Metro Vancouver’s residential real estate story was a tale of two halves in 2016.
There were scorching sales leading into summer, a cooling off, and then a marked retreat after the province imposed a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax in August.
Many big-picture pundits say it will take another six months or more to fairly assess the impact of the tax. Others point to falling sales, and in some cases prices, as a small number of deals eke on.
Despite this, in 2016, Vancouver residential prices moved up 18 per cent, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s composite benchmark price report released on Wednesday. Most of the gains were notched in the first half of the year, with the index moving back 2.2 per cent in the second half, according to the board’s report.
The number of sales — including detached houses, condos and townhomes — came in as the third-highest on record for Vancouver in 2016, falling 5.6 per cent from a record year in 2015.
Digging into the latest report, there are early signs of a bounce if you look at median prices. With so few listings, and as such, sales, some prefer to use this gauge, which means the “in the middle price” where half the homes sold went for above this mark and half for below as opposed to taking the average of only a handful of sales, where the result could be easily skewed by one very expensive or slumped sale.
For example, the median price for detached homes is steadying because it has been sitting in the $1.275 million to $1.3 million range for the last four months. Meanwhile, the median price for town homes, at $659,000, is now nearly at its June peak median price of $666,000. Condo median prices show an even stronger stride, hitting a new high of $495,000.
To put the slowdown into perspective, consider Knight Frank’s latest Prime Global Cities Index, which tracks the prices of the top five per cent of homes in metro areas of 35 cities around the world. Vancouver outstripped all other contenders in 2015 and in September 2016 it was still at the top, posting a 32 per cent change year-on-year.
Knight Frank’s Global Residential Cities Index — which more widely tracks “city house prices” in 150 locations — showed Vancouver was the highest ranking city outside of mainland China.
“Urbanization and rising household wealth are behind the surge in Chinese prices,” wrote Knight Frank researcher Kate Everett-Allen. “Vancouver, a longtime front-runner, slid down the rankings this quarter, from fifth to ninth position. This shift is not as a result of slowing prices, annual growth is much the same as in June, close to 24%, but due to the phenomenal ascent of the Chinese cities which have supplanted it.”
Overall, house prices increased in more than 75 per cent of the 150 cities surveyed, year-on-year, but only in 13 of them did the increase in prices exceed 20 per cent. Victoria, B.C. just missed being one of those cities on the list, coming in 15th on the list with an 18 per cent gain.
It’s an “interesting report. I really like the global comparison that it facilitates,” said Andrey Pavlov, who specializes in real estate finance at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. However, he cautioned that: “First, the data is as of end of September, 2016. This was still very close to the peak, which occurred around June or July. Second, the report uses year-over-year increases, and all of the Vancouver increases occurred earlier in 2016, and some in 2015. With this in mind, the report captures historical trends, but does not really address the recent developments in our market.”
Source: Joanne Lee-Young at Postmedia