Friday, July 31, 2009

Harrison Mills Real Estate


Harrison Mills, BC, is located on the north side of the Fraser River almost directly north of the City of Chilliwack and 19.5 kilometres west from the crest of the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge. A quiet rural area pressed against the Coastal Mountains and bisected by the Harrison River its way to the Fraser. This is a community steeped in the history of the First Nation people and then European settlers whose primary mode of transportation was first the rivers and then the railway. Time has transformed this area from busy lumber mills and a railway hub (read the previous post) into the quiet mainly farming community of today. There are exceptions and that is the renaissance of types north of the Harrison River Bridge in the shape of the Sandpiper Golf Resort and a number of exciting residential developments including Eagle Point, Harrison Lane at Sandpipers and the River's Reach.

I can remember my introduction to the homes at the three aforementioned developments and was taken by their good quality, size and price. Today, this area is still suffering the effects of the recession and new building has for the most part stopped. Lots are very reasonably prices starting at $99,900 and new houses are available from $379,900 as of this posting date. It is a great time to a buyer. To find out what is available go to www.realtor.ca, click Residential and type in Harrison Mills beneath the question "where do you want to look".




The Harrison Mills and Sandpiper areas are somewhat unique in their proximity to nature and their quiet and serene backdrops. The disadvantage of the area is this same remoteness, Agassiz has the closest grocery store and it is 15 minutes away. There are no schools in the immediate vicinity.

Other issues to be aware of include: (1) the floodplain requirements for construction – they have to be above the 200 year floodplain elevation; (2) domestic water in the rural portion is from well sources and should be tested by an accredited laboratory, and, (3) if a septic tank and field is involved there has to be sufficient distance from it and the well source. A good local real estate agent can help guide you through these and other concerns but they bear keeping in mind.

The next post will wrap up this area with some addition pictures of this quite marvellous area.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kilby Museum - Between the Bridges




Take a day trip to the Kilby Museum, Harrison Mills BC in the northeast corner of the Fraser Valley, and you will be glad you did. This is a fun trip for kids big and little. The museum’s 5 acre site hosts an authentic 1906 general store and portrays farm life at a time when 70% of the Canadian population lived on farms.

Take a moment to imagine the days that paddle wheelers made their way up the rivers to the former Alice Springs Hotel (now the Harrison Hotel) and a CPR railway station across the street brought passengers into the area from all corners of the country. This rail line is still very much in use but the station house is long gone. You will notice that the main floor of the Kilby Hotel and General Store is surprisingly high and connected to the ground by a big wooden ramp. Why? The height of the Store made it possible to provide a level crossing via an overpass walkway to the railway station across the street and gave some protection when the rivers were flooding.

Step into the Store and it is like stepping back into the 1920s.

For history buffs like myself there is a connection with the many fine exhibits within the Kilby Hotel and General Store. In particular I enjoyed the photographs of days long ago and the chance to ruminate about a time when the province of British Columbia had a population of 178,000 and Harrison Mills only 200. The general store portion of the building is full of a thousand things that the local people needed and a few things perhaps they didn’t. Did women really need hair nets made out of real human hair? There is also a fine First Nation exhibit of the local Sto: Lo people.

The five acres shows what farm life near the turn of the 1900s must have been like. It has a number of farm animals that freely walk the grounds to amuse and delight the kids. Be sure to check out the “Beau” the bronzed turkey and “Brother” the goat. These farm critters are introduced as babies so that they can learn to be comfortable around the museum’s guests. This is a good chance to get the kids some exposure to livestock. The on-site staff dress in period clothing and are friendly and helpful with the children.

The museum opens at 11 am and closes at 5 pm so I would suggest that you get there at the opening and pack a lunch to enjoy in the cool shade of the orchard. For a special treat let me suggest that you have a piece of pie the way that mother made it, at least mine did. Fresh bread, scones, pie (is there a better dessert than pie?) soup and jams are all made on site by “Vera”. I ordered a piece of Vera’s apple pie and was going to take a photograph of it but got distracted eating it; Mmmm. I can tell you that the apples were crisp, the pastry just right my only complaint was that it disappeared too quickly.

Now while you are there here are couple of things to do:

1. Coordinate your visit to take in one of the many special event days the Kilby has posted on their website for example August 30th is the Annual Kids Festival. Or pick a quieter mid-week day and enjoy a more relaxing visit.

