Metro Vancouver home sales skyrocket 88% over last year as prices rise

There were more residential transactions across the region in 2019 than in 2018, and benchmark home price is now above $1 million again

Metro Vancouver home sales in December were a whopping 88 per cent higher than the same month one year previously, bringing the year’s total resale transactions to more than 2018’s figure, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported January 3.

Across the whole year, there were 25,351 residential sales in the region, a three per cent increase from the 24,619 sales in 2018. This could suggest that the regional real estate market slowdown of the past two years has come to a halt, at least for now. The market's stronger performance was seen entirely in the last six months of 2019, with a very slow first half being made up for by a flurry of activity from July onwards.

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However, the year’s activity was still overall below historic levels, and a 29.6 per cent decrease from the 35,993 home sales in 2017, said the board. Last year’s sales total was 20.3 per cent below the region’s 10-year full-year sales average, it reported.

“Home buyer confidence was a factor throughout the year. In the first quarter, many prospective buyers were in a holding pattern, waiting to see how prices would react to the mortgage stress test, new taxes, and other policy changes,” said Ashley Smith, REBGV president. “We didn’t see typical seasonal patterns in 2019. Demand was quieter in the normally busy spring season and it picked up in the second half of the year. Confidence started to return in the summer, and we saw above average sales in the final quarter of 2019.”

December’s strong activity

December’s unusually strong activity told a different story than that of the full year, with the month’s sales total 9.5 per cent above the 10-year average for December.

The 2,016 resale transactions reported last month were 88.1 per cent higher than December 2018, although this total was also a 19.3 per cent drop from November 2019, as the market slowed in typical fashion for the festive season (see interactive graph below).

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This could also be linked to a lack of choice in available homes. Sellers also seemed to take a holiday hiatus, with the number of new listings coming on the market seeing a drop of almost half (46.8 per cent) compared with November.

The board said the total number of homes currently listed on the MLS in Metro Vancouver is 8,603, a 16.3 per cent decrease compared with December 2018 and 20.1 per cent lower than November’s inventory level.

The region’s return to a seller’s market seems to be firming up. For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for December 2019 was 23.4 per cent, which is the third consecutive month that the ratio has been around 23 per cent. A seller’s market is defined when the ratio remains consistently above 20 per cent for several months.

However, this varies by property type, as the ratio is 15.2 per cent for detached homes (a return to a balanced market), 25.7 per cent for townhomes (close to a seller’s market after three months above 20 per cent) and 32.5 per cent for apartments (now firmly a seller’s market).

The region’s benchmark composite home price (all home types combined) was $1,001,000 in December, having dropped below the million-dollar mark for the previous six months. This price is a 3.1 per cent decrease compared with December 2018 but a slight rise of 0.7 per cent over November, and the third consecutive monthly increase.

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Sales and prices by property type and area

All home types in the region saw sales activity increase year over year but decrease month over month, while the reverse was true for benchmark prices.

There were 599 detached home sales in the region last month, which is a 72.1 per cent increase over December 2018, and a 27.4 per cent drop from November 2019. 

The board currently pegs the benchmark price for detached properties in the region at $1,423,500, a four per cent decrease from December 2018, and a 0.6 per cent lift over November 2019.

As ever, the changes vary widely in different municipalities and neighbourhoods. The areas to see the largest year-over-year detached home price declines were Vancouver West and Bowen Island, both down 6.7 per cent, followed by the Sunshine Coast, down 6.4 per cent. West Vancouver, previously the hardest hit, has seen a recent recovery in values, with the detached benchmark price now only 3.2 per cent lower than a year ago.

Sales of attached homes such as townhouses and duplexes in Metro Vancouver in December totalled 364, a leap of 92.6 per cent over December 2018, but a month-over-month decline of 19.3 per cent.

The benchmark price of an attached home in the region is now $778,400. This is a 2.4 per cent decrease from December 2018, and a 0.7 per cent rise since November 2019.

Taking a closer look at different regions, Ladner and Tsawwassen townhome prices have been hardest hit this year, with their benchmarks down 10.9 and 12.5 per cent respectively. On the flip side, Whistler townhome prices are up 9.2 per cent year over year, closely followed by Squamish.

Condo sales across the region totalled 1,053 in December, a near-doubling (up 96.8 per cent) of the condo sales recorded in December 2018, and a drop of 13.8 per cent from November 2019.

A typical apartment in Metro Vancouver is $656,700, according to the board. This is a 2.7 per cent slip from December 2018, and a 0.8 per cent increase compared with November 2019.

Condo prices fell most in West Vancouver, down 10.2 per cent year over year, according to the board, while values dropped more than six per cent in Tsawwassen, New Westminster, Burnaby East and Ladner. The only areas to see condo prices rise over the full year were Whistler and Coquitlam, said the board.

Home prices vary widely in different areas throughout the region. To get a good idea of home prices in a specific Metro Vancouver location and by property type, check the detailed MLS® Home Price Index in the full REBGV stats package.

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