Who owns what real estate, where and why?

Published on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 by Mike Kent, realtor

Read More News

Real estate ownership in Blaine and Birch Bay tends to shift like the tide. If the loonie rises, so do the number of Canadian owners who show up as our next-door neighbors. Formally referred to as “foreign nationals,” Canadian non-resident owners have a particular attraction to Birch Bay due to its recreational nature. 

The reason is quite simple: finding a beachfront house in the lower mainland would require an NHL star’s salary to purchase 
and, frankly, where are there miles of walkable tidelands with the exception of Crescent Beach or Ambleside on the North Shore? Google real estate in either locale and you’ll appreciate what brings so many buyers south in search of their second home address.

So just how many Canadians own property in Blaine and Birch Bay today with the loonie hovering around .90 cents U.S.? As of March 1, of 13,580 parcels in Blaine and Birch Bay, 1,870 have owners with a Canadian address on the title. In contrast, in the Blaine city limits, the numbers plunge, with only 192 of the 3,516 parcels (or 5 percent) being Canadian owned. However, 13 percent of all properties in the 98230 zip code are owned and have their property taxes paid by Canadians. 

If our currencies reach par for an extended period of time, count on the percentage of Canadian owners to rise. At one time, folks north of the border owned nearly 40 percent of Birch Bay properties (remember the mid-1960s when a Canadian dollar was worth $1.10 U.S. and developers were clamoring to lure people from Vancouver and Calgary to neighborhoods like Birch Bay Village?). If the loonie falls, so do the ownership numbers. 

It is difficult to find data on how many households have dual citizens or a Canadian spouse but rest assured they would be very high because of our proximity to the Peace Arch. 

One overlooked but significant benefit of strong “foreign national” land ownership is that those owners are taxed on property just like permanent U.S. residents. They pay the same property tax and state excise tax that we all pay to support schools and services but for the most part receive few of the services we enjoy and expect. Schools are the most significant recipient of these funds, so if you support schools it pays to encourage your Canadian neighbor to convince more of their fellow citizens to move south.

While we’re on statistics, the average household income in 98230 is $67,858 and the average household size is 2.27 people. 

The median value of a home is $235,300 and 80 percent of homes are owner occupied. Those homes that are rented are charging a median of $1,014 per month while the median mortgage paid in Blaine/Birch Bay is $1,158 per month, which means it is typically cheaper to own in our community than to rent if you factor in the savings that the mortgage interest tax deduction provides. 

Married residents comprise 66 percent of the citizens in 98230, 32 percent have a high school diploma and 39 percent have at least some college education. The private sector drives our local economy with 73 percent of employees working for private firms and 4 percent self-employed. The balance is in government jobs. 

People will commute a considerable distance to enjoy our quality of life and lower housing cost, with 47 percent of residents commuting 15 to 29 minutes to get to work and 23 percent commuting 30 to 59 minutes. 

Next month I will examine our crime rates as compared to other parts of the state and the nation and provide some useful tips on protecting your real estate investment from theft, lawsuits and other losses, including what some call legal theft: “adverse possession.” Think that encroachment on your property is harmless? Think again, as many properties in Blaine and Birch Bay have poorly defined property lines and what you assume is yours may no longer be. 

The statistics quoted in this article were provided through a collaborative effort and research of census data, county property records and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.