Why Vancouver’s house price increases show no signs of stopping

April 8th, 2015

Global wealth flocks to Vancouver real estate.

From Albertan black gold to globetrotting wealth to lucky heirs, big money is flocking to Vancouver real estate and fuelling huge price increases that show no sign of stopping, according to the CEO of Sotheby’s Canada.

“You’re not only going to be competing with other wealthy Canadians, you’re going to be competing with wealthy people all over the world,” Ross McCredie told Business in Vancouver.

Sotheby’s Canada, which specializes in high-end real estate, released its annual luxury homebuyer report today. The report breaks out high-end real estate buyers into three generations: baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y.

The report characterizes baby boomers as sitting on a large amount of collective wealth because they have benefited from inheritances from their parents and, especially in Vancouver, have seen their homes greatly appreciate in value over the past 25 years.

Eighty per cent of high-net-worth Canadians are over 55, and that generation now represents 30% of Canada’s population, according to Statistics Canada figures quoted in Sotheby’s report.

In turn, boomers are now helping their Gen Y children — the report defines this group as 15-35 — buy real estate. A Genworth Canada survey of first time homebuyers released April 7 found that in Vancouver, 40% had help from their parents, compared to 25% throughout Canada.

Meanwhile, Generation X (34 to 54) has largely had to fend for itself. McCredie called this cohort “generation screwed.” The high-end buyers in this group tend to be double-income professional couples, but they have been priced out of Kitsilano, Dunbar or Point Grey. They’re increasingly looking at homes in East Vancouver, where detached homes are now commonly priced well over the $1 million mark.

“In Vancouver a lot of families are taking up in East Vancouver, where 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been where they wanted to live,” McCredie said.

Wealth from outside the province’s borders continues to be attracted to Metro Vancouver, a trend McCredie said shows no sign of slowing.

That wealth is coming from other parts of Canada, in particular, from Alberta, as well as from abroad.

According to McCredie, wealthy Albertans have been attracted to Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood, as well as Vancouver Island and Kelowna, and treat those properties as vacation homes. So it’s no surprise to him that Coal Harbour has a relatively high number of vacant condos (at 23.5%, the highest vacancy rate in the City of Vancouver, according to a 2013 analysis done by Bing Thom Architects planner Andy Yan).

“A lot of people bought in Coal Harbour because they only want to spend eight or 10 weeks of the year here and a lot of them are from Calgary or Edmonton and Toronto,” McCredie said.

“They’re not working or living here. They love Vancouver and they want to spend a good chunk of time here.”

The high-end real estate markets in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all “heavily influenced” by international buyers, according to the report. Buyers from China dominate in Vancouver, from China, Russia and the Middle East in Toronto, and from the Middle East, China, Europe (especially France) in Montreal.

International students from wealthy families are also playing a role in Vancouver’s real estate market, McCredie said.

A common pattern is for the students’ parents to buy a high-end condo or even a large detached house in a wealthy neighbourhood such as Shaughnessy, with plans for the entire family to move to Vancouver in the future.

McCredie said the discontinuation of Canada’s investor immigrant program has had little impact on foreign real estate purchases in Vancouver.

That program required individuals with a minimum net worth of $1.6 million to loan Canada $800,000; it attracted 36,973 immigrants to British Columbia, two-thirds of whom came from mainland China. The program has since been changed to allow only 50 applicants a year.

The change has not deterred the flow of foreign money into Vancouver real estate because many investors are not interested in immigrating to Canada, McCredie said.

“A lot of these guys are very wealthy and they don’t want to pay Canadian taxes,” McCredie said.

Foreign money will continue to flow to Vancouver because the region has developed infrastructure and expertise to help wealthy people buy property. The recently launched official Chinese currency hub will make transactions even more convenient, McCredie said.

“The U.S. right now is a really difficult place to immigrate to or even buy a property in, whereas Canada has been much more welcoming,” McCredie said, adding that HSBC Canada, which is headquartered in Vancouver, is particularly well set-up to handle transactions from foreign buyers.

“Post 9-11, so much gets looked into in banking relationships [in the United States]. It takes a little longer to get your money from China into a Los Angeles bank.”

That means prices, especially for detached homes, which are limited in supply, will continue to rise. A recent Vancouver Savings Credit Union report predicted that by 2030, the average home price in Metro Vancouver will exceed $2.1 million.

