The Real Estate Intelligent interview series features BC's most prolific professionals shaping the local real estate industry.
AN INTERVIEW WITH BRITTANY REIMER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MLA CANADA FRASER VALLEY
Ambition has always run through the veins of Brittany Reimer, MLA Canada Fraser Valley’s Managing Director. As a former Olympian, Brittany swam for almost 6 years on the Canadian National Women’s team. From competing in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, to the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, her knack for driving teams to win is something she brought with her into the real estate world. After an impressive career as a Canadian athlete, she immersed herself into a new, close-to-home passion – the Fraser Valley real estate markets. Brittany was born and raised in the Valley, and worked for many industry giants, including Onni Group, Polygon Homes, and BLVD Marketing, before finding herself managing and directing the force of MLA Canada’s Fraser Valley office, established in 2018.
We dive into the ins and outs of the region’s real estate markets with MLA Canada Fraser Valley’s Managing Director, Brittany Reimer, to uncover more about what she has seen so far and expects for the next few years to come.
Brittany, tell me about how you got started in real estate and your experiences as Managing Director for MLA Fraser Valley?
Shortly after my retirement as a member of Canada’s National Swim Team, I jumped very quickly into real estate. I've always known that real estate was a passion of mine and, although I had no family or friend ties to the industry, I quickly got my foot in the door and landed my first job with one of BC’s largest developers.
My first job was with Polygon homes and my role there was entry-level - Sales Assistant. From there, I worked with them for about a year and quickly knew that being on the administration side of things wasn't necessarily where I felt my strengths were.
I moved into a sales role with Onni Group, which led me to MAC. Back in 2008, there was what we call our MAC bulk sale. We had gone through a major recession and the market had crashed. Onni was one of the first to kick off a bulk sale of all the remaining inventory that they had. So, I was working on the Onni team at the time but very closely became connected with MAC, who was managing the marketing and sales for the program. That is how I got my foot in the door with MAC, and from there had worked on tons of projects for the MAC portfolio, before moving on to the resale side of the business.
From there I quickly moved up the ladder at MAC Marketing. I worked for BLVD marketing for a number of years as well, and in 2012, like many leaders in our space on the development side, I had a burning desire to start my own resale business. I grew that business over the course of a couple of years, jumping right into the top 1% of Realtors in the Valley.
My passion for real estate has always been very much driven towards the Fraser Valley. I grew up in the Valley – it's my home. So, when MAC and BLVD amalgamated in 2016 the opportunity for me to be involved with the team was presented, and the opportunity to be able to bring some incredible buying experiences to the Fraser Valley, which I felt didn't exist at that time. This was one of the reasons that really drove me to make the transition back into project sales. Our office in the Valley has been open now since late 2018 and, as you know, growing very quickly.
As you mentioned, you are passionate about selling in the Fraser Valley and your expertise is grounded in that market. So, thinking about today, what can you tell us about any of the challenges that the region is facing due to its immense growth as we've been reporting over the last year?
We all know that affordability has always been a big driving factor for buyers looking to move East to the Valley. That said, I really feel like the sentiment around living in the Fraser Valley has shifted, particularly in the last 24 months. We’re finding that buyers are searching the region for more space to grow family and work from home. They want the yard, they want the privacy, and so today I feel like the Fraser Valley and some of the sub-communities within the Valley have to offer now is more than just affordability. There are now lifestyle factors that are contributing too.
Over the last 12 months, the pace of sales and the price appreciation that we've seen has pushed some of the local buyers that are looking to move even further East to other submarkets such as Abbotsford, Mission, and Chilliwack. We're already in a very under-supplied market, but the demand that the Fraser Valley has experienced over the past 12 months has really outpaced how fast developers can build and how fast inventory is coming to market. So, that is a concern for some of the short and medium-term pricing. But I do feel optimistic for the long-term outlook now that the Fraser Valley is growing. My hope and what I suspect is that more infrastructure will continue to be focused and allocated to the Fraser Valley to support some of the demand that we're seeing.
Based on the immense amount of growth and some of the challenges that you listed, what do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for local developers over the next few years in the Fraser Valley?
There are a lot of untapped markets and sub-areas in the Fraser Valley, including Fleetwood, Guilford, and Tynehead. In Aldergrove and Mission, we're already seeing larger developers, such as Polygon, committing to the area, which is going to increase the population. In Abbottsford and Chilliwack, I think we'll continue to see growth and demand from end-users but also investors that see a lot of opportunity for rental in the areas.
The corridor along Fraser Highway between Surrey, Langley, and Fleetwood, which will have the Skytrain over the next 10 to 15 years will be an area of opportunity and be very similar to what we see in Greater Vancouver. We know that the population and growth around transit stations have proven to attract higher values long-term. That's clearly evident with the West Coast Express and the Canada lines through Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Vancouver. I believe that we will continue to see that type of trend in the future. It's a matter of getting the infrastructure there and the population will follow.
What can potential buyers in the Fraser Valley expect over the short-term and long-term future within the Fraser Valley?
