Greater Vancouver's real estate market is finally perking up after a 19-month slump.
The Vancouver area's housing sales volume rose by 1 per cent in May amid early signs that the region's property market could be slowly inching back.
The number of resale properties that changed hands on the Multiple Listing Service last month was 2,882, up from 2,852 sales in May of 2012, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
The board's May home price index which strips out the most expensive properties, was $598,400 for single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses – a decrease of 4.3 per cent from the same month in 2012, but up 1.8 per cent since January of this year.
The slight increase in homes sold on the MLS in May – an extra 30 compared with a year earlier – contrasts with monthly decreases in sales volume last year that ranged from 13.2 per cent to 32.5 per cent. In February this year, sales volume fell 29.4 per cent year-over-year, but the pace of transactions has been gradually picking up since then.
The last time that Greater Vancouver experienced a year-over-year gain in monthly sales came in September of 2011, when 2,246 properties were sold, up 1.1 per cent from 2,220 in September of 2010.
Greater Vancouver board president Sandra Wyant said the number of resale transactions last month was still 19.4 per cent below the 10-year sales average for May. Last month's volume was 9.7 per cent higher than April's 2,627 sales.
Ms. Wyant is encouraged by a measurement known as the sales-to-active-listings ratio, which registered 16.7 per cent in Greater Vancouver in May. B.C. real estate agents consider it a balanced market when the ratio ranges from 15 to 20 per cent. It is deemed a buyer's market below 15 per cent and a seller's market above 20 per cent in the Vancouver region.
"Based on the statistics, we're definitely seeing a trend into a balanced market," Ms. Wyant said in an interview. "The amount of listing inventory has begun to decrease, so it's not a marketplace where you have a lot of time to make decisions any more. The sellers and the buyers are working together to get homes to sell. You need to be prepared and ready to buy at close to the list price, if the property is priced well."
The total number of active listings in May was 17,222, or a 3.4-per-cent decline from a year earlier. There were 5,656 new listings in May, or an 18.3-per-cent decrease from 6,927 new listings in the same month of 2012.
Sellers are increasingly avoiding a boom-time mindset and becoming realistic with their list prices, and that translated into a flurry of transactions that came within 98 per cent of the asking price last month, Ms. Wyant said.
Greater Vancouver's benchmark home prices have now risen slightly month-over-month from February to May.
In the Fraser Valley, which includes the sprawling and less-expensive Vancouver suburb of Surrey, benchmark May prices for single-family detached homes, condos and townhouses slipped 0.5 per cent to $427,200. Sales volume in the Fraser Valley declined 14.7 per cent last month to 1,379.
The sales-to-active-listings ratio was 13 per cent in the Fraser Valley in May. The index price for single-family detached homes was $549,200 last month, up 0.2 per cent from May of 2012.
Fraser Valley board president Ron Todson said prices in his area were relatively stable last month, helped by a 2-per-cent drop in active listings.