Vancouver Home Sales Much Chillier than Last January, But Prices Still Up

Although Vancouver home sales saw what the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver described as a “lukewarm” start to the year in terms of unit transactions, prices are still much higher than a year ago, according to board figures released in early February. January’s resale transactions were 39.5 per cent down from the busier-than-usual January 2016, and more than 11 per cent lower than December.

And even though sales are down, demand is still outstripping the available inventory, meaning that it remains a sellers’ market – for now.

“From a real estate perspective, it’s a lukewarm start to the year compared to 2016,” said Dan Morrison, REBGV president. “While we saw near record-breaking sales at this time last year, home buyers and sellers are more reluctant to engage so far in 2017.”

That said, there was a flurry of new home listings, which combined with low sales figures led the market back towards more balanced conditions. The sales-to-active listings ratio now stands at 21 per cent – the lowest the ratio has been in the region in exactly two years, since January 2015. If the ratio goes down to 20 per cent or lower for several consecutive months, that will indicate a balanced market, according to REBGV measures.

The composite benchmark price was $896,000 in January – slightly down from the previous month, but still 15.6 per cent higher than January 2016, according to the board.

Morrison added, ““Conditions within the market vary depending on property type. The townhome and condominium markets are more active than the detached market at the moment. As a result, detached home prices declined… since peaking in July while townhome and condominium prices held steady over this period.”

Sales and Listings

Greater Vancouver home sales in January were even quieter than in December 2016. Resale transactions totalled 1,523 units, which was a drop of 39.5 per cent compared with the 2,519 sales recorded in January 2016, and a fall of 11.1 per cent from the 1,714 sales in December.

The region’s home sales were also 10.3 per cent below the 10-year average for the month, with only January 2013 showing fewer sales than last month in the past five years.

Breaking the figures out by home type paints a clearer picture of market trends. There were only 444 single-family homes exchanging hands in January, which is 57.6 per cent lower than the 1,047 sales one year previously. This was also a decline of 17.9 per cent month over month, after an already-slow December.

However, it is worth noting than January sales are usually lower than the previous month, as they reflect the closure and board registration of purchases made during the holiday season.

Townhomes and other attached properties sold in January totalled 254 units, a 32.4 per cent decrease from January 2016’s 376 units, but just a 1.5 per cent drop compared with December.

Again the property type with the highest total transactions, condo sales in January totalled 825. This was a slide of 24.7 per cent compared with 1,096 condo sales in January 2016, and a 9.8 per cent fall month over month.

Whether due to New Year motivation or a fear of potentially falling home values, January saw a rush of new home listings, with 4,140 units coming onto the market last month. This is a more-than-tripling (up 215.5 per cent) of the new listings seen in December 2016, but more on par with January 2016’s new listings, at 6.5 per cent lower.

With slow January sales but lots of new inventory, current active listings as of January 2017 in Greater Vancouver now total 7,238, a 9.1 per cent increase compared with January 2016 (6,635) and a 14.1 per cent increase compared to December 2016 (6,345). That has brought the current sales-to-active listings ratio closer towards balanced market conditions at 21 per cent.

Benchmark Prices

January’s combined residential benchmark price (all property types) was $896,000 – a 0.2 per cent decrease compared with December, and a 3.7 per cent drop over the past six months, but still 15.6 per cent more than in January 2016.

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The Metro Vancouver single-family home benchmark price increased 15.8 per cent over January 2016 to $1,474,800 – a drop of 0.6 per cent compared with December. Revealing that this property type is almost entirely driving the recent composite price decline, detached houses are now priced at 6.6 per cent less than six months ago.

Demonstrating just how in-demand townhouses remain, the benchmark price of an attached home saw the biggest year-over-year rise, up 19.9 per cent to $666,500, a lift of 0.7 per cent over December. Six months ago, prices for townhomes were just 0.4 per cent higher.

Condo-apartment prices held steady, rising 15.6 per cent year over year, 0.3 per cent over the past six months and 0.4 per cent from December. The benchmark price of a Greater Vancouver condo is now $512,300.

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