Meanwhile, average incomes in Metro Vancouver continue to lag behind those of other major Canadian cities. Over the next three years, the City of Vancouver plans to spend $125 million from its capital budget on efforts to house both low- and middle-income people, as rising rents and tight housing supply squeeze residents.

While some observers have called for policy makers to take a look at reigning in foreign investment through higher taxes or restrictions, McCredie balked at that suggestion.

“If the government came out and prevented foreign buyers from buying real estate, it would have a huge impact in our market,” he said.

“And you would see a correction.”

Source: Jen St. Denis at Business in Vancouver with files from Frank O’Brien

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Average price for a Vancouver detached home just hit a new record

April 4th, 2015

Greater Vancouver’s housing market is on the rise.

Greater Vancouver’s housing market is booming this spring as residential sales soar and prices hit record highs, placing sellers in a strong position.

There were 4,060 single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses that sold in the region last month on the Multiple Listing Service, up 53.7 per cent from a year earlier. The number of properties that traded hands last month was 26.8 per cent above the 10-year average for March sales volume.

The average price for detached homes in Greater Vancouver touched a record $1,406,426 last month, surpassing the previous high set in February.

The real estate sector says the average price skews the picture because the most expensive resale properties are included. Industry officials point instead to the Home Price Index (HPI) – a representation of the typical house in what is portrayed as a better barometer of pricing trends in an area.

By that measure, the benchmark HPI swelled to a record $1,052,800 for detached houses in Greater Vancouver last month, up 11.2 per cent over the past year. The region includes suburbs such as Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam.

On Vancouver’s west side, the HPI rose 12.3 per cent year over year to a new high of $2,447,700 for detached properties while climbing 14.5 per cent to $1,015,200 on the east side. It marks the first time that the HPI has exceeded the million-dollar mark for detached homes on the east side, an area formerly considered to be affordable for first-time buyers.

Darcy McLeod, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said the region’s market is the most frenzied that he has seen in eight years. The boom is being fuelled by low mortgage rates and robust demand from people moving to British Columbia from overseas and other provinces, he said.

“Open houses are very busy. There are lots of buyers competing for good properties,” Mr. McLeod said in an interview Thursday. “In some neighbourhoods, properties are going for much higher prices than we would expect. There is pent-up demand and the housing inventory is lower than normal.”

Listings totalled 12,376 for all housing types last month, down 14.5 per cent from a year earlier.

The result has been a sales-to-active-listings ratio of 32.8 per cent, or the highest since March, 2007. B.C. real estate agents consider it to be a buyer’s market below 15 per cent and a seller’s market above 20 per cent in the Vancouver region, and last month’s ratio places Greater Vancouver firmly on the side of sellers.

A recent study by Andrew Yan, an urban planner with Bing Thom Architects, showed that 99 per cent of detached properties on Vancouver’s west side and 44 per cent on the city’s east side had assessed values of at least $1-million on July 1, 2014. In total, Mr. Yan found that 66 per cent of the nearly 68,600 detached properties within the City of Vancouver were assessed at $1-million or higher last July. Adjusted for inflation, only 33 per cent of Vancouver detached houses made the million-dollar club in 2009 data.

Mr. McLeod said assessed values are out of date, and multiple offers were common last month in the red-hot market. “We’re seeing a lot of buyers who are getting frustrated – I wouldn’t say panicked, but concerned,” he said.

Source: Brent Jang, The Globe and Mail

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Housing market softening everywhere but Toronto and Vancouver

April 2nd, 2015

Strong Canadian home price gains mostly a 2-city phenomenon, economist says.

The much-ballyhooed “soft landing” in real estate may already be underway, Bank of Montreal says, as booming price gains in two of Canada’s three biggest housing markets are the exception rather than the rule in the rest of the country.

While the closely watched national average price figure released on the 15th of every month by the Canadian Real Estate Association is still showing strong annual gains, “strong gains have been entirely a Toronto and Vancouver story,” BMO economist Robert Kavcic says in a research note today.

The latest CREA numbers, released last month, show the national average ticked up another six per cent in March to $431,812.

But there’s much more weakness than that headline figure would suggest.

In three-quarters of the 26 biggest metropolitan areas in Canada, average gains top out at about four per cent, and are actually contracting in many places.

“Suffice it to say that strong Canadian home price gains are now almost purely a two-city phenomenon, and the so-called soft landing (harder in Alberta and Saskatchewan) is well underway across most of the country,” Kavcic says.

