trade in all territories drained by the Hudson Bay.  Wow, broad sweeping powers that in the wrong hands could be misused without recourse.


The Executive of the HBC was comprised of a Governor, a deputy Governor and 7 directors all elected from a meeting of the shareholders held in November.  Benjamin Harrison rose to the station of Deputy Governor in 1835-1839, but at the time of the naming of Harrison River he would have been a director. This was a man of considerable standing with the HBC; in fact, Benjamin Harrison was a shareholder and committee member for 47 years. To top things off his brother in-law Sir John Pelly (also a cousin) was Governor for 30 years at the HBC.

Benjamin Harrison was a devout Anglican and part of a Clapham evangelical sect that was dedicated to advancing humanitarian efforts such as the abolition of slavery.  They weren't so keen on the dissolution of the class system, still very prevalent in Britain at the time, even though they believed the disadvantaged had a better chance of being received in heaven.

Harrison was deeply concerned with the spiritual well being of the North American Natives and wished to see them converted to Christianity assigning a HBC Chaplain to the task. The First Nation people were terribly exploited through alcohol and it was important to Harrison that the HBC take a humanitarian stand on this issue as well as offering equitable trades.  Ideals that were likely at odds with the actual business being conducted thousands of miles away from London.

Pelts at Fort Langley © Stephen Mullock


Benjamin Harrison was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries and a number of other important boards in particular Guy's Hospital in London.  Harrison served a lengthy term as treasurer at Guy's handling this role as a bit of a tyrant and unpaid volunteer for fifty years.

It is always difficult to judge someone especially when the "times" are so different.  Was such an autocratic hold on the hospital necessary? Then again, to be an unpaid volunteer for 50 years is pretty remarkable. Also outstanding is, his re-election to the powerful HBC London Office for 47 years and his attempts to instill the need for fair trading practices with the North American Natives.  I am sure he had more than a few flaws, who doesn't, but, all in all Benjamin Harrison seems like a good candidate for the naming honours afforded him in this, then, remote, wild and dangerous corner of North America. 

The best information about Benjamin Harrison comes from the excellent book "The People of the Harrison" (1990) by Daphne Sleigh and available for sale at the Agassiz Harrison Museum.

Imagine living here....



Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Harrison Hot Springs BC Place Name Origin


Harrison River © Stephen Mullock
The "Harrison" name is used a lot on the north side of the Fraser River between Mission and Agassiz BC. Some of the places identified with the name include Harrison Hot Springs, Harrison Lake, Harrison River, Harrison Mills and the Harrison Knoll.  In addition there are well over 20+ businesses and organizations called Harrison Something .  An outsider might expect that given the heavy usage a statue of the person, a portrait, a lot might be known about these individual, Benjamin Harrison, but no, there isn't.


View Larger Map
Maybe for good reason, for one, Benjamin Harrison was English and never visited the area, or, North America for that matter, and secondly, his name got associated with this area a long time ago in 1828.

It was a era before settlers and gold rushes when the Hudson Bay Company ran a fur trade empire and a big chunk of North America as well, for their shareholders, called the Company of Adventurers.  British Columbia, known as New Caledonia, was a wilderness and especially on the heavily forested coastal area if there wasn't a trail or waterway it became very difficult to get around. Beaver pelts were in high demand and the HBC in need of making a profit.

We need your Pelts © Stephen Mullock

The Hudson Bay Company centred in Fort Langley was anxious to open up fur trading routes with the First Nation people of the interior.  An alternative to the ever dangerous Fraser River was sought after and a promising alternative river to the Fraser known to the Natives as "Pinkslitsa" explored.  Governor Sir George Simpson, had a look at the river in 1828 and was so pleased he sent the following dispatch to London "As it promises to become important to our interests, in this quarter, not only as a practicable route to and from the interior but as an opening to us a new tract of country, which the Natives say is Rich in Beaver, I have taken the liberty of naming it after one of the Members of Your Honble. Board "Harrisons River".*

Now, Sir George Simpson, nicknamed the "Little Emperor" while possessing great administrative skills was also, by many accounts a lousy human being.  Leading me to wonder what sort of man was Benjamin Harrison?  I will see what I can find and report back in the next post.

*The best information and the quote above comes from the excellent book "The People of the Harrison" (1990) by Daphne Sleigh and available for sale at the Agassiz Harrison Museum.

Imagine living here....

To find real estate property for sale in the Harrison Hot Springs Village, Harrison Mills or along Harrison Lake click here.  Should you have any questions on these properties I would be pleased to help as I am a local area Realtor©.

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Masthead for Fraser Cheam

The new masthead at the top of the Blog shows British Columbia's Fraser River winding its way through the Fraser Valley between Chilliwack and the District of Kent (Agassiz).  The Fraser River is British Columbia's most important river some 1,375 miles (2,213 km) n length it drains two mountain ranges and an area of 85,000 square miles of land.  In the picture above the height of the River is near its crest, swollen with the annual late spring freshet.  Along the river edges, recently bare trees have been transformed into blankets of green; from the folds a chorus of bird song is heard.  In the distance, Mount Cheam (She-am) looms regally over the River.

