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Condo towers are seen in downtown Vancouver on Aug. 15, 2017.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Condominiums and townhouses have stolen the spotlight in Greater Vancouver's real estate market as prices rebound after a provincial tax on foreign buyers crimped demand in the second half of 2016.

In recent years, detached properties have led the way in price gains, but condos and townhouses are the strongest performers this year.

The Vancouver region has experienced price jumps despite the B.C. government's imposition of a 15-per-cent tax on foreign home buyers in August, 2016, and increases in Canadian mortgage rates this summer.

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After a short-lived slump in the second half of 2016, Greater Vancouver's housing sector shook off the psychological impact of the tax and started to roar ahead in the spring of 2017, said Vancouver real estate agent Steve Saretsky, who specializes in the condo market.

"A lot of the market is being driven by first-time buyers. You also have local investors who made money in detached homes and they are drawing equity out of their existing properties to buy secondary investments," he said in an interview on Tuesday.

The average price of condos sold last month in the region reached $659,375, up 24.7 per cent from August, 2016, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

In the townhouse segment, the average price in August climbed 21 per cent to $883,428. By contrast, the price for the area's detached houses sold last month averaged $1.61-million, up 9.8 per cent from a year earlier.

"The B.C. government's interest-free loan program has helped some first-time buyers, too," Mr. Saretsky said.

Under the program launched in mid-January, the province will match down payments of up to $37,500 made by first-time buyers purchasing any home priced up to $750,000.

While some observers say the tax on foreign purchasers had little impact, Mr. Saretsky noted that the pace of price growth for detached houses has slowed considerably.

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On Vancouver's west side, for instance, the median price for detached properties sold last month hit nearly $3.69-million, up 3.8 per cent from August, 2016. During the first half of 2016, however, year-over-year price jumps of 35 per cent were common for detached houses.

"People priced out of the detached market have been going to condos. Townhouses are pretty crazy, too," Mr. Saretsky said. "The high-end detached stuff, where there had been a concentration of foreign capital, has become a slow market. But the condo market now is crazier than in the first part of 2016."

Sales volume across Greater Vancouver rose 22.3 per cent to 3,043 residential transactions last month compared with August, 2016. Total sales last month were 19.6 per cent above the 10-year average for August.

Total listings have risen 3.5 per cent over the past year, though new listings have slipped 1.1 per cent.

The benchmark price, which is the industry's representation of typical homes sold, touched a record high of $1,029,700 for all residential housing types last month – 9.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.

"Homes priced between $350,000 and $750,000 have been subject to intense competition and multiple offers across the region," Greater Vancouver board president Jill Oudil said in a statement.

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Benchmark prices increased sharply last month compared with Augus,t 2016, especially for suburban condos: $252,000 in Maple Ridge (up 25.8 per cent) and $373,600 (up 24.8 per cent) in Pitt Meadows.

On the high end for condos, the benchmark price advanced 13 per cent over the past year to $787,400 on Vancouver's west side and improved 10.9 per cent to $1.13-million in West Vancouver.

Benchmark prices for townhouses in August ranged from $508,100 in Maple Ridge to $1.25-million on Vancouver's west side, increasing 20.7 per cent and 9.8 per cent, respectively, from a year earlier.

In the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board's territory, which includes the sprawling suburb of Surrey, sales climbed to 1,879 transactions in August, up 10.9 per cent from the same month in 2016.

Demand has been brisk for condos and townhouses in suburbs such as Surrey and White Rock, the Fraser Valley board said. The average price for condos jumped to $335,212 in the Fraser Valley last month, for a 26.6-per-cent gain over the past year, while the price for townhouses averaged $541,719, up 18.8 per cent.

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