Vancouver home sales for July fall to lowest level since 2000

VANCOUVER – Metro Vancouver’s real estate market remained in a slump in July, with home sales volumes down 18.4 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Thursday that regional sales of residential property in July were the lowest since 2000 for that month, and 31.2 per cent below the 10-year July sales average.

Meanwhile, the composite benchmark price for all Metro properties, incorporating detached, attached and apartment homes, remained more or less flat. The benchmark has increased 0.6 per cent over the last 12 months, to $616,000.

The board’s president, Eugen Klein, said uncertainty about the global financial situation has put a lot of buyers in “wait and see” mode.

Klein said that in addition to tabulating home sales, the board conducts an informal monthly survey of realtors that indicates investors — those who purchase homes for speculative profit — are not as active in the market as they were a year ago.

“We are noting that [interest among] the first time homebuyers, where the mortgage rules might be a lot more pertinent, hasn’t really changed all that much. We were expecting to see some changes, and we haven’t seen it,” Klein said.

“Where we have seen some shift is a drop-off in [the volume] of the investors into residential real estate. The investor class has sort of moved away.”

That contrasts with market conditions 18 months ago when the price of detached homes was jumping $100,000 a month in some markets including Richmond.

“Markets slowed down … but we haven’t seen any real changes in price,” Klein said, suggesting that anyone who’s serious about selling their home should consider “sharpening their price” to gain an edge on rival sellers.

In total there were 2,098 residential property sales last month compared to 2,571 in July 2011.

The Fraser Valley market fared better. The valley’s real estate board said July sales volumes grew five per cent compared to July 2011, while the benchmark price rose 3.4 per cent.

Tsur Somerville, who holds a real estate foundation professorship at University of B.C., noted that the current market fall-off began around October 2011 — and said the downward trend appears to be part of a normal price cycle rather than a systemic, long-term reversal.

“Our housing prices haven’t dropped the way housing prices have dropped in much of the developed world,” Somerville said.

“This is a significant slowdown but the story isn’t any different I would say since December. I’m waiting until November-December to really see if something would really be different.”

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