2. Buy a postcard or a card to write a note to a friend or yourself about your Kilby adventure and then mail it from the Harrison Mills Post Office and community Hall located just around the corner as you head back to the highway. Ask “Kim” the postal worker there for the special commemorative Harrison Mills postmark. This is a good way to occupy the kids and a nice memento of the day.

3. Finally if the weather is warm pack a swim suit and take a dip into Harrison Bay it is just a couple of minutes past the Museum site but be careful and water safe.

4. Harrison Lake, about 10 minutes east is another option for a swim, stroll or ice cream.

5. You will probably notice that the Kilby museum is in need of some work so if you can afford it why not slip a few dollars in the donation pot located at the front door of the store. Donations of larger sizes can be tax receipted through the District of Kent 604-796-2235 located at 7170 Cheam Ave. in Agassiz.

6. For more online information about life in Canada in 1900 I refer you to this site Human Rights in Canada a historical perpective.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and feel a little better acquainted with this wonderful area, if you have a story to share I would look forward to hearing from you. In particular I am looking for local stories on Sasquatches.

The next post will talk about the real estate opportunities in the Harrison Mills area you might be surprised at the quality level and the prices.

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Stephen Mullock is a full time local area real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harrison Mills BC - Between the Bridges

The Journey Begins


Harrison Mills BC is a rural community well deserving a bit of your time and a closer look such as I did yesterday. My journey began Monday in Mission, I had just dropped off my daughters for their West Coast Express train ride into Vancouver, turning eastward onto Highway #7 (Lougheed Highway) I could not help but think about all the fine “out of the way places” there are between the bridges of Mission and Agassiz-Rosedale that my wife and I introduced our children to as they were growing up; one such place was Harrison Mills.

Harrison Mills BC History in Brief



Situated at the junction of the Harrison and Fraser River, about 14 km west of Agassiz and 36 km east of the City of Mission, Harrison Mills served the First Nation people well providing salmon runs, cedar, and forests teeming with wildlife. European settlers enjoyed the strategic river positioning serving as a stopping point for loggers, gold rush adventurers and tourist on their way via steamer to the hot springs bathhouse located at the former St. Alice Hotel circa 1886 (now the home of the Harrison Hotel). Harrison Mills, named after the many sawmills in the area, was a convenient location for passengers and freight from Chilliwack on the south side of the Fraser River to cross. Once over they could use the Canadian Pacific Railway for travel and the shipment of farm produce. A few years later a railway was built through Chilliwack causing shipping in the Harrison Mills area to decline. In 1906, the Kilby Hotel and General Store was built across from the tracks and remains a feature heritage attraction to thousands of guests each year.

Harrison Mills Today



The landscape is a mixture of valley floor agricultural farmland used for dairy, blue berries, corn, rather extensive poplar tree plantations slated someday for harvest and conversion into TP (toilet paper), the upscale Sandpiper golf resort, Harrison River, Harrison Bay and awe inspiring Coastal Mountains and wilderness. As you can see from my pictures even a hack like me with a small camera was able to find lots of good shots. I especially liked getting out and walking out over the Harrison River Bridge. While it seems that time goes a little slower here a quick look around reveals new good quality modern residential subdivisions along the banks of the Harrison River and well appointed development dotting the landscape. A future post will talk about the real estate in the area.

This is very much a working community and the waterways still figure prominently in defining this area. Booming yards extend along the rivers, sport fishing abounds and yet there is a quiet inward reflective quality to this area with the wilderness never far away.

Harrison Mills is home to one of the largest seasonal convergence of eagles in North America as they feed on salmon carcasses having finished their incredible spawning journey. One time I counted 14 eagles in one tree – a sight to see. Read Ed Pedersen fine blog about eagles in the area by clicking the eagle link above.

Harrison Mills Activities and Accommodation


In addition to boating, kayaking, swimming and other water sports Harrison Mills provides a one of the best golf resorts in the Fraser Valley in the Sandpiper Golf Resort. This 160 acre former “lumber baron” estate offers charming accommodation at Rowena’s Inn on the River, fine dining and a par 72 course of over 6500 feet. The 18 holes wind through old evergreens nestled against the backdrop of the Harrison River.