A loud honking along the Fraser River alerted me to a large flock of Canadian Geese flying eastward you can see them on the left shoulder of Mount Cheam.  Perhaps, they were heading towards the Cheam wetlands for the night.

Turning around I also noticed that light was streaming off of Mount Agassiz to a Red Barn on the Valley Floor. The tranquil nature of the photograph with the huge tree shadows appeals to me.  I hope that you like it.

Agassiz Farmland © Stephen Mullock

Imagine living here...

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chilliwack* Real Estate Market Analysis and Review: June 1, 2011


SINGLE FAMILY HOMES 

Chilliwack* Single Family Detached Housing Sales Report for May 2011

MONTH Sales Average Sale Price Days on Market Active Listings
May     2011  128 $355,000 66 1094
April      2011  118 $350,000 70 1046
May     2010  170 $366,000 62 n/a

Median Price of Active Chilliwack* Single Family Detached Real Estate Listings: June 1, 2011 - $379,900

Sometimes, it is hard to determine whether you are winning or losing especially when all you get to see is carefully selected information and all you hear is double speak that is why I like to do my own analysis. 

For instance, if all you saw was the information above you would see that prices on average for Single Family Houses in Chilliwack* went up in value. That on average they required fewer days to sell - that's good as well.  Prices on average for Single Family Homes in Chilliwack* were less in May than the same time a year ago.  You'd probably say that is expected - we are not living in Vancouver. By the way, Cameron Muir BCREA Chief Economist wrote an excellent article explaining some of the statistical problems surrounding a strong Vancouver market in an article called "Appearances Can Be Deceiving".  You might have an unsettling feeling if you looked at the inventory of 1094 houses and considered the 128 sales this past May a 12% sale to listing ratio firmly in Buyers Market Territory.  What you wouldn't know is that this May was the worst May in 10 years and that the Chilliwack Real Estate Market for Single Family Houses is currently in decline - appearances can be deceiving.


How was this conclusion reached?  Well on average, the Chilliwack* Single Family Housing market, in "May" during the last ten years, 2001 - 2010, had 187 May sales on average. So 128 sales this month divided by the 10 year average of 187 (128 / 187) = 68%.    If we call this turnover Velocity then the Chilliwack real estate market is in decline as the Velocity level in March was 75%, April 70% and now 68% in May. The Chilliwack Real Estate Market for Single Family Houses is in decline.

What can be done?  I get a number of inquires each week and this week I received one from a 45 year old family man exploring the thought of getting a real estate license.  While real estate sales remains a challenging and interesting job it is hard to say that there is a good living to be made in it currently.  So where usually 6 months salary would usually be needed to start a career perhaps an 8 month bankroll, given the market, might be more in line.

Sellers need to ensure that they are working with a professional local real estate agent and that all parts of their marketing mix are in order such as: price, product condition, access (place), and promotion.  All items should be reviewed on a frequent basis and new sales and competitors discussed.  Once that is done prepare to be patient. I have a tailored program that keeps my clients up to date on values in  their neighbourhood; other real estate agents will have something similar.

STRATA HOMES

Chilliwack* Strata Housing Sales Report for May 2011
MONTH Sales Average Sale Price Days on Market Active Listings
May      2011  70 $220,000 82
524
Apr     2011  69 $209,000 69 511
May     2010  75 $222,000 59
n/a

Median Price of Active Chilliwack* Strata Real Estate Listings: May 1, 2011 - $227,500

The Strata Market part of the Chilliwack* real market is faring much better and I would be considered it as being in the bottom of a Balanced Real Estate Market with a sale to listing ratio of 16%.  Good news.  Compared with a 10 year average for Strata Sales in May the Velocity rate is at 86%, holding steady from last month and not too bad given the still fragile nature of the economy.

Now for something on the lighter side...Michael Scott's Words of Wisdom


Notes:
This review and analysis looks at the residential markets in the Chilliwack* British Columbia area for the month of May 2011.  It is divided into two sections: single family houses and strata homes (apartments and townhouses) and is based upon my armchair analysis work.  Use it at your own discretion.

The analysis above is based on my interpretation of information provided by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board and does not take into account private sales.

*The term "Chilliwack" is used here quite loosely to refer to an area serviced by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board which includes communities such as Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, Hope, Yale and Boston Bar. The Fraser Valley West area embraces the entire Fraser Valley Real Estate Board area which extends from Abbotsford to Delta.

Copyright June 1, 2011 by Stephen Mullock.

Stephen Mullock RI is an award winning full-time real estate agent with 30 years of experience and hundreds of sales. Thinking of buying or selling real estate in the Fraser Cheam communities of Chilliwack, Agassiz or Harrison Hot Springs? Contact Steve (click here) for experience, local knowledge and friendly service you’ll be happy you did.