Housing sales surged 63.8 per cent in Greater Vancouver last month as the area's real estate market regains its footing.
There were 2,483 homes sold on the Multiple Listing Service in September, up from 1,516 sales in the same month last year, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said Wednesday. "There is a lot more confidence in the Vancouver market now," board president-elect Ray Harris said in an interview.
The increased activity marks the fifth consecutive month that Greater Vancouver has experienced a year-over-year gain in monthly sales, following a 19-month slump in volume.
Greater Vancouver's benchmark index price for single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses fell 0.7 per cent year-over-year to $601,900 last month, but has increased 2.3 per cent since January.
In Vancouver's closely watched west side, the index price for single-family detached sales last month was $2,089,700, up $1,000 from September, 2012. While that is an increase of only 0.05 per cent, it marks an improvement from January, when the West Side's detached index price dropped 7.5 per cent year-over-year.
A balanced market has emerged, with buyers in a calm state of mind instead rushing to do deals, Mr. Harris said. On the selling side, baby boomers thinking of downsizing by listing their detached homes aren't hurrying to move since prices are expected to be relatively healthy, he said.
The total number of active listings on the MLS was 16,115 last month in Canada's most expensive housing market, down 12.2 per cent from a year earlier.
Mr. Harris said Greater Vancouver's resale housing prices could increase roughly 3 per cent over the next 18 months to two years – a stable outlook that should contribute to sales volume staying near historical averages. Last month's sales were 1 per cent below the 10-year average of 2,509 for September.
The sales-to-active-listings ratio was 15.4 per cent in Greater Vancouver last month. B.C. real estate agents consider it a balanced market when the ratio ranges from 15 to 20 per cent.
Vancouver's West Side has seen its index price for single-family detached homes jump 40 per cent over the past five years, but suburbs such as Port Coquitlam haven't undergone such volatility, Mr. Harris added. Port Coquitlam's detached property index price is up 6.3 per cent over the past five years.
As well, the region's condo market hasn't experienced huge price gains. Greater Vancouver's condo prices have risen 1.9 per cent since 2008. Sales jumped 32 per cent last month in the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less-expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey.
There were 1,131 properties that changed hands on the MLS, up 32 per cent from 857 sales in September, 2012. Last month's benchmark index price in the Fraser Valley slipped 0.2 per cent year-over-year to $428,400.
Fraser Valley Real Estate Board president Ron Todson said he sees signs of first-time buyers returning to the market, though it has become more expensive to obtain financing due to the recent rise in mortgage rates. The residential property market is gradually recovering from Ottawa's tightening of mortgage rules in 2012, he said.
In July, 2012, Ottawa reduced the maximum period on government-backed mortgages to 25 years from 30 years. Real estate experts say the change, which knocked some first-time buyers out of the market, contributed to the slowdown in housing sales a year ago.