As mentioned this area is a great place for bird watchers and for others simply having an appreciation for the beauty of nature. Just having a walk is a pleasant way to spend a portion of your day.

Other accommodation includes the Kilby Campground next to the Harrison Bay, and a variety of Bed and Breakfast establishments.

With respect to winter sports Hemlock Valley Ski Resort is only a half hour away.

Harrison Mills provides year round sporting excitement. So do yourself a favour, do your kids a favour and plan a visit to Harrison Mills today.

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Stephen Mullock is a real estate associate broker with Royal LePage Wheeler Cheam Realty, telephone 604-792-0077.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chilliwack Real Estate: Part One: ALR Agricultural Land Reserve



Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in this part of the Fraser Valley. Our farms offer some of the most productive land in the province of British Columbia (BC) and are perhaps the best in Canada. I often marvel at the rich "stone free" earth that a freshly ploughed field presents.

Unfortunately such "earth riches" are not extensive. BC has in fact, a very small agricultural base from which to draw and so our farmland is a scarce and extremely valuable resource. Within the Fraser Valley the lands of Chilliwack and Agassiz/Kent area are some of the exceptional.

Protecting good quality farmland from uncontrolled urbanization was an issue that the province of British Columbia faced in the 1970s and still remains an important one today. In 1973 an "Agricultural Land Reserve" (ALR) was created, maps were drafted outlining the reserve boundaries so to restrict or control non-agricultural uses and a commission established to oversee with local government the objectives of the legislation.

The Agricultural Land Commission Act is one of the greatest planning actions ever undertaken in this province and one that residents feel very protective about. Yes, there is an exemption process, and, through the years some removal of lands has been of a questionable nature. It is around these exemptions that a diligent public should be wary of but still sensitive to planning needs of the community. All exemptions are not necessarily bad but all should be scrutinized.

People often ask whether they can subdivide a piece of agricultural land and while the act does provide a few exceptions the answer is usually 99% of the time "no" the intent of the Act being in fact the opposite that of creating larger parcels rather than smaller ones.

Another common question is can I place a second residence on the acreage and the answer is it depends. Usually it will depend upon the local government requirements and sometimes on who will be residing in the dwelling for example a farm worker.

Issues surrounding "food safety" are coming more and more into prominence and there are a number of disturbing trends in land use primarily that of converting farmlands into less agricultural supportive "mansion estates". I give you that it is a nice way to live but there are a couple of problems with this if your concern is a productive farm base, first, it drives up the price of an agricultural purchase by farmers and, second, many times there is a relatively low-productive use of the lands.

For an excellent read download "Forever Farmland" Reshaping the Agricultural Land Reserve for the 21st Century by the David Suzuki Foundation.

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Stephen Mullock is a local real estate associate broker with 29 years of experience in the Eastern Fraser Valley.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

5 Cheap Things for Chilliwack Kids to do this Summer


Well it has only been 3 weeks since the kids left school for summer holidays but I am betting that for some it seems like a lottt longer. Here are some inexpensive Chilliwack area ideas to help keep them occupied:

1. Libraries: Okay not quite as exciting as a roller coaster ride but perhaps more rewarding. Turn those kids into readers! Let's face it they will have to occupy themselves for the most part so go get them a library card and some books of their choice. The Fraser Valley Regional Library system is running a Summer Reading Program both for kids and adults. You should know that kids that read during the summer months do much better in school than if they do not keep at their reading. So, if you want your child to get ahead in school and life, a weekly visit to your local library is a must. Online resources can be found at http://www.kidssrc.ca


2. Chilliwack Posted Events: there are a total of 68 local events posted for the month of July at this address !!! Something for all ages but especially the kids. Check it out at http://www.gov.chilliwack.bc.ca/main/page.cfm?id=9&Find=7&FindYear=2009

3. Swimming: this location is blessed with two fine lakes Cultus and Harrison. Cultus is the warmer of the two and has large public beaches. On the hot days of summer there is perhaps nothing finer than packing a supper and taking the kids to the beach. Be aware there are no lifeguards so be water safe.