Montreal, Canada’s second-largest real estate market, is one of the areas where the average house price across all categories of housing is already in decline, with the MLS HPI down 0.3 per cent in March, according to CREA.

Moncton, N.B., and Regina are also in negative territory.

House prices across all types had been trending downward in Ottawa since the spring of 2014 before an uptick last month. And average house prices in Newfoundland declined by more than eight per cent in February compared to a year ago, CREA data shows.

Although it’s still in the black on an annual basis, new data out of Calgary on Thursday shows that city’s average house price has now declined for two months in a row as the impact of cheap oil filters through the broader economy.

Source: Pete Evans, CBC News

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What are the risks in presenting an offer subject free?

March 26th, 2015

Should you make an offer subject free?

With Vancouver’s housing market racing off the charts, I found this interesting article by mortgage broker Atrina Kouroshnia who explains the risks involved in presenting an offer without subjects.

In competitive housing markets like Vancouver, buyers feel the pressure to move quickly and make seller-friendly offers, often with no subjects such as financing or inspections. In fact, the Vancouver Sun reported a few months ago that some houses and condos in the area sold within a week or two (one house sold with no subjects and for $50,000 above asking price). With low housing inventory and high demand, realtors don’t expect that competitive landscape to change any time soon.

While an offer with no subjects could certainly be more attractive to the seller, I do not advise my mortgage clients to go in without subjects due to the potential risks involved.

The only time I would say to go in without any subjects would be if you’re looking at making a cash offer and you’re paying for the value of the land so you don’t care about the inspections and don’t need time to line up financing. Here, I would also emphasize the importance of having your own representation. Some buyers think that not having their own agent puts them in a more advantageous situation, but the truth is that the sellers’ agent is contracted to represent their sellers and in some situations they can even be encouraging a bidding war and discouraging subjects.

For those who need a mortgage, having at least one subject would allow the buyers to exit the deal if they need to. For instance, if your offer was subject to a home inspection, that could buy you time to get the mortgage financing in place. The vast majority of my clients review strata documents, conduct a home inspection and secure financing before removing subjects.

When you make an offer, you usually have a grace period where you can work through removing the subjects such as reading the strata minutes, booking a home inspection and arranging for your financing. By the end of the grace period, you have to either remove subjects and move forward with the deal or you don’t remove subjects and basically the accepted offer becomes void.

Remember, a pre-approval doesn’t mean you’re 100 per cent approved for whatever home you decide to buy. For instance, if you suspect there’ll be multiple bids on a property and you make a bid that’s higher than the asking price, the home’s appraised value may fall short of your offer.

Another scenario where you might run into financing problems would be if the life expectancy of the house does not support the amortization of the loan. If the value of the property is in the land, most lenders will not finance a tear-down. Instead, they might finance a lower amount (say, 50 per cent of the land) on the property.

With competitive situations, it’s easy to get caught up in bidding wars and succumb to pressure to make offers without subjects, but I think the key is to treat it like a business transaction and maintain a clear head. Have a maximum budget you’re willing to spend and do not go above that amount.

If you try to be more competitive by offering a higher price or not placing any subjects, you could be playing with fire and wind up getting burned. Only you can determine how much risk you’re willing to take on.

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Mortgage rates come down even further during a heated spring housing market

March 18th, 2015

Battle of the bank rates kicks off heated spring housing market.

Fierce competition among banks and home buyers is driving mortgage rates down and home prices up, signalling the start of a spring housing market that many observers expect will be particularly heated this year.

Bank of Montreal unveiled a 2.79-per-cent promotion for its five-year, fixed-rate mortgage Tuesday, a special that comes with prepayment restrictions. Toronto-Dominion Bank quickly rushed to match the offering, saying it will drop the posted rate on its standard five-year mortgage to 2.79 per cent, from 3.09, starting Wednesday. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce began offering a five-year fixed mortgage earlier this month with a rate that starts at 1.99 per cent for the first 9 months before rising to an average of 2.79 per cent. It resets to [2.92] after 9 months.

BMO’s move was largely expected: It is the fourth year the bank has come out with a low teaser rate in the spring since it raised the ire of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty with a 2.99 per cent special in 2012.

A spokesperson for Finance Minister Joe Oliver declined comment on the mortgage rate cuts.

Meanwhile, Canada’s top financial regulator said he isn’t concerned about the potential impact of lower mortgage rates on the financial system.

