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.
Cory Raven, managing broker at Re/Max Select Realty, said first-time buyers in the region used to buy condos as an entry point toward eventually acquiring a detached house. "People who buy a condo now may one day want to move into a detached house, but they don't necessarily expect to buy one," he said.
Gains in condo prices have lagged the sharp increases for detached homes. The HPI for Greater Vancouver condos reached $390,200 last month, up 3.3 per cent from March, 2014.
In the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey, existing housing sales surged 47.5 per cent to 1,857. The Fraser Valley's HPI for detached homes rose last month to $588,500, up 4.5 per cent from March, 2014.