In what real estate agents say is partly a pandemic-driven exodus from the Lower Mainland, smaller centres on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island are shattering records for home sales and price increases this year.
In Powell River September home sales soared 152 per cent from the same month a year earlier and average prices increased 30 per cent, the second time in three months that the town of about 14,000 has led the entire province in price increases, according to data from the Powell River Real Estate Board.
The average home price in Powell River is now $440,011, the second-lowest in the province behind northern B.C. and the Kootenays. As a comparison, the median price of a standard two-storey house in Metro Vancouver is now $1.9 million, and the median price of a bungalow is $1.45 million, according to a Royal LePage price survey released October 14.
The BC Real Estate Association confirmed that the total dollar volume of Powell River residential sales surged 194 per cent in September – by far the biggest increase in B.C. - to $24.6 million.
“House prices are at record highs here,” said Royal Lepage agent Josh Statham in Powell River, who said the bulk of buyers are coming from the Lower Mainland, particularly from Squamish.
Statham added the Powell River market is dominated by detached houses, which he credited to the number of people working from home and seeking more space and privacy.
“It used to be that buyers stumbled on Powell River on their way to Vancouver Island,” Statham said, “but now they are coming straight here.”
Vancouver Island north of Victoria is also setting sales and price records this year, posting a 100 per cent sales increase in September, reports the BCREA, with the average home price up 15.6 per cent to $552,678.
The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) recorded 1,287 sales in September compared to 692 in September 2019, with half the sales this year being detached houses
“The strength of our housing market has surprised us somewhat,” said VIREB president Kevin Reid. “We frankly did not expect it to recover so quickly from the COVID-19 effect.”
Reid attributes the recovery partly to pent-up demand and low mortgage rates, but added “we have noticed that some buyers are advancing their retirement plans due to the pandemic. Economic uncertainty is motivating other consumers to downsize and reduce their debt load.”
Vancouver Island is a popular retirement destination and an attractive alternative for millennials seeking the West Coast lifestyle for less money than in Vancouver, he said.
After a sharp run-up during the summer, home price increases have moderated in most Island communities.
In Campbell River, the benchmark price of a single-family house hit $454,200 in September, a small increase over last year. In the Comox Valley, the benchmark price was $523,500, a slight dip from one year ago. Duncan reported a price of $489,000, an increase of 1 per cent from September 2019.
Nanaimo’s benchmark price dropped by 3 per cent to $553,600, while the Parksville-Qualicum area saw its benchmark price increase by 3 per cent to $612,800. The cost of a benchmark single-family home in Port Alberni reached $329,500, up 2 per cent from one year ago, according to VIREB data.