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Houses are seen in east Vancouver, on Feb. 4, 2020. Although last month’s sales were below the 10-year average and weaker than December, realtors said a lack of inventory and an unusually snowy January constrained activity.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Vancouver home sales rose 42 per cent in January compared with last year, as the market continued to strengthen after stricter borrowing and foreign buying rules slowed sales and depressed housing prices.

Sales in the greater Vancouver area reached 1,571 last month, compared with 1,103 in January, 2019, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. That marked the seventh consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year percentage increases.

“It does show that our market is improving pretty significantly. The buyers are out there in pretty good numbers,” said Randy Ryalls, a broker with Royal LePage Sterling Realty who has worked in Vancouver for about three decades. “What is very interesting is that inventory is very low. That has a dramatic effect on things."

Although last month’s sales were below the 10-year average and weaker than December, realtors said a lack of inventory and an unusually snowy January constrained activity.

According to the real estate board, 3,872 houses and condos were newly listed for sale in January. That was 20 per cent lower than the same time last year.

“Roads got dangerous and schools shut down. The second week of January, no one could do anything because of the snow,” said Mike Stewart, a realtor with Century 21 who has worked in the Vancouver area for 15 years.

Mr. Stewart expects activity to pick up in February.

Although home prices across the Vancouver region in January were slightly lower compared with last year, prices have been climbing in recent months.

The benchmark price, or the industry representation of a typical home sold, was $1,008,700 in January in the greater Vancouver area. That is down 1.2 per cent from January of last year but 1.4 per cent higher over the past six months.

Price increases were the steepest close to downtown Vancouver. In Vancouver East, the benchmark price across all types of housing rose 4 per cent to $1,074,300 from August to January. In Vancouver West, the benchmark price climbed 2.7 per cent to $1,255,900.

“When the market starts to have an upswing, it starts in the core,” Mr. Stewart said.

Over all, the benchmark price for every type of housing across the Vancouver region has climbed over the past six months. The benchmark price of a detached house is up 1 per cent to $1,431,200; an attached house increased by 1.6 per cent to $782,500 and the value of a condo is up 1.5 per cent to $663,200.

Sales started to rebound last summer after an 18-month slowdown in which buyers grappled with new loan rules requiring borrowers to qualify at a mortgage rate that is two percentage points above the market rate or at the Bank of Canada’s benchmark five-year rate, whichever is higher.

The new rules meant borrowers qualified for smaller mortgages.That, along with a 20-per-cent tax on foreign buyers of residential real estate, depressed the market, according to realtors.

For 2018 and the first half of 2019, Mr. Ryalls said buyers were “sitting on the fence." Now, he said “we are seeing buyers flooding back into the market.”

Activity across all types of housing increased year-over-year. Detached house sales rose 30 per cent to 439 properties; attached houses climbed 55 per cent to 318 and condo sales increased by 46 per cent to 814.

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