“We constantly reinforce that it is the banks themselves that determine the risks they want to assume, risks they must subsequently measure, monitor and manage,” Jeremy Rudin, head of Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), said in a prepared speech to the International Finance Club of Montreal.

Several mortgage brokers, however, called the posted rate specials a gimmick. Most major banks have already been publicly offering rates to brokers as low as 2.74 per cent for standard five-year mortgages for the past several weeks.

“Every mortgage broker in Canada is offering at those rates,” said Toronto-based mortgage broker Ron Butler. Several banks are offering rates as low as 2.69 per cent on larger mortgages, with some brokers offering to sacrifice part of their commission to push rates as low as 2.44 per cent.

The renewed rate war among the major banks underscores the intense competition coming just as the spring housing market is set to bloom.

In the Toronto area home prices were up nearly 11 per cent in the first two weeks of March compared to the same time last year, the Toronto Real Estate Board said. In Vancouver, where homes sales have also been strong this year, the average detached house now sells for nearly $1.4 million.

Ratehub, an online mortgage rate comparison tool, has seen record traffic to its website since the Bank of Canada slashed interest rates in January, said chief marketing officer Kerri-Lynn McAlister.

“In Southwestern Ontario and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, it’s going to be one of the hottest years on record,” thanks to record low rates, Mr. Butler said.

Yet, despite strong home sales in some regions, banks have struggled to grow their new mortgage loans with housing markets cooling outside of Ontario and B.C. amid sliding oil prices.

The growth rate of residential loans has steadily slowed over the past two years to roughly 4 per cent, from 9 per cent in 2013, according to data from OSFI. BMO in particular has seen its total personal and commercial loan growth rate slow from 10.1 per cent in the first quarter of last year to 3.7 per cent this year.

That means rates could fall further. With government bond yields falling to record lows, the spread between where banks borrow and where they lend is now 1.95 percentage points compared with 1.3 per cent a year ago, when mortgages rates were higher, leaving room for more rate cuts.

Banks have also been engaged in a tug-of-war between fixed and variable rate mortgages, often getting more aggressive on fixed mortgage rates when too many borrowers flock to variable mortgages because of falling interest rates. “It skews the balance sheet for the lenders and they have no choice,” but to offer more attractive fixed rates, said Jason Henneberry, a partner at B.C.-based MortgagePal. “They need to try to fill the pipeline with more fixed-rate mortgages so they can hit the targets that they’re mandated to hit.”

Falling rates have been a gift for Ben Rodgers and his wife, first-time buyers who have spent the past two years shopping for a house in Toronto’s heated market. Earlier this month, they were the winning bidder on a $725,000 two-bedroom semi-detached home in their current neighbourhood and are now shopping around for the best mortgage rate.

“Banks were bending over backward to preapprove us for even more than we could afford. But we knew the maximum mortgage we could carry and we’re not going to be wooed by lower rates.”

Mr. Rodgers said the couple, who are in their 40s with two young children, said they long planned to use the low rates as an opportunity to pay down their mortgage faster, rather than splurge on a bigger home. “We’re going to live a pretty spartan existence for the next little while no matter how low the rates go,” he said. “We’re planning for the long-term.”

Source: Tamsin McMahon, The Globe and Mail with files from David Berman

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Vancouver ranked most liveable city in North America for 2015 (again!).

March 16th, 2015

The 2015 Quality of Living survey ranks Vancouver as the best city in North America for quality of life.

Vancouver renewed its title of fifth most liveable city in the world and first in North America, beaten only by Vienna, Zurich, Auckland and Munich. 2014’s survey, conducted by Mercer, returned the same results.

The survey looks at several factors such as personal freedom, crime, political stability and air quality, and Vancouver’s milder climate is one of the main reasons for it having a higher ranking in North America.

The survey also looks at housing but not for the cost. If that were to be taken into account, Vancouver would most certainly dip a few spots in the ranking as would many cities. Almost every city on this list also ranks as one of the most expensive to live in.

While cities in Western Europe held a majority of the rankings, there were more Canadian cities in the top 35 than those in the U.S. Behind Vancouver was Toronto (15), Ottawa (18), Montreal (24) and Calgary (33).