4. Hiking: There are a number of good hiking trails in and around Chilliwack some are 40 minute treks and others are of the half day variety. Climb one of the many mountains ringing the Valley or walk around the circumference of a lake it is fun and will grow an appreciation for the natural beauty of this area. Remember to wear sensible shoes, take water for drinking and not to litter. Let's keep BC beautiful. There are a number of good hiking clubs in the area one good site online which describes trail difficulty and location is www.chilliwacklife.com

5. Work: Growing up I was always fearful of telling my parents that I was bored because as soon as I did I would find myself with some sort of household job a lot less fun than doing nothing. Whether that was painting the fence or working in the garden it did reinforce the idea of family responsibility and usually the results were pretty satisfying. Think about having your kids do a few jobs around the property you might be amazed at how infrequent you hear the "I am bored" refrain.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chilliwack Real Estate Market – The Townhouse and Apartment Markets “Unreal Real Estate”



The Chilliwack Strata market which includes townhouses and apartments continues to struggle and it is here that the best deals are to be found by buyers. These properties tend to be very reasonably priced, in fact, the June average sale price hovered around $219,000 being based on an average offering price of $225,500.

The June sale average price represents a value 9% lower than that of a year ago. Last month there were 83 sales reported by the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB) with townhouses outselling apartments by a ratio of 3 to 1.

At the time of writing there are 548 properties for sale in the Chilliwack Board area and more to be found in developer marketed sites.

Weak apartment sales are forcing some developer marketed sites to fire sale some of their inventory making this is a great time to be an investor. Just this week I received marketing offering to sell near new 1 bedroom apartments starting at $89,900 and 2 bedroom apartments starting at $129,900.

Unreal - real estate.

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I am of course also a working real estate agent and ready to help your sale or purchase of real estate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Community Culture: Harrison Festival of the Arts takes a Step beyond




“Live, Work, Play”; the best communities offer all of these elements to its residents but Harrison Hot Springs BC takes a step beyond ramping up its "Play" part by welcoming the world.

Starting Friday, July 10, 2009 is the 31st Annual Harrison Festival. My family and I have attended this event many times, and for us, it is a "July" highlight giving us exposure an amazing array of international music, art as well as those mysterious creative juices that seem to surround such happenings. Evening performances fall into the “do not miss” category and are held in the cozy 242 seat Memorial Hall located on Esplanade Ave. just off the beach. This year’s schedule includes 8 nights of music, a literary reading and a play production from the University of the Fraser Valley. The Hall is pretty intimate which makes sure that you experience all things wonderful on a warm summer night, throbbing rhythms, an engaged audience in a small heritage hall venue.

For kids there is Children’s day which is held July 15th, 2009 11:00 am to 4pm. Jugglers, comedy and music mixed in with a lot of kid’s activities. The cost for the day is a reasonable $6.


“On the Beach” music is all but free. This year the new plaza shown in the picture I took last week will soon be the epicentre of entertainment. A button donation of $2 supports these concerts. A great deal of volunteer time goes into ensuring that the “Show goes on” and that everyone has a good time. Give them a hand by donating what you can.

For “Play” Harrison Hot Springs offers one of July's best cultural experiences. Plan to attend.

More information can be found at http://harrisonfestival.com/
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Chilliwack Real Estate Market Summary - June 2009



June 2009 showed a continued strengthening in the sale of detached (stand alone) houses with a total of 166 sales in the month as compared to 155 sales in June a year ago, making this the second month in a row where sale numbers have exceeded 2008 totals. Average prices for homes $335,000 are about 7% lower than those of 2008 and with favourable mortgage interest rates there has been a lot of activity in the entry level of housing as buyers take advantage of this win-win situation.

This market for houses, if you want to think of it as being either a Buyer's Market, Balanced Market or Seller's Market, is presently at the lower end of a Balaned Market with about 18% of house listings selling in the month. My expectation is that July will remain in Balance as well.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Community Culture: Agassiz celebrates Canada Day amongst the trees





I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Canada Day! I spent a portion of my day at the Agassiz "Canada Day Celebration in the Park" visiting with some old friends and sharing a piece of 142 birthday cake.

The weather could not have been better, sunny and bright with the enormous trees of Pioneer Park providing a dappled light over the festivities. Community is perhaps the first decision that a buyer should make and the"tone" of a place is often portrayed well by its hosted community events. Attend as many as you can. I always recommend that a thorough scouting of a community begins with events like the ones held on Canada day.


Where is Agassiz? Have a look.

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