According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), MLS home sales last month were up more than 60 per cent from January. Not surprisingly, they were down nearly 18 per cent from last February, when the market was smoking hot. Overall, the market is balanced as we move into what is traditionally the busiest part of the year.
REBGV president Rosario Setticasi summed it up saying, "Region-wide we've seen relative stability in home prices over the last six months, but it's important to do your homework and consult your realtor because pricing can vary considerably depending on the neighbourhood and property type."
Ms. Setticasi could be referring to sales activity in the East Vancouver single family housing market. Over the past few months buyers seeking affordable housing appear to have migrated from the West Side to the East Side and that's been driving house prices up.
On the street, we're seeing lots of multiple offers, particularly along the Main Street corridor with most of the action between Quebec and Fraser from East 12th to East 33rd. As a result, many of those homes are selling well above asking price.
So, we may be in a buyers market, with more supply and relatively stable prices, but in pockets of East Vancouver, the market's hot. CMHC stats show that there's only a three month supply of single family houses in East Van. I expect that this is due in part to the Vancouver Park Board's excellent initiatives to build on the work done for the 2010 Olympics to create top notch community and recreational facilities in the area.
On the West Side, prices are trending flat or slightly down so make sure you do some comparison shopping on both sides of Main. If you're looking for a starter house, check out the low end of the Kitsilano market.
On the economic front, CMHC is predicting strong fundamentals with historically low mortgage interest rates, increased employment and a steady stream of new residents moving to B.C. In response to projected income growth and subsequent home ownership demand, B.C.'s homebuilders are expected to ramp up residential construction.
That means that there'll be a lot of new housing out there trying to attract buyers which might explain some of the activity in Victoria over the past couple of weeks. After introducing a time-line for phasing out HST, and in the meantime increasing the threshold for eligibility for the HST rebate to $850,000, the B.C. government took a break from sticking it to the teachers and found some cash for a First-Time New Home Buyers' Bonus.
This is good news for new entrants to the market. It's basically a tax credit. If your net family income is less than $150,000, your bonus or tax credit is five per cent of the purchase price of a new home to a maximum of $10,000. The rebate is reduced to zero at $250,000 in net family income ($200,000 for an individual).
You can qualify when you buy or build a new home in B.C. if you and your spouse or common-law partner have never owned a primary residence anywhere in the world. You have to be eligible for the B.C. HST New Housing Rebate and you have to plan to live in the home as your principal residence.
Eligible new homes will include detached houses, semi-detached houses, duplexes, townhouses and condos [including new coop housing units], mobile homes and floating homes. This appears to be a time-limited offer. Buyers have to take possession of their new home before April 1, 2013, six weeks before the next provincial election.
Deb Abbey is a real estate agent at Royal LePage City Centre. Contatct her at abbeypartners.ca.