Few foreclosures reflect Metro Vancouver homeowner tenacity

Most distressed sales believed linked to family issues, not sales and price declines

Bargain hunters hoping Metro Vancouver’s dramatic housing downturn would churn up a wave of foreclosures are facing disappointment.

Housing sales in Greater Vancouver plunged 46 per cent in March from the same period a year earlier to the lowest level in 33 years and were down 26.6 per cent in the Fraser Valley to a six-year low.

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Benchmark prices have been falling month-over-month for nearly two years, and most homes that are selling are going for less than their assessed value.

Yet foreclosures and court-ordered sales represent a minuscule fraction of the listings in the struggling market, according to a Vancouver real estate agent who has been tracking the action.

Across Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, there were only 83 active distressed listings in March, while total new listings on the Multiple Listing Service during the month reached 19,785 homes.

Not all distressed listings are lender foreclosures, explained Elena Yelizarov, a real estate adviser with Oakwyn Realty.

For example, she said, a home sale could be court-ordered due to a family breakdown or an estate settlement.

In a number of cases only half of the equity in the property is offered for sale, which Yelizarov said could signal a divorce settlement.

The city of Vancouver, which has Canada’s highest home prices, had the greatest number of distressed listings in 2019’s first quarter across the Metro Vancouver region, but the numbers are small.

“Basically we have seen a slight increase from 11 listings last spring to 13 listings this spring,” Yelizarov said. “The highest number was in the final quarter of 2018, with 14 active listings.”

The distressed listings range from a $339,000 East Vancouver condo to a spacious Shaughnessy estate with an asking price of $5.1 million. Some homes sold for far less than the listing price, but most sold for more.

The most dramatic example of the former is a century-old, six-bedroom detached house on Blenheim Street in Vancouver that was listed at $3.1 million but sold in a court-ordered sale February 8 for $1.8 million. It had been assessed on July 1 of last year at $2.47 million.

“With court-ordered sales, the original owner has up to a year to redeem the home, so these do take time to come together,” Yelizarov noted.

In other cases, condominiums and townhouses sold above what they were listed at in a court-ordered sale. For example, a three-bedroom townhouse on Senlac Street in East Vancouver sold on February 28 for $810,000, $101,000 above its list price. 

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