The one thing we do know is that the single-family market saw significant appreciation over the last 12 months - almost 20% on pricing. So, we know that many will continue to look towards multifamily projects to meet the needs of their families. I suspect that some of the most desirable housing over the next five years will include those that are multifamily living like townhomes, ideally with the opportunity for some type of rental income. We are seeing townhouses now that have a lower floor with a one-bedroom suite, and the beauty with this is it's a supplement to a mortgage helper for those that are getting into the market. It also provides rental housing for those that live in the community, and the renters that are going to be renting this housing are people that are locals – they are part of the community and live and work there. There's a lot of benefit to that.
I think the condo market is going to continue to run strong over the next couple of years here as well, whether it's for investors or first-time buyers to get their foot in the door and build some equity for themselves. We see such a strong rental demand in almost every area in the Fraser Valley, specifically rental Condos. I think that this is a trend that we will continue to see, whether you're planning on living in the property yourself and a first-time buyer, or maybe you live in another submarket and looking to get some roots into the market and start to see some price appreciation. We see this a lot in Abbottsford, where somebody is buying into a home and they're getting their foot in the door to start building some appreciation on an asset. They invest in Abbottsford, such as a condo, but maybe they live in Kitsilano and they're not ready to make that move out so far East yet, but they are wanting to make sure that they have a stake in the market.
Are you suggesting that the Fraser Valley could be a great place for investors right now?
Absolutely. I think the Fraser Valley has always presented itself as a great place for investors. What's interesting with the Valley is there are two kinds of investors - whether they're true investors looking for a secondary residence, or they are first-time buyers that are thinking long-term investment; maybe they buy it and then they rent it out in the future. There's no doubt that this trend is something that we see often in our programs out here.
So, since you've been in the Fraser Valley for a while, tell me some of your favorite neighbourhoods, restaurants, cafés, or amenities in the Fraser Valley that anybody looking to shop in that area should become aware of?
I'm basically born and raised in the Fraser Valley. There are so many incredible local restaurants and vendors in the area I feel like I could talk forever about this. I have young children myself, so we love to explore everything the Fraser Valley has to offer. To be quite honest, COVID gave us an amazing opportunity to be able to get out and explore locally.
The Fort Langley Saba Café is amazing, along with Wendel’s Bookstore – those are a couple of my favourite spots. There’s an incredible park called William’s park, off Hwy 1 and 232nd, which is a great spot to go with families. It’s got beautiful trees and it feels like the Stanley Park of the Fraser Valley, with access down to Salmon River so the kids can go and play in the River, which is really cool because we don't get a lot of water opportunities between Langley and Abbottsford.
Willowbrook offers a ton of little restaurants. Haven Kitchen and Bar, which just recently opened by a local group of realtors. They’re doing really well, despite opening around the week of the first announcement regarding covid. They were struggling at first to just make it all come together but it has been thriving and the community has wrapped around them, and that has been so great to see.
There's a great little spot in downtown Langley called PINKAVO café. There was a really cool story that came with that, too. That restaurant actually opened by way of a community grant that you could apply for. I believe they ended up getting $10,000 from the Township of Langley to open up this restaurant and they did an incredible job and it's doing really well. For the adults in the neighbourhood, many people don't know, but Langley actually does offer a ton of local wineries. We've got Township 7 and Chabberton Estate Winery which has a very cute little Bistro in the back. Backyard Vineyards and Glass House Estate Winery if you're looking to do a wine tour - it's a great spot to go.
There are so many cute little cafés and within White Rock. Islands café is a great coffee house - I wish they could open them in every area of the Fraser Valley because they are bringing a lot of Hawaiian culture. You go there you feel like you’re on vacation! There are too many spots to name, and it’s what people are craving and wanting now in their communities.
Downtown Abbottsford, if you haven't been, has changed a lot over the last five years. There’s an awesome bakery called Duft and Co. and a great little ice cream place called Banter Ice Cream that the kids absolutely love to go to. There are so many great places, I mean I just could go on forever about how many awesome local spots there are.
What's in the pipeline for MLA Canada in the Fraser Valley that you can share?
We expect to continue to see a surge of buyers looking for homes and our MLA Fraser Valley office anticipates playing a very active role in the envisioning and conceptualization for over 1000 homes, which we anticipate coming to market within the next 24 months between Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, and White Rock.
That said, we're always excited to engage with new development partners in the local market and we're also really looking forward to seeing some new active programs coming further East into Mission and Chilliwack in the near future, especially as many of our existing or current development partners see opportunities in some of these other submarkets. We're excited to have our hands on quite a few incredible projects on the go right now and in the planning stage. That is changing on a quarterly basis as well, so definitely continue to track our website for updates.
How can one continue to get informed on the real estate market in the Fraser Valley?
The best way to be informed would be to register on our MLA Canada website and subscribe to our Newswire. We have daily updates sent directly to your inbox with all the hottest topics, news on what's going on in the real estate market, in addition to all of our project updates and anything new that we have coming down the pipeline both for the Fraser Valley and in the Greater Vancouver area. You can also follow us on social media for live updates on real estate news and market trends across the Lower Mainland.