Real (Estate) Talk with Ryan Berlin - February 2019

The market re-balancing continues

While the housing market in Greater Vancouver continues to normalize and price softness lingers for now, interest rates remain broadly supportive of overall market activity and buyers are finding up-size opportunities.

Compared to the previous month, January’s benchmark prices in the Lower Mainland (covering both the Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley board areas) fell for all three product types, at -1.2% for condos and -1.5% for townhomes and detached homes. For detached properties, this marked the 8 th consecutive monthly drop, with current benchmark detached prices 9% off their May 2018 peak; similarly, benchmark townhome and condo prices have fallen for 7 consecutive months, for a cumulative drop of 6% and 8%, respectively. As a consequence of these changes, the benchmark detached home price across the region is back at its May 2017 level, while those of townhomes and condos are back to January 2018 levels.

While prices for all homes have generally followed the same trajectory (that is, downward most recently), the varying pace of change in benchmark prices across product types has created considerable opportunity for households looking to up-size. For example, the detached-to-townhome ratio of benchmark prices currently sits at 1.83, meaning the regional benchmark price of a detached home is 83% higher than that of a townhome. Having said this, the ratio is down 22% from May 2016’s peak of 2.31, and is 2% below the past 15-year average (of 1.87).

Similarly, the ratio of townhome-to-condo benchmark prices is currently only 1.05—6% below the long-run average of 1.12 (but recently up from a low that reached 1.03 in March 2018.)

As noted, these price trends have been in response to sluggish sales combined with elevated inventory: compared to one year ago, total listings are up 46%—though they are still 4% below the past-decade January average.

On a year-over-year basis, total sales were down 38% in January 2019, the 12th consecutive month that year-over-year sales were lower. Numerically-speaking, this trend can only continue for so long before the region is registering few to no sales each month; as this is an extremely unlikely landing spot for the market, we expect the rate of year-over-year sales declines to abate within the next couple of months. All else being equal this would stabilize inventory levels, meaning prices could stop falling around the same time the snow does, too.

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