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A for sale sign is seen on the lawn of a house for sale in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver. (DARRYL DYCK For The Globe and Mail)
A for sale sign is seen on the lawn of a house for sale in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver. (DARRYL DYCK For The Globe and Mail)

REAL ESTATE

Vancouver home sales slide, prices dip Add to ...

Residential sales in Greater Vancouver’s housing market tumbled in November, though sellers aren’t panicking.

There were 1,686 sales of single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses last month, down nearly 29 per cent from 2,360 a year earlier, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Tuesday.

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“It is a classic tug-of-war. Buyers are expecting prices to moderate and hope the market will go lower, but we’re seeing sellers staying close to their asking price or removing their homes from the market or some homeowners aren’t listing their properties,” board president Eugen Klein said in an interview.

Greater Vancouver housing prices in November slipped only 1.7 per cent from the same month in 2011, Mr. Klein stressed. He believes federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s tightening of mortgage borrowing rules in July has had a dampening effect on sales, but so far, prices have held up relatively well. New rules such as shrinking the maximum amortization for a government-insured mortgage to 25 years from 30 years have reduced the pool of prospective buyers, including many first-time home buyers, Mr. Klein said.

BMO Nesbitt Burns wonders how long low interest rates will be able to prop up real estate prices, cautioning that it time to fasten seat-belts because “Vancouver’s market is on the down slope of its historical roller-coaster ride.”

Mr. Klein said the residential market is strong enough to withstand selling pressure. “People from all around the world still want to invest and live here,” he said. “We don’t see a housing bubble because there isn’t much speculation. Prices haven’t shifted much, except for the west side of Vancouver.”

Overall sales last month were 30.3-per-cent below the 10-year sales average of 2,420 for November. The board said it uses a home price index that strips out the most expensive properties because that serves as a better barometer of trends than average prices. Under that statistical gauge, the index price for a single-family detached home on Vancouver’s west side was $2.03-million in November, or a decline of 8.4 per cent from the same month last year – the sharpest drop among districts in Greater Vancouver.

Home prices in Greater Vancouver have typically declined from 3 to 5.5 per cent, depending on property type, since reaching a peak six months ago. The region’s index price for single-family homes, condos and townhouses stood at $596,900 in November – a drop of 4.5 per cent since hitting $625,100 in May of this year, or down 1.7 per cent year-over-year, Mr. Klein said, arguing that the statistics don’t support “crash-like tendencies.” He noted that the region’s total listings have fallen by almost 3,000 properties from June’s peak of 18,493.

In the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey, November residential sales on the multiple listing service fell to 905, or down 19.2 per cent from the 1,120 properties sold in the same month last year. While the Fraser Valley’s housing price index has decreased 1.4 per cent over the past three months, it climbed 1 per cent year-over-year in November to $424,800.

Bank of Montreal said Tuesday it is enjoying growth in residential mortgage market share, but that Ottawa’s changes “are having the desired moderating effect on housing prices in most markets.”

And the Bank of Canada pointed out that “housing activity is beginning to decline from historically high levels. While the household debt burden continues to rise, growth in household credit has slowed. It is too early, however, to determine whether the moderation in housing activity and credit growth will be sustained.”

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