'It's a rippling effect': Home prices and sales soar in Metro Vancouver's suburbs


The suburbs are hot.

New sales figures show the heat of the housing market isn’t confined within Vancouver’s city limits, with suburban areas showing the largest increases in average home prices over the last year, and some regions soaring by more than 45 per cent.

All 20 regions tracked by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) have seen significant price increases over the last year, according to data released Thursday, but nowhere has the surge been as sharp as in Tsawwassen. The benchmark price of a detached home in Tsawwassen is $1,257,100, REBGV reported, an increase of 48.2 per cent over the last year.

Tsawwassen is “absolutely smoking,” said Mark Wiens, a realtor with Sutton Group West Coast. “Values are skyrocketing now, activity is skyrocketing now.”

A few years ago, Wiens wouldn’t have thought of Tsawwassen, a community of about 21,000 in the southwestern corner of Delta, as a place for multimillion-dollar condos. But last month, Wiens listed a condo overlooking Tsawwassen Springs Golf Course for $3,968,000, which he expects to sell soon. The penthouse unit, described by Wiens as “the highest end of the highest end,” includes 2,757 square feet of patio space with a private putting green.

Wiens, who has listings around the Lower Mainland, said he’s seen a surge in buyer interest in Tsawwassen, especially in the last six months.

“As we start seeing some of the real estate markets slow down a little bit, in Tsawwassen there’s no sign of any slow down at all,” Wiens said. “A lot of it is from people who are so-called ‘cashing out’ in Vancouver. People are saying, ‘Hey look, I just sold my place in Vancouver and I have two months to buy a place. I’ve made this windfall, and therefore if I have to pay a little bit extra — which for someone in Tsawwassen who’s selling, it’s a large amount — it doesn’t really matter.’ “

Farther east, Fraser Valley municipalities have been hot over the last year, with average house prices climbing faster than Vancouver or the North Shore.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reported Thursday that the benchmark price of a Fraser Valley single-family detached home in May was $834,200, an increase of 38.3 per cent compared with May 2015 when it was $603,100. Sales volume increased 47.8 per cent over the same time.

Another report released Thursday from the B.C. Real Estate Association notes: “Current sales activity is at a record level, with the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack mirroring Vancouver’s breakneck pace of transactions.”

Gary Morris, managing broker with Homelife Benchmark Realty, said “it’s been an incredible year” for his South Surrey office.

“It’s a rippling effect, it starts in Vancouver and it gradually moves out. What we’re finding now is people are even being priced out of South Surrey, so anybody looking for a single-family house in South Surrey, they have to pretty much start at a million dollars. So they move to Langley now. And now Langley is getting almost priced-out,” Morris said. “That’s what we’re finding now: people are waiting in lineups to buy condominiums in Langley — I mean, who ever heard of that?” 

But the record-setting pace of property sales and price increases in Metro Vancouver could slow by next year, according to the BCREA forecast. The BCREA report predicts the average price of a detached home in Greater Vancouver will soar 30 per cent over the 2016 calendar year, but forecasts a hike of just 4.8 per cent in 2017. Similarly, the BCREA predicts the average price of detached homes in the Fraser Valley will surge 22.9 per cent in 2016, slowing to a 5.2-per-cent increase for 2017.

BCREA chief economist Cameron Muir said B.C.’s strong economic fundamentals will continue to underpin the housing market, but added: “it’s just that the record levels we’re seeing right now and the frenetic activity of homebuying is likely to wane in the coming quarters. Housing markets do ebb and flow, and my anticipation is that next year, we’re likely to see slower home-sales activity than this year, but still well above long-term averages.”

The relaxing demand expected is partly due, Muir said, to the record number of homes under construction now in Metro.

“We’re going to some edging down on the demand side, and an increase on the supply side, which should help keep prices from climbing at the kinds of rates we see today,” he said.

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