High-end rental market picks up in Surrey

SURREY — Surrey’s economic boom has given many opportunities to capitalize on an emerging market, and earlier this year prompted the Real Estate Investment Network to name the city B.C.’s No. 1 spot to invest.

Among the changes brought by the boom is the rapid growth of the city’s white-collar population, which in turn has created new openings for niche entrepreneurs.

Among them is businessman Derek Peever, who has been following Surrey’s growth for years while working in the marine industry.

In 2006 he founded PeeverConn Group of Companies with then-partner Carson Conn. A year later he launched Super Suites in Surrey in “response to the emerging demand for temporary rental accommodations,” he said.

The idea was simple. Surrey’s expansion was attracting outside white-collar contractors who were flooding the area for term positions and didn’t want to slog it out in hotel rooms.

“This is [due] in part to the changing nature of the global workforce moving towards short-term, contract-based employment,” Peever said. “Many people travel from project to project to do the work as opposed to companies hiring and training local workers. Hotels are also building to suit the extended-stay market, including kitchenettes and laundry in most of their newer developments.”

Peever has over 100 properties throughout Greater Vancouver, with four specifically tailored for Super Suites in Surrey. There’s Waterstone, located in the East Clayton area, D’Corize on 104th Avenue, Pacifica on 108th Avenue and The Compass on 68th Avenue. An added benefit last year was several BC Lions staying in suites through his company at Surrey Centre, which overlooked their practice field on City Parkway.

Brian Higgins, a real estate agent for Prompton Real Estate Services Inc., who has sold properties throughout Metro Vancouver, said Surrey is undergoing a metamorphosis much like Yaletown, where he handles most of his sales today.

“The re-urbanization that is occurring in the Surrey centre is not unlike the trend that downtown Vancouver experienced in Yaletown after Expo 86,” Higgins said.

Yaletown was an industrial area up until the world’s fair, and then the city sold the land to a Hong Kong-based investor who jump-started the enclave’s redevelopment.

Higgins said Surrey’s current expansion affects every economic sector, and that white-collar workers choosing to leave Vancouver are reaping the benefits of decreased commute times, higher earning potential and easier access to civic amenities.

“Regardless of market conditions, the city of Surrey has positioned itself well for the future absorption of supply in the real estate industry,” he said.

Peever said the change is remarkable and largely unforeseen.

“Having lived in various areas of Surrey most of my life, it is unfathomable to have imagined the transformation that the Surrey City Centre has seen already since back in the days of Stardust [a roller skate rink located at Central City Arena] birthday parties. So I don’t think many of us can really even wrap our heads around what the next 20 years could hold for Surrey.”

He added the city’s real estate market is still emerging, bringing the inevitable growing pains. An abundance of condo inventory is still suppressing values in the downtown core.

“The rough tenant profile is still challenging. However, it could be another five to 10 years to really clean up, and if you wait to invest you could miss the lift,” Peever said.

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