Top 35 cities for quality of living:

Vienna, Austria
Zurich, Switzerland
Auckland, New Zealand
Munich, Germany
Vancouver, Canada
Dusseldorf, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany
Geneva, Switzerland
Copenhagen, Denmark
Sydney, Australia
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wellington, New Zealand
Bern, Switzerland
Berlin, Germany
Toronto, Canada
Hamburg, Germany
Melbourne, Australia
Ottawa, Canada
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Stockholm, Sweden
Stuttgart, Germany
Brussels, Belgium
Perth, Australia
Montreal, Canada
Nurnberg, Germany
Singapore, Singapore
Adelaide, Australia
Paris, France
San Francisco, U.S.A.
Canberra, Australia
Helsinki, Finland
Oslo, Norway
Calgary, Canada
Boston, U.S.A
Dublin, Ireland

Source: Jill Slattery, VanCityBuzz

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Million-dollar homes the new norm in some Canadian cities

March 5th, 2015

Depending on where you live in Canada, a million-dollar home can be either a mansion or a fixer-upper.

In cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, the average cost of a detached home will set you back more than seven figures. Meanwhile, the market in Alberta has seen sales and prices drop since the collapse of oil.

In January, Deutsche Bank AG warned that homes in Canada are overvalued by 63 per cent, and that homeowners are “in serious trouble” due to rising debt levels. But the Bank of Canada’s surprise decision to cut interest rates that same month, has given some Canadians incentive to keep buying property.

Toronto

In Toronto, skyrocketing real estate prices hit a new high on Wednesday with the average price of a detached house in the city surpassing $1 million.

The average cost of a detached home hit the seven-figure mark for the first time last month, according to numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board. That price was up 8.9 per cent over last year and helped drive the overall average selling price of a Toronto home up to $596,163.

The Toronto real estate scene was a seller’s market in February, with more people buying homes and fewer people putting them up on the market. The number of homes sold went up by 11.3 per cent, despite there being 8.7 per cent fewer on the market when compared to February 2014.

“The detached (house) market has been especially tight, we are not seeing a lot of new supply come online, and certainly not a lot of listings,” said Jason Mercer, the director of market analysis at the TREB.

The average cost of a detached home in the city came in at $1,040,018 last month, while semi-detached homes went for an average of $702,305, up 4.9 per cent over last year.

The strong gains for Toronto’s detached and semi-detached markets were offset by a fall in sale prices for townhouses and condo apartments in the city. The average selling price of a townhouse fell by seven per cent, while condos sale prices dipped by 0.9 per cent.

Rising prices have pushed some prospective home buyers to eye property in the city’s suburbs, but they too have been affected by the housing boom.

Residential sale prices were up across the board in the Greater Toronto Area’s 905 area code regions. The average price of a semi-detached home surged by 11.6 per cent in the GTA, while fully detached went up 8.5 per cent, condos spiked 10.9 per cent and townhouses were up by eight per cent.

In the nearby Durham Region, the average price for a detached home is more than $467,000.

David Batori is a real estate agent who has been selling homes in the north end of the city for 25 years.

He says he has seen prices in area change drastically.

“When I started you couldn’t give a house away from $250,000 in some of these north Toronto neighbourhoods … so yes, I’m completely surprised,” he told CTV Toronto.

“Building lots are selling for north of a million dollars,” he added.

Vancouver

On the west coast, the housing market has seen record-breaking sales. The average price of a detached home in Vancouver reached almost $1.4 million last month. And last month, the city saw 3,000 properties change hands — a 60 per cent jump from January.

“There is a shortage of inventory, and also money is cheap right now – interest rates are fantastic,” said Charlie Real, a local real estate agent.

That can mean waiting as long as six months to get a winning bid on a home, as was the case for Vancouver native Neil McIver.

“We made bids on three different places, every one of them went above what the asking price was,” he said.

“I think it is a little bit irresponsible and a little bit crazy but that is the marketplace in Vancouver (that) you are dealing with,” he added.

Alberta

Meanwhile, sliding oil prices are responsible for a slowdown of the housing market in Western Canada.

Home sales have dropped by a third in Calgary, and the average price of a detached home has fallen four per cent to $462,000.

But some real estate analysts aren’t concerned by the recent dip in the province.

“The market has cooled down, (and) we are seeing fewer sales and listings come up,” said Felicia Mutheardy, a senior market analyst at the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation.

“The market is taking a step back and returning now to a more balanced terriroty,” she added.

