Real estate prices in the Fraser Valley have jumped significantly over the last year, making it a challenge to break into the market. 

"It's a very difficult market for first-time home buyers," said Leo Ronse, a seasoned realtor with over two decades of experience in the Langley area.

"This is an ugly market," said Ronse, one where prices are high, inventory is low and multiple offers are common practice.

According to the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. April saw the highest sales the region has experienced in the last 10 months. 

The biggest price increases were for townhouses and apartments, the prices for those increased nearly 30 per cent since last year and over 3 per cent since last month. 

So, we took a look at what you can buy in Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack if you have $250,000 and $500,000. 

Langley​

In Langley, a quarter million dollars will score you a decent apartment.

That's if you snag it in time.

Langley House for 250K

An apartment in the City of Langley sold for $255,000 after it spent 12 days on the market. (MLS)

  • Asking price: $248, 800 | Sale price: $255,000
  • 731 sq.ft. condo, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom

This apartment on 201A Street was in the market for 12 days and sold with multiple offers, said realtor Jeremy Sutton, who sold the place to a first-time home buyer.

Even if you doubled your money and had a budget of half a million dollars, you'd be hard pressed to find a single detached home in Langley for that price.

Langley Aldergrove House for 500K

A single family house sold for $400,000 in Aldergrove.

  • List price: $399,900 | Sale price: $400,000
  • 1,742 sq.ft. single family house, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

"You're not going to find a house for $500,000 and if you do, they'll be in less than stellar neighbourhoods and will be in deplorable conditions," said Ronse.

A nice three bedroom, two bathroom townhouse goes for $500,000 in Langley.

Langley House Listing for 500K

This townhouse in Willoughby Heights in Langley sold for $30,100 over asking price. (MLS)

  • List price: $469,900 | Sale price: $500,000
  • 1,550 square feet townhouse, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

"I'm not saying this is affordable, but it is an area that is a little better than the Vancouvers, Richmonds and the Burnabys," said Ted Schaffer, the mayor of the city of Langley. 

Schaffer believes townhouses are the new reality for young families. 

"We are looking at it as a place families can go, I think there are seven townhouse projects out of the 15 or 17 which are on the books right now," said Schaffer. 

But for Sean Kane a townhouse doesn't cut it. 

"They're not really that big enough I find for three kids and two adults," he said. 

Kane has been looking in Langley for a few months and with his budget of $400,000, he's had no luck. 

"It's frustrating," he said, "pretty much anything on MLS is sold or taken." 

Once you find something, it's a race to put an offer in, he said.  

"You don't even know if you're going to like it yet, you don't have time to compare it to other things," he said. 

Realtor Michael O'Grady knows the pain all to well. 

"We are having a lot of trouble finding places for clients," he said, adding that inventory is low in Langley because of the commute time to Annacis Island, Delta and Vancouver.

"People have decided that Aldergrove isn't that bad of a drive, and it has pushed out to Abbotsford now," he said.

Abbotsford

But even in Abbotsford buying a house for less than $500,000 is unlikely.

"They aren't going to be a homebuyer, they are going to be a townhome buyer," said Kevin Rolland, a realtor based out of Abbotsford.

"Townhouses are selling up into the $500,000's now. If I told someone that a year ago, they would've thought I was crazy," he said.

Abbotsford West townhouse sold for $529,900

This townhouse in Abbotsford West sold for $529,900. (MLS)

  • List price: $524,900 | Sale price: $529,900
  • 1,762 square foot brand-new townhouse, 3 bedrooms 4 baths

Rolland said Abbotsford is now seen as a good investment. 

"A lot of people are buying investment condos because rents are so high," he said and with less than $250,000 you can purchase an 805 square foot apartment. 

Abbotsford listing 250,000 condo

This apartment in Central Abbotsford sold for $247,250. (MLS)

  • List price: $235,500 | Sale price: $247,250
  • 805 sq. ft apartment, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths

The vacancy rates in Abbotsford - Mission are the lowest in the country at 0.5 per cent

Even a rancher home is advertised as an investment property, with a note that the family renting it for $1,700 a month would like to stay. 

Abbotsford Real Estate Rancher for 520,000

This rancher in East Abbotsford was advertised as an investment, with the request that the family who is renting it for $1,700 a month would like to stay. (MLS)

  • List price: $525,800 | Sale price: $520,000
  • 930 square foot rancher, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath

Rolland said if people are looking to buy a nice house they'll have to head to Chilliwack.

Chilliwack​

This is where $500,000 will buy you a house. 

On the Sardis side, options range from a B.C. box house or a really nice townhouse. 

On the Chilliwack side, $500,000 dollars will get you a bigger house. 

Chilliwack house for 500,000

This four bedroom bungalow sold in Chilliwack for under $500,000. (MLS)

  • List price: $449,300 | Sale price: $482,000
  • 1,837 bungalow in Chilliwack, 4 bedroom, 2 bath

The more affordable option — $250,000 — will land you an apartment on the Sardis side or a single level townhouse or teardown in Chilliwack. 

Sardis Townhouse 250,000

This penthouse condo in Sardis sold for $250,000. (MLS)

  • List price: $249,900 | Sale price: $250,000
  • 1,093 sqare feet apartment in Sardis, 2 bedroom, 2 bath
Chilliwack townhouse sold for $245,000

This two storey framewood townhouse in Chilliwack sold for $4,900 under asking. (MLS)

  • List price: $249,900 | Sale price: $245,000
  • 1,320 square foot townhouse in Chilliwack, 3 bedroom, 1 bath

But these listings are attracting multiple offers. 

"They're asking me to door knock find properties that aren't on the market so they are not competing against other people," said realtor Aaron Tschritter.

"This is the first time that sales are down a little bit, not because people don't want to buy. It's just that there is nothing to buy," said Greg Nord-Leth, president of the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board.

Nord-Leth believes part of the attraction is that Chilliwack is the Langley of 10 years ago. As Langley becomes more urban, people are opting for Chilliwack, he said, where they can get more for their money and get a calmer atmosphere.

He said the foreign buyers tax has also had rippling effects on the Chilliwack housing market. 

"Foreign buyers were buying in Vancouver, Vancouver buyers were leaving and coming to Langley, and the people from Langley were coming to Chilliwack," said Nord-Leth.