More options for buyers as British Columbia home sales skid, high prices stay

VANCOUVER – Prices remain steep, but prospective homebuyers in British Columbia may be gaining more selection thanks to slowing sales in a notoriously feverish market, say experts.

“Home sales are not at the frenetic level that we saw earlier this year, and that’s probably good news for homebuyers,” said chief economist Cameron Muir of the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

“We’re likely going to see some increases in inventory.”

The association said on Thursday the Multiple Listing Service recorded that 9,900 residential units changed hands in July, a 3.4 per cent decline compared with July 2015.

However, the average residential price of a home on the listing service climbed by 9.1 per cent last month compared with the same month last year, reaching $663,411.

Sales were still “well-above” long-term average levels, but have dipped from the record-setting pace earlier this year, said Muir. He said it’s typical for home price increases to revert within 12 months of a rapid escalation.

Across the province, home sales peaked in March but have been moving downwards since then, he added. Market supply has been at a 10-year low.

Robyn Adamache of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the overall stock of active listings has started to increase by small quantities, but she noted the trends are still preliminary.

“It’s a moderating trend, but it’s still a very healthy sellers market out there,” said Adamache, principal market analyst for Vancouver. “So it’s not like anything has dropped off or anything, but certainly it does look like it’s moving toward more normal.”

The usual number of sales on an annual basis for Vancouver is in the 32,000 range, whereas last year there were 42,000 sales, said Adamache.

“We are starting to see a few more listings on the market, but it really has not picked up much yet, which is why prices are still holding very strong.”

The market for new homes has not seen the same sales dip, nor is it anticipated, said Jon Bennest, principal with Urban Analytics.

“There’s still not that much competition amongst existing projects that are selling new construction,” he said. “I think that’s the crux of what’s going on. There’s just not that much to choose from.”

A property transfer tax of 15 per cent for foreign buyers that went into effect Aug. 2 may also not have as big of an impact as some believe it will, Bennest said.

“At the end of the day, the attractiveness of our city relative to other cities is not going to change.”

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