- Real Estate
New Homes In Chilliwack
There are a few things you need to be aware of when considering the purchase of a new home in Chilliwack, B.C. Actually, more than a few things. New Homes are being built at an alarming rate in spite of the fact that the demand for new houses, town homes and apartments has dropped off considerably since the 'boom' in 2006/2007. That is not the only thing that has dropped off however. Even in the 'boom' houses were being built that only just met the building code and in British Columbia that does not give a purchaser any guarantee that they are buying a quality built home. Substandard work has now become the norm and the slight drop in prices in no way justifies the huge drop in workmanship.
We first began looking in Chilliwack in the spring of 2006, by the late summer of that same year we were ready to purchase a town home. Our choice was somewhat limited by the fact that we needed a home with the master on the main floor to accommodate my husband's disabilities coupled with the fact that we still had two children at home leaving age restricted complexes out of the question for us. At the time housing prices were on the rise and rising fast and there was a demand for new homes. With prices at an all time high builders came from all over the province to set their hammers to work in the 'Wack'. Old growth cedars were felled and hillsides were stripped bare.
It is my opinion that what has followed was a need for speed spurred on by incredible greed. Gone was the concept of earning a living by providing housing. Developers were gobbling up land as soon as and even before it went on the market. These parcels of land were then cut down into lots in such a manner as to get the greatest number of homes on them as was physically possible. Building contractors followed suit turning their ravenous eyes to the almighty dollar in favour of providing quality homes and cut corners at every opportunity. With the 'boom' over where one might expect that development would have slowed down somewhat, indeed in many areas it has, developers in Chilliwack are still building homes even as they clear more and more land and in spite of the fact that the houses stand empty, the lots are unsold and the market is swamped with listings. Those who bought in the 'boom' and who now need or want to sell, cannot. There are two reasons for this, one is that there is a glut of new builds on the market and secondly, they owe more on their mortgage than their home is now worth. There are those who are just walking away from it, leaving even more houses to stand empty.
With 28 units in our townhouse complex, one unit sold this past month that has been on the market for over a year and stood empty for half that time and the owners have simply up and walked away from a second unit. It is definitely not the market that is driving all the new home construction, each house little more than a replica of its extremely close neighbour.
Sub-trades that were busy during the 'boom', so busy in fact that they cared not whether they provided service due to the fact that they could work anywhere at anytime and provide goods and services that made an oxymoron out of both those words. Warped flooring, poorly installed carpets, sloppy painting, badly hung doors, moving walls, and all manner of shoddy workmanship became the new norm. As a new homeowner you feel that your discrepancy list will see you through this and that there is nothing wrong that can't be fixed. Firstly, getting someone to even look at the fact that it needs fixing is challenging, having them show up to fix it, nearly impossible. They simply don't care - they are on to their next project and your complaints and yes even pleading and threats fall on deaf ears.
I found it interesting that the contractor who developed and built our complex responded immediately when they learned that someone had written profanity on the cement wall behind our furnace. As "good Christian people" (their own self description) they found it appalling. However, they found nothing wrong with water coming in under the front door, a wall that was not attached to anything, a driveway that started crumbling almost immediately after it was poured, light fixtures that did not work, doors that did not close, flawed carpeting, unbearable noise transfer from the adjoining unit and a litany of other unfinished or substandard works. It took several attempts, much written and verbal communication and the better part of a year to have even some of it handled.
We spent over 40,000 dollars on upgrades to our unit as we found that the basics that were being supplied as far as fixtures and flooring were of a very low quality. However, we have just been involved with one of our adult children buying their first home, in Chilliwack and were absolutely shocked to learn that the standards have fallen even more. Even their real estate agent, from a neighbouring city, was shocked. In order to offset the falling home prices, building contractors are now providing even less in their new home builds. While the rest of us live with the consequences of the current economic climate without compromising our ethics and integrity the developers and building contractors in Chilliwack seemed to have abandoned those mores altogether.
Read the developers ads carefully - in their descriptions of their new projects they promise quality everything from "chef's kitchens" to crown molding. Watch for disparities between what is promised and what has been actualized. Insist, before you sign, that what is laid out in the property description exists in fact.
Here is an example of a promised kitchen:
Entertainment size kitchens
Choice of maple, cherry, and walnut wood kitchen cabinets
Designer series laminate countertops
Optional granite countertops
While the first kitchen pictured may well not fit your vision of an "Entertainment size kitchen" or "Designer fixtures" it is a far cry from the second picture which is exactly what you get. The cupboards are deep enough for a dinner plate, no more, no less and the apron for the fridge is such that the sides of the fridge are well exposed in plan that is open to both your living and dining areas. The cupboards are the cheapest money can buy as are the "designer fixtures".
The sink is exposed to the living and dining areas and there is no raised counter or back splash to prevent spills from getting on the backs of the cupboards and the advertised "hardwood" flooring. Neither are the bottom cabinets sealed at the base in either the kitchen or the bathrooms to prevent water and moisture from getting under the cabinets.
There is no "crown molding" at the ceiling even though advertised and the base boards are nothing more than low quality boards with a thin coat of white 'paint'.
When I asked the real estate agent on site about upgrading the upper cabinets to one's which had greater depth he told me that it would cost about $10,000.00 to do so. I was shocked. Less than four years ago we upgraded the kitchen and bathroom cabinets in our new build. We were given a credit of $5,000.00 by the builder and for an additional $8,000.00 we had not only an upgraded kitchen and two bathrooms but also a custom built in oak china cabinet/book shelves, with beveled glass doors backing on to our kitchen and facing the living area. For thirteen thousand dollars and some change we had a beautiful, custom, quality kitchen, a lovely piece of built in furniture and two quality bathroom cabinets. For years later I am being told that for around the same money I could switch out a measly row of upper cabinets.
Although the quality of workmanship on 'spec housing' is not historically the 'greatest' it would appear that low standards have fallen even lower in the past two years. With new builds standing empty for the better part of a year or more even while more land is cleared and more houses continue to be built developers and builders are offsetting the slow market and the drop in prices with cheaper and poorer quality building products.
Around $370,000 plus taxes now buys a basement entry home with an open floor plan that includes a kitchen plus living and dining areas; three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms complete the upper floor totaling between 1200 and 1400 sq. ft. The basements are unfinished. In some areas across Canada these prices would be considered low but when you add in the fact that Chilliwack is an hour and a half drive from Vancouver, in good traffic on a two lane highway in either direction and that access to these homes is either via a narrow winding hill or a equally narrow road through farm land the price difference becomes abundantly clear.
What I have offered here is based on my own experience and observations. It is by no means speaks to those builders who have managed to keep their ethics and integrity intact. It is meant as an editorial piece and is written without prejudice and serves only to caution prospective home buyers to use due diligence before putting pen to paper.
What might look like a less expensive house than two years ago is actually a lot less house than two years ago. The same house, with not great, but better quality finishing plus a finished basement is around the same price or less than a new build. Why? Because the market has dropped off and prices are correcting. Is that an excuse to present purchasers with lower quality homes? I think not!
The false security offered by a "new home warranty" that many, including myself, find is hardly worth the paper it is written on has left many new homeowners in Chilliwack and indeed throughout the province in a quagmire of red tape and enough frustration to pile drive one into abject apathy.