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Residential and commercial buildings are pictured in Vancouver.

JASON LEE/REUTERS

A rally in housing sales and prices in Greater Vancouver has extended into 2014, keeping young buyers focused on modest-sized accommodation.

In January, 1,760 residential properties changed hands, up 30.3 per cent from 1,351 in the same month in 2013, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said on Tuesday.

It is the ninth consecutive month that the area has had a year-over-year gain in monthly sales, after a 19-month slump in volume before sales began increasing last May.

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Dan Scarrow, vice-president of corporate strategy at Macdonald Realty Ltd., said he sympathizes with parents who worry their children cannot buy a home in the Vancouver region.

Some first-time buyers can get into the market with help from parents who sold their detached homes at good prices, although in today's housing market, young couples from Vancouver still must buy outside the neighbourhoods they grew up in, he said.

"In an ideal situation, every local Vancouverite could sell their home for $5-million and their kids could buy the home for $300,000, but that isn't going to work," Mr. Scarrow said in an interview. "The reason prices are expensive here is that it is a good place to live. A tangible way to reduce real estate prices is to make it an undesirable place to live, and that isn't a very palatable solution."

Real estate observers say living in Canada's most expensive housing market has forced young buyers to focus on condos and townhouses.

Greater Vancouver's residential composite price index rose to $606,800 in January, up 3.2 per cent from a year earlier.

The benchmark price for single-family detached homes reached $929,700 in January, also a gain of 3.2 per cent. Benchmark prices, which strip out the most expensive resale properties, climbed 6.1 per cent to $869,000 over the past year for detached properties on Vancouver's East Side, while they jumped 7.5 per cent on the West Side to $2.14-million.

The rally includes the suburban market, with price increases for detached homes of at least 5 per cent in Burnaby East, Burnaby South and Port Moody.

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In the B.C. Fraser Valley, 772 properties sold in January, up 25 per cent from same month in 2013. The Multiple Listing Service home price index rose 0.9 per cent year-over-year to $424,500 in the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less-expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey.

Benchmark index prices for condos in Greater Vancouver increased 3.7 per cent over the past year to $371,500, while townhouse prices gained 1.7 per cent to $457,700. In the Fraser Valley, index prices for condos decreased 4 per cent to $192,300, while townhouse prices rose 1.3 per cent to $297,600.

"If you're looking to sell your home in a balanced market, it's critical that your list price is reflective of current market conditions," Greater Vancouver board president Sandra Wyant said in a statement.

A measurement known as the sales-to-active-listings ratio, which is closely watched by the real estate industry, registered 14 per cent in Greater Vancouver last month. B.C. real estate agents consider a market balanced when the ratio ranges from 15 to 20 per cent. It is deemed a buyer's market at below 15 per cent and a seller's market above 20 per cent in the Vancouver region. A total of 12,602 listings were active last month, down 4.9 per cent from a year earlier.

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