Metro Vancouver home sales up 46% year-over-year – but there’s a catch

Rush of spring-market transactions reported in early March was from pre-COVID-19 buying activity

It may look like Metro Vancouver’s March home sales have beaten the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 46.1 per cent increase year over year and a 17.4 per cent jump from February to 2,542 sales, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

However, the vast majority of those transactions were in the first half of the month, and many of those deals reflect pre-pandemic buying activity, due to the reporting lag.

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“The first two weeks of the month were the busiest days of the year for our region, with heightened demand and multiple offers becoming more common,” said Ashley Smith, REBGV president. “Like other aspects of our lives, this changed as concerns over the COVID-19 situation in our province grew.”

REBGV said April 2 that residential sales on the region’s MLS averaged 138 per day during the first ten business days of March, and 93 during the final ten business days of the month.

“Many of the sales recorded in March were in process before the provincial government declared a state of emergency. We’ll need more time to pass to fully understand the impact that the pandemic is having on the housing market,” Smith added.

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Kevin Skipworth, a realtor with Dexter Realty, said, “This month’s numbers for Greater Vancouver are a tale of what could have been, not so much what will be… There is a time lag between when the contract is written and when it is reported. A degree of [March’s] activity came from transactions that were initiated prior to the increased attention to COVID-19.”

Cameron McNeill, partner and executive director at real estate marketing firm MLA, predicted that the market would see a hiatus until the pandemic is over, but then would rebound later. “While it is too soon to determine the real effects COVID-19 will have on the Greater Vancouver real estate market, we certainly expect significantly slower sales volumes in historically active spring months ahead. The speed and timing of recovery is uncertain, but long-term housing demand for the region will likely be heightened by Canada’s COVID-19 response, and supply constraints.”

Sellers still listing

Despite the pandemic, sellers continued to list their homes in March. There were 4,436 homes listed for sale in Metro Vancouver in March, which is 10.4 per cent lower than March 2019 but a 10.8 per cent increase compared with February 2020 this year, reported the board.

“I was surprised at the number of new listings,” said Skipworth. “It dropped off in the last week of the month but people are still coming to market. Perhaps some people who had been planning on selling decided to do so before the situation gets any worse. We’re also seeing some listing cancellations and re-lists of those properties, so that accounts for some of the new listings.”

With overall sales increasing more than new listings, the sales-to-active listings ratio for March 2020 increased to 26.3 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 21.1 per cent for detached homes, 33 per cent for townhomes, and 28.9 per cent for apartments. These figures indicate a seller’s market, which is defined as more than 20 per cent for a sustained period.

Prices and property types

Home prices in the region also increased again last month. The composite benchmark price for all property types combined in Metro Vancouver is currently $1,033,700. This is a 2.1 per cent increase over March 2019, and a 1.3 per cent rise over February 2020.

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Sales of detached homes in March 2020 reached 852, a leap of 61.1 per cent over the 529 detached sales recorded in March 2019. The benchmark price for single-family properties is $1,450,700, which is 0.7 per cent higher than March 2019, and a 1.2 per cent increase compared with February 2020.

March saw 493 attached homes trade hands, which is a 51.7 per cent jump compared with the 325 sales in March 2019. The attached-home benchmark price is now pegged at $791,800, a 2.5 per cent rise from March 2019, and a 0.9 per cent uptick compared with February.

Condo transactions hit 1,179 in March 2020, a 35.1 per cent increase over the 873 sales in March 2019. The benchmark price of an apartment property now stands at $687,000, which is 2.9 per cent higher than in March 2019, and a 1.4 per cent month-over-month rise.

Home prices vary widely in different areas throughout the region. To get a good idea of home prices in a specific Metro Vancouver location and by property type, check the detailed MLS® Home Price Index in the full REBGV March stats package.

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