B.C. October real estate sales highest for the month in six years

By Derrick Penner, Vancouver SunNovember 17, 2009

VANCOUVER In aggregate, British Columbians racked up the highest number of home sales for the month of October since 2003, the B.C. Real Estate Association reported Tuesday, but in the details it still looks more like a South Coast story.

Realtors cleared 8,624 sales through the Multiple Listing Service in October, up 115 per cent from the same month a year ago, but 44 per cent of all those sales, 3,767, were in the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s territory.

Those 3,767 sales in what is primarily Metro Vancouver, represented a 171-per-cent increase from October 2008.

It was a similar situation in the Fraser Valley, where 1,583 sales in October represented a 120-per-cent increase from the same month a year ago.

In Victoria, the 691 sales recorded in October was a 135-per-cent advance from October 2008, and the board that covers Kelowna saw 597 sales, or a 109-per-cent increase.

Certainly the recession is impacting the resource-oriented communities much harder than the large urban centres that have a much larger service component [to their economies], Cameron Muir, the B.C. Real Estate Association’s chief economist, said in an interview.

However, Muir said many of B.C.’s interior markets rely heavily on the activity of recreational-property purchasers, most of whom stayed out of the market during last winters collapse in sales and have yet to return.

Alluding to his forecast released last week, and the estimates of other forecasters, Muir said he expects that South Coast markets will not maintain the pace of sales they’ve seen over the past several months.

Sales in those markets Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Victoria are largely driven by the pent-up demand of buyers who sat out last fall and are now being drawn in by current low interest rates.

Muir said that demand that built up is quickly being satisfied, and as prices in the Lower Mainland and Victoria rise, that will help to squeeze more buyers out of the market later in 2010 and act to slow sales.

On a provincial basis, the average MLS home price was $493,328 in October, up 17 per cent from the same month a year ago.

In Metro Vancouver, the average MLS home price was up 15 per cent to $638,948 compared with October 2008. In the Fraser Valley, average prices are up almost eight per cent to $445,637 compared with the same month a year ago.

If you look at sales-to-active-listing ratios we see in the Fraser Valley, Greater Vancouver and Victoria, they’re all over 20 per cent, Muir said. That is typically buyers-market territory, which indicates some upward pressure on prices.

Other markets, however, are below that threshold and in more balanced conditions with more stable pricing.

In Kamloops, for instance, October’s average home price of $297,673 was still almost three per cent below the average in the same month a year ago.

That pent-up demand [in the Lower Mainland] is finite, meaning it is likely to be expended in the coming months, Muir said. And home sales, on the coast anyway, will drift down to levels more representative of the stat of our economy.