Source: Josh Elliott and Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca

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Metro Vancouver homes push past the $1-million mark

March 4th, 2015

House prices in the Lower Mainland are showing no signs of slowing down.

Strong demand in Metro Vancouver – Canada’s hottest real estate region – has pushed typical detached home prices past the $1-million mark, with February sales well above average.

Who is purchasing the homes, and how can they afford them? Offshore buyers are stepping up, as are people capitalizing on low interest rates and renting out suites, according to Ray Harris, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

The benchmark price for a single family home in Metro Vancouver is now $1,026,300, up 9.7 per cent over February 2014, according to the real estate board.

Benchmark properties represent a typical residential home in a given market, and in Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver and North Vancouver, single-family benchmark homes now exceed $1 million.

Several other Lower Mainland municipalities are creeping up to the million-dollar mark, including Port Moody at more than $900,000, and Coquitlam at more than $800,000.

Despite the hefty increases, the real estate board says buyer and seller activity was strong in February, with home sale and listing totals beating the region’s 10-year average for the month by 20 per cent.

“It’s an active and competitive marketplace today. Buyers are motivated and homes that are priced competitively are selling at a brisk pace,” Harris said.

He attributed the growth in sales to offshore buyers, Vancouver residents moving out of the core and record low interest rates. Buyers are now taking out larger mortgages and covering them by renting out suites in their houses, he said.

“How can people afford a million-dollar home? Well if they have an income of $3,200 from two suites, all of a sudden it’s more affordable,” he said. “You are going to see a lot more suites and sharing of the costs.”

Andrey Pavlov, a professor of finance at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, sounded a cautionary note, describing the boom as “of great concern.”

“People are clearly using the (tiny) drop in interest rates to over-extend themselves even more,” he wrote in an email, adding that he saw the drop in interest rates and sharp decline of the dollar as “symptoms of a very weak Canadian economy.”

Residential property sales in the region reached 3,061 on the Multiple Listing Service — a 21 per cent increase over the same month last year and a 60 per cent increase over January 2014. The benchmark price for all Metro Vancouver residential properties rose to $649,700, 6.4 per cent above February 2014.

Even the recently stale condominium market is gaining traction, with recent price increases above the rate of inflation — something that hasn’t been seen for several years, said Cameron Muir, chief economist at the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Muir said home sales should continue to increase, though record sales levels are unlikely this year or next. The sales figures, while strong, were beating averages that had been depressed for a few years, he said.

“Sales will be above your longer-term averages. We’re kind of ratcheted up to another level that we haven’t seen in a number of years, and that’s being backed by some pretty solid economic fundamentals,” he said, including low interest rates, a strong economy and low gas prices that help to raise confidence.

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in the region totalled 5,425 in February, a 15.4 per cent increase compared to the 4,700 new listings reported in February 2014.

The sales-to-listings ratio was 25.7 per cent, the highest since March 2011, according to the board.

“Total homes for sale on the marketplace has really steadily declined … and as a result we’ve seen marketplace conditions go from buyer’s market conditions in 2012 to now cusping on that seller’s market territory in 2015,” Muir said.

Meanwhile, sales of all property types were up by 21 per cent in the Fraser Valley, according to the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

Board president Jorda Maisey said it was the busiest February since 2007, with 1,337 homes sold in the Fraser Valley — compared to 1,102 the year before. The number of new listings declined by four per cent.

The benchmark price of a single-family detached home in Abbotsford in February was $450,200, 3.9 per cent higher than in February 2014. The price of a townhouse was $228,600. The benchmark detached home price in Langley was $585,900 and it was $945,300 in White Rock-South Surrey.

Source: Tiffany Crawford and Matthew Robinson, Vancouver Sun

This Canadian Real Estate Blog was brought to you by BestHomesBC.com. Looking for a home to buy in Vancouver? Check out BestHomesBC.com for properties for sale throughout British Columbia.

Will Vancouver’s house prices ever stop rising?

February 25th, 2015

Vancouver is reaching the outer limits of conceivable pricing for home buyers.

That view, expressed recently by Business Council of B.C. executive vice-president Jock Ferguson, reflects the sentiments of many.

However, similar observations have been made in the past. Still, the cost of housing in the Vancouver area has kept climbing. It is impossible to predict when the pricing peak truly will be reached.

Greater Vancouver’s January home price index for a single detached home hit a record $1,010,000, up 8.4 per cent from one year earlier.

