Real (Estate) Talk with Ryan Berlin - January 2021

The rennie review is produced each month by rennie intelligence, which includes the latest real estate data for Vancouver Region's housing market.

2020’s unexpected path leaves 2021 poised for growth

A surfeit of hyperbole, accompanied by too many adjectives to count (most of them negative), have been used to describe the year that was 2020; as such, we’ll refrain from adding to the pile in this space. Instead, we’ll share a few observations from a housing market here in the Vancouver Region that unexpectedly twisted and turned as it progressed through the past 12 months, looked pretty “average” overall in hindsight, and is now primed for a dynamic 2021.    

In the immediate aftermath of the onset of the pandemic, MLS sales in the Vancouver Region plummeted by 54% between March and April--a time of year when sales counts are normally on the rise--which in turn yielded grim prospects for the regional housing market through the balance of 2020. Somewhat surprisingly, sales counts began to bounce back the following month, and remained robust through the subsequent 7 months despite the ongoing pandemic, its associated social restrictions, and the negative impact this had on employment and immigration. When all was said and done, the region counted 49,859 sales in the full year 2020--25% more than in 2019 and 4% higher than the previous 10-year average. Put slightly differently, our market gave the appearance of being fairly average overall in 2020.

Much of this hinged on a fall market that looked more like a typically-active spring market, with all-time highs--and near-all-time highs--in sales counts being achieved in each of September, October, November, and December. The year ended with an exclamation mark, with the 5,072 MLS sales across the Vancouver Region last month being the most in any December in the region’s history (by a whopping 16%). 

Despite the within-year turbulence, our market also looked surprisingly “normal” in hindsight when considering the mix and spatial distribution of homes sold. For example, despite buyers leaning into the detached home and townhome markets in 2020--raising the share of total sales that were in this “ground-oriented” category to 62% from 58% in 2019--the share of non-condo sales this past year was virtually the same (62%) as the past-decade average (63%). Additionally, 38% of all MLS sales in the Vancouver region in 2020 were in South of the Fraser communities, which was not significantly different from the 34% average share over the past decade.

With the recovery in employment having stalled (somewhat expectedly) in December, job growth is not likely to be the primary fuel for the region’s housing market in 2021. Other elements--including unpent demand from the first half of 2020, continued low interest rates, increased immigration, and elevated levels of household savings--have the market poised for what should be an active 2021.

Our rennie intelligence team comprises our in-house demographer, senior economist, and market analysts. Together, they empower individuals, organizations, and institutions with data-driven market insight and analysis. Experts in urban land economics, community planning, shifting demographics, and real estate trends, their strategic research supports a comprehensive advisory service offering and forms the basis of frequent reports and public presentations. Their thoughtful and objective approach truly embodies the core values of rennie.

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