At age 19, Warren Behan purchased a piece of property across the street from the house he grew up in. The transaction was his first venture into real estate in Powell River and led to a career as a realtor.
“It is a great career,” said Behan. “I still love getting up and coming to work every day.”
In what was a hot local market, 2016 was Behan’s busiest and best year, he said. So good, in fact, it placed him on Real Estate Professional magazine’s third annual list of top realtors in Canada.
“It was a very busy year; I sold some large pieces of real estate and had some bigger deals,” said Behan. “Powell River has been discovered and it’s evident that, with Vancouver being busy, some people are going to choose Powell River, and that’s continuing. We’re seeing it today.”
Behan ranked 54th on the magazine’s list of the top 100 small-market agents. Rankings were determined by the number of units sold, according to journalist Clay Jarvis, who researched and compiled the list, which states that Behan sold 110 properties last year.
“The reason we went by units sold as opposed to overall revenue generated is because of the wide variety of housing prices across the country; we wanted to keep it fair,” said Jarvis. “We figured if an agent can sell one property, that’s one thing, but if they can do something successfully 70, 80 or 100 times, then that’s worthy of recognition.”
According to Powell River Sunshine Coast Real Estate Board president Neil Frost, Behan was at the forefront of a strong real estate year in 2016.
“He’s a great realtor and Powell River has been hot,” said Frost. “He’s done a few big deals and that’s kind of pushed him up there.”
Powell River’s market is attracting approximately 50 per cent of buyers from out of town, according to Behan. Jarvis said that trend is evident in both Ontario and BC.
“You see a huge spillover effect from larger metropolitan centres into these smaller areas where people can actually afford to buy,” said Jarvis, “and you see that fairly commonly outside of Vancouver.”
Behan said there are two dominant demographic shifts from larger cities to smaller towns where he is seeing market growth.
“The first is the people who have owned their house for 30 or 40 years, have done very well and are choosing to retire or semi-retire to a place like Powell River,” said Behan.
The second demographic is younger people who have good jobs in Vancouver, but cannot afford to own where the benchmarked average price of a detached house was $1.5 million last month.
“They’re buying a $350,000 to $400,000 home in Powell River to rent out for the next 15 to 20 years, and then when they retire they’re going to have a home paid for here,” said Behan. “They’re living in the city and renting, but are actually getting a piece of real estate paid for up here and continuing with their career down there. In the last two years we’ve started to see this in a bigger way.”
Behan said he is also seeing a market in telecommuters and from people retiring out of the mill.
“As the median age is getting up there, there are several people retiring almost every month and being replaced with new, young families coming to town,” he added.
However, market demand is not being met with supply and Powell River lacks units in every category, said Behan.
“We’re lacking in building lots, lacking in single-family homes between $200,000 and $450,000 and lacking in waterfronts,” he said. “This is the lowest inventory I’ve seen in 27 years.”
Behan’s success as a top producer able to compete on a provincial and national stage highlights the robust real estate market in the region, according to Frost.
“It also speaks to Warren, an excellent realtor who has a local reputation and a provincial reputation,” said Frost, who added that Behan has also contributed to the real estate board. He has served as president, past president, vice-president and treasurer, as well as in government relations.
Behan was also a founding member of Powell River Regional Economic Development Society and a member of the Community Futures lending committee.
Behan said the first home he ever sold was for a family friend.
“It was a house I listed in Cranberry,” he said. “It was pretty exciting when it sold. They’re all a big deal, but that one was kind of special.”