Now, the population has spiked at 10,000 to 20,000 because of people who fled the fire, not to mention hundreds of repair and restoration workers from the state and federal agencies and from the Pacific Gas and Electric utility. That has pushed the population of the city – an hour and 45 minutes north of Sacramento on California Route 99 – about what was expected two decades from now.
“The growth happened overnight. It's kind of amazing, "Orme said." It feels like a city within a city. "
The result has been to many businesses, and a windfall for homeowners ready to move on, but a costly and vexing challenge for and over government, people and people who were the old, pre-fire Chico.
Housing already had been tight before the Camp Fire drove thousands of residents out of the Sierra Nevada foothills and into communities and other communities. sales have doubled and prices jumped 21 percent in December, compared to the same month in 2017.
Earlier this month, Realtor.com designated the hottest market in the country, based on the number of listings online and the short length of time homes on the market, an average of 37 days in December.
"This is more like what you would see in the urban areas on the coast," said Dan Jacuzzi, CEO of a chain of more than 60 Real estate offices in Northern California and Northern Nevada. “We have seen a market in the Central Valley with 17 and 20 offers on a single listing and homes selling for $ 50,000 over the initial asking price and above.”
After almost 40 years in real estate in the region, Jacuzzi said , Cindy Cosby, a realtor who has mostly represented buyers in Chico, said the spike in prices has been due to owners pushing up prices to buyers bidding the price up.
There has been a sign that price inflation has slowed down. A three-bedroom fixer-upper on La Mesa Drive in the northeast part of the city went for $ 230,000 right after the fire, or about $ 228 a square foot. At mid-December, a similar house on the same street went for $ 360,000 or $ 312 a square foot, according to Cosby. That home was in slightly better condition, but the higher price was mostly due to the increasing desperation of buyers to land a home, Cosby said.
Many of them already received payouts from insurance companies for their homes in Paradise, Magalia and other communities. But they are ready, or able, to wait the two to three years many have predicted it will take to rebuild. (Officials say it will take long to repair water and septic systems, review plans and complete construction in an over-burdened market.) With cash to spend, and in temporary quarters where they may not be able to remain for the long term,
Cosby, who works for Century 21, because some sellers are uncomfortable with their windfalls, because they do not want to appear to profit from the misfortune of others. She called the market "overpriced" and said it was hard to see buyers left on the sidelines for homes that would have been affordable just three months ago. "It's sad," she said. "I hate watching it."
Becky Kambourian has been living with her husband and three children in a rented Chico guesthouse since their Paradise home burned. They have hesitated to bid on a new house, with prices spiraling upward.
"Every day the prices seem to get worse," Kambourian said. "There are more people than there are places to live, so I think it's going to take a while to out."
Jacuzzi, the real estate veteran, agreed, saying: "We feel like the increases will slow but we aren't anticipating a pullback in price, because the demand is not going to go away quickly. And the ability to replace many houses is a multi-year process. ”
The availability of willing, cash-rich buyers also has some owners to push out renters, in order to sell. That's putting additional pressure on an already tight rental market.
With a population of at least 11 percent, and hundreds of recovery workers still in town, businesses have reacted the benefits.
The Tin Roof Bakery and Cafe saw business jump 25 percent in December, compared to a year prior, said Jordan Vogel, the general manager.
Danny Solis, owner of Danny's barbershop downtown, said he has seen receipts climb about 20 percent, with his eight barbers taking on as many as 100 new clients a week, many of them utility workers with the massive rebuilding of Paradise's electrical grid.
Cocodine Thai Cuisine sits just off the highway that most people use to travel between Chico and Paradise, 12 miles away. It has seen business jumps as much as 30 percent, said owner Terry Kulimakin. "People have insurance money to spend and do not like cooking, with all the other stressed," Kulimakin said, "so they come out to eat."
Booming commerce would seem to be good for Chico's finances. But it 's not that simple
The destruction of most of Paradise has the overall property tax base for Butte County, and state law requires that communities such as disaster are equally discharged. So Chico's property tax revenue will decline by an estimated $ 900,000 in the first year.