Vancouver’s home buyers taking their time in August

METRO VANCOUVER – Buyers are in control of Lower Mainland housing markets, but they’re in no hurry to make decisions, August statistics released Thursday by the region’s real estate boards show.

August saw another month where sales cleared through the realtor-controlled Multiple Listing Service were dramatically down from the blistering pace of 2009 and benchmark average prices that were lower than the peak levels experienced this spring.

“I think [the market] is settling down more,” Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate in the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C., said in an interview.

“These aren’t bust numbers and housing prices are stagnant,” Somerville added. “The way we normally expect prices to get back into equilibrium when they’ve been overpriced is through a period of lower growth, not through price corrections.”

The benchmark price, an average for typical homes sold, was down almost three per cent in most of Metro Vancouver, hitting $576,597 in August compared with a peak of $593,419 in April, according to Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver figures.

Multiple Listing Service sales within the board’s region were down 36 per cent from the same month a year ago, at 2,202 units. July’s sales were 45 per cent down from of 2009’s levels.

Jake Moldowan, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said the activity of first-time buyers in particular has slowed. The group’s monthly survey of agents showed that about one-third of buyers were first timers compared with 40 per cent or more in previous months.

That, Moldowan said, is evidence of the impact that new, tighter, mortgage qualification rules introduced in April have had on the market.

Somerville said the slowing of sales reflects a generally cautious attitude about the state of the economy.

“[It is] a combination of more concern about the degree of economic recovery, mixed with the acceptance that housing markets aren’t going to be going back to where they were between 2002 and 2007,” he added.

Moldowan said the board’s member agents see “plenty of buyers out there,” but they appear satisfied to wait things out.

“We’ll look at September to see if we come back with a stronger [month],” Moldowan said. “August was mediocre. Not disastrous, much better than 2008, but not as good as our peak.”

In the Fraser Valley, sales were down 44 per cent in August to 997 units compared with 1,786 units sold last August.

The region’s benchmark average for a typical detached home dipped almost two per cent to $510,107 in August compared with $520,423 in April.

Inventory levels in both board areas remained elevated compared with last year, but saw the rate of new units being added slow.

In the Vancouver board area, total inventory sat at 15,421, which was 29 per cent higher than a year ago, but sellers added only 3,750 units during the month, which was down six per cent from July.

The Fraser Valley’s total inventory of 10,287 was almost 15-per-cent higher than last August, but the 2,092 listings added in August represented an 11-per-cent decline from July.

“In August, sellers in the Fraser Valley took as much of a break as buyers,” board president Deanna Horn said in a news release.

Source: The Vancouver Sun



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