The rental market is equally daunting, with a low vacancy rate and hefty rents, especially for condo units.

Behind the problem of unaffordability is, and always has been, the law of supply and demand. There is no indication this force soon will be diminishing.

Greater Vancouver is attracting tens of thousands of newcomers a year, both from other countries and provinces.

For wealthy foreign migrants, the housing situation likely poses no obstacle. But most local buyers and renters, and migrants from other provinces, are not in a position to pay high rents or $1 million-plus to purchase.

Influential architect Michael Geller recently played host to a Simon Fraser University lecture, titled: 12 Affordable Housing Ideas For Vancouver. Unsurprisingly, it was so well attended that many would-be registrants were turned away.

Geller is calling for a two-pronged approach that would:

• have those wishing to live here reducing expectations about the size of housing they require and their need for two-car garages and granite countertops;

• have city planners become more creative and flexible with zoning, and building rules and regulations.

Specifically, Geller wants Vancouver-area planning departments to permit designs that maximize land use and have been tried successfully elsewhere.

Designs would, for example, allow construction of a cluster of small cottage-like homes on a single large residential lot; and designs that would extend construction of a house or apartment buildings right to side-lot property lines, as in dense European urban cores. Municipalities could more liberally permit construction and sale of micro suites of 300 to 400 square feet, laneway and coach houses and allow townhouses and duplexes to accommodate basements, which then could be rented as crucial mortgage helpers.

The city of Vancouver is well aware it has a severe housing affordability problem, having established an arm’s length affordable housing agency in 2014 to find ways of supplying more housing at more reasonable prices.

But the agency has yet to launch a much-needed public discussion about innovative proposals such as Geller’s. The public deserves a chance to digest the prospect of further densification.

Early action clearly is needed in the face of the ever-escalating property prices.

Source: Editorial, The Vancouver Sun

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Toronto and Vancouver’s housing markets continue their upward surge

February 18th, 2015

Toronto and Vancouver are bucking the trend.

Canada’s housing market has been cooling, led by Alberta, but Toronto and Vancouver are surging forward fuelled by lower borrowing costs.

Recent trends have seen a red-hot housing market in Alberta along with the big urban markets of Toronto and Vancouver driving the national-level overvaluation. However, Alberta is now driving the weakness in home sales with other metrics of the national housing market slowly following.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported on Tuesday, Feb. 17, national home sales falling 3.1 percent from December to January. This is the second month in a row sales have declined notably.

“The decline in national sales largely reflects weakened activity in Calgary and Edmonton,” said CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump.

“If these two markets are removed from national totals, combined sales activity remained 1.9 percent above year-ago levels,” he added. Instead, compared to year-ago levels, national sales were down 2.0 percent for January.

The fall in the price of oil has seen Alberta’s housing market take a sharp turn south. Housing inventory has doubled in the last year in Calgary as a result of new listings rising 37 percent and sales falling 39 percent. Edmonton’s inventory in January 2015 is up 35 percent from December 2014.

As a result, CREA’s measure of inventory has risen to a 6.5 months’ supply, the highest since April 2013. The sales-to-new listings ratio fell to 49.7, which is the first time this ratio has been below 50 since December 2012. It’s still in balanced territory, but the trend is clear.

Prices tend to lag sales and this is evident in that Calgary still shows the largest year-over-year price increase for January, at 7.76 percent, with Greater Toronto (7.47 percent) and Greater Vancouver (5.53 percent) following. CREA notes that while year-over-year price gains in Calgary are shrinking, those in Toronto and Vancouver are picking up, however.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) released mid-month housing figures on Wednesday, Feb. 18, and reported a 14.9 percent increase in the number of sales for the first two weeks of February as compared to the same period last year.

“While home prices are higher compared to this time last year, borrowing costs are lower. Home buyers are still finding affordable options to meet their housing needs,” said TREB president Paul Etherington in the press release.

The average selling price in Toronto for the first half of February was $602,110 — a 10.3 percent year-over-year increase. The tight market conditions are approaching seller’s market territory, according to a Feb. 18 BMO special report on the housing market.

Vancouver’s home sales are up 8.7 percent from January 2014 and are nearly 15 percent higher than the 10-year sales average for January.

“While demand remains steady, we’re seeing fewer homes for sale at the moment,” said Ray Harris, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a Feb. 3 press release. “This is creating greater competition amongst buyers.

Source: Rahul Vaidyanath, Epoch Times

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