METRO VANCOUVER – The housing market continues to cool off in the Lower Mainland, as the number of home sales dropped to 10-year lows in the Vancouver area and average sale prices dipped across the region.
Year-over-year sales decreased nearly 29 per cent, from 2,360 home sales in November 2011 to 1,686 last month, according to the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board’s monthly report. The 28.6-per-cent decline includes detached and attached homes, as well as condominiums.
Sellers are now more likely to remove their homes from the market than drop their asking price, and buyers are expecting even lower prices, said board president Eugen Klein, leading to a stalemate.
“There’s a tug of war happening between buyers and sellers.”
November typically marks a slowdown in new listings and homeowners prefer to move in the spring, he said. But both sales and new listings are below the 10-year November averages of 2,420 and 2,758, respectively.
The benchmark price for a home in Greater Vancouver — which includes the Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island and Whistler — also fell to $596,900, a 4.5-per-cent drop since this year’s peak of $625,100 in May, and down 1.7 per cent compared to last November.
Those numbers represent a moderation of the formerly overheated housing market in Vancouver, but not a full-on correction to record-setting home prices in recent years, Klein said. The days of $100,000 monthly price increases in Richmond or the west end or West Vancouver might be over, but “after all of that, where a $400,000 house became a $900,000 house, we’re seeing a price adjustment of just over six per cent. We’re not going back to the (original) level.”
Of the nearly 15,000 homes for sale in the region, almost half were listed at less than $600,000. Last month, 273 of 1,686 home sales last month went for more than $1 million.
Klein pointed to the introduction by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty of new mortgage rules this summer as part of the reason for the slowdown: lenders can now only provide home equity loans of up to 80 per cent of the home value, down from 85 per cent, and a reduced amortization period from 30 to 25 years, which increases monthly mortgage payments.
The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, which includes Surrey, also reported a 19-per-cent year-over-year decline in home sales.
Board president Scott Olson agreed home buyers are adjusting their price range. But he pointed out that some areas outside Vancouver — such as Abbotsford, Delta, central Surrey and Cloverdale — have seen the benchmark price for a detached home go up.
The region’s “bread-and-butter buyers” — young families buying homes in the $400,000 range — are still in the market.
“We could argue we’re actually saying thank you to Minister Flaherty for his rule changes,” Olson said. “We’re seeing a net migration in from people closer to the city because we’re more affordable.”
However, the average price has decreased 6.6 per cent since last year — from $473,550 to $442,200 — and the number of new listings on the board’s Multiple Listing Service has dropped 11 per cent compared to November 2011 and 32 per cent compared to last month, which the report described as the “slowest new listings in a decade.”
The benchmark price for a townhouse in the Fraser Valley dropped 1.5 per cent to $298,900, while the same for apartments increased 2.6 per cent to $202,800.
On average, it takes 59 days to sell a home in the area, up five days from November 2011. Townhouses were on the market 70 days and apartments 74 days, according to the real estate board.
Source: The Vancouver Sun