April brings a shower of new listings
With more than 10,000 homes for sale, fear of missing out eases
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
The incredible boomerang in the Metro Vancouver housing market was never more apparent than this April, as total housing sales bounced back from the lowest monthly sales on record to the highest in a 12-month span. In April of 2020 as the extent of the pandemic became apparent, housing sales virtually froze at just over 1,100 units. This April, Greater Vancouver sales had soared 343% compared to the same month a year earlier to more than 5,000 transactions to set the all-time high for the month.
In the Fraser Valley, sales were up 338 per cent, year-over-year, to 3,016 transactions. This performance may convince many sellers the Metro Vancouver housing market is now poised to roar into the record books with month-over-month sales and price increases continuing to set a record pace. In reality, though, the housing market, relatively speaking, is quietly slowing down and more balanced conditions will become the new normal, at least until the pandemic truly ends and the B.C. economy and its traditional immigration levels return.
Total Greater Vancouver sales in April were down 14% from a month earlier, the first month-over-month decline in nearly a year, and were down 9% from March in the Fraser Valley.
I know, with total sales averaging 260 per day in April, it is hard to consider this a slowing pace, but the incredible froth that has characterized the market over the past few months is settling down.
This should be welcomed by both sellers and buyers. Sellers can still expect to sell their property quickly, but in most cases will not be dealing with frantic, no-subject, multiple bids and concern about where they will find another home to buy. Fatigued buyers will regain the opportunity to shop the market more carefully and present more normal subjects and prices when negotiating on a sale.
There are number of reasons for the evolution of the market to more balanced conditions, but the main change is a huge increase in supply. In April, 8,124 new listings were added in Greater Vancouver and another 5,019 in the Fraser Valley, both the highest April level in history. The total number of homes currently listed for sale across all of Metro Vancouver is 16,275, the highest level since June of last year.
As well, new housing starts in the first-quarter of 2021 hit 7,332 units, 3,000 more than in Q1 2020. Many strata developers who had delayed or stopped projects last year, due to the pandemic, are now rushing to get product onto the market. In March alone, 3,210 new condo apartments were started, the highest March level in more than five years.
As we head into May, upcoming changes to the mortgage market stress test may spur some buyers to act quickly. If passed, effective June 1, traditional buyers with at least a 20% down payment will be required to qualify at a five-year mortgage rate of 5.25%, which is 50 basis points higher than the current stress test. But this change should not make much difference. Buyers don’t have to pay the higher rate, simply qualify for it. As of May 3, even major banks were offering five-year variable rate mortgages as low as 1.4%.
The new stress test is expected to reduce the qualifying mortgage amount by around 4%, a relatively low barrier in Metro Vancouver, where composite home prices are increasing an average of 2% every month.
APRIL 2021 MARKET HIGHLIGHTS – GREATER VANCOUVER
Total home sale increase year-over-year: 348%
Highest price detached house: Vancouver Westside at $3.3 million
Lowest price detached house: Maple Ridge, at $1.09 million
Biggest home price increase year-over-year: Bowen Island, up 45.7%
Highest sales-to-listings ratio: Ladner, at 80%
The change is nearly imperceptible but is perhaps prophetic. In April, the sales-to-listing ratio slipped to 62%, down from 69% in March, the first downward movement in the ratio in months. This reflects a rush of new listings, which were 45% higher in April than the 10-year average for the month. Yet, even with 10,749 active listings, there is still less than two-month supply should sales continue at the current pace, and this drops to mere weeks of supply of townhouses in some hot suburban markets, such as Ladner. Spurred by record high prices of $1.7 million, listings of detached houses led the market, with a 14% increase from March, while condo apartment listings increased just 9%. Listings for townhouses fell 6%, month-over-month, and are now at all-time lows with only a one-month supply of townhouses across Greater Vancouver.
Total property sales in April reached 5,010 as this continues to be very much a seller’s market.
The benchmark price for a detached houses on the Westside in April was $3,363,400, up 11% from a year earlier – yes, that is more than $370,000 – and 2.3% above the price in March, but still 2% lower than three years ago. With 350 new listings for detached houses added, and sales at 139, the sale-to-listing ratio was 40%, unchanged from March and indicative of a balancing market. Sales of detached houses in April were 139, down from 145 a month earlier. Condo apartments, at a benchmark price of $815,000 – a price up $70,000 from a year earlier – were the hottest Westside sector in April, posting 512 sales, down from 628 in March. Nearly 1,000 condo listings were added in April, but the sales ratio remained close to 50%. A lack of townhouse inventory – just 189 new listings – and high sales of 111 units drove the townhouse benchmark price up 4.6% from March to $1,242,600. More worrisome, not a single new townhouse has started on the Westside so far this year.
Vancouver East Side:
The Eastside is seeing an avalanche of total new listings – up 318% from a year earlier to 1,034 in April – which has resulted in the sales-to-listing ratio dipping to 54%, down from 66% in March. The detached market is holding its own, with 221 sales in April, just 20 units less than condo apartment sales. The benchmark detached house price is $1,681,600, up 16.1% from a year earlier but still less than half the price as in the neighbouring Westside. Eastside townhouses sold in April at a benchmark of $1,002,100. Townhouse listings dropped to 136 in the month, down from 158 in March and resulting in a sales-to-listing ratio of 68%, a clear seller’s market. Eastside April condo sales saw a significant 23% decrease, month-over-month. The benchmark price of the 241 condos sold remained unchanged at close to $630,000, but the sales-to-listing ratio dropped to 60%, down from 82% in March. With more than 400 condo listings added in April, Eastside condo buyers are enjoying a wider selection and, apparently, stabilizing prices.
North Vancouver was one of only two Greater Vancouver markets where total sales increased in April compared to March, rising 2% to 478 transactions – and up nearly 400% from April 2020. New listings dipped 5% from March, and the sales-to-listing ratio in April was 71%, up from 66% a month earlier. This is one of the hottest housing markets in the region. Prices for detached houses hit a benchmark of $1,880,400 in April and are expected to keep climbing after rocketing up 21.7% in the past year. One of the reason is a new official community plan for North Vancouver District that calls for 45% of new homes being built be multi-family units, up from 33%. Public input is now being accepted on the plan, which could lead to an increase in single-family lot assemblies in the District. April sales of condo apartments were up modestly from March to 207 transactions and the benchmark price was up 1.7% to $625,700.
Sales and prices decreased nearly across the board in April compared to March. Detached houses, which dominate this exclusive market, were down 10% to 80 transactions and the benchmark price fell 0.7% to $3,023,200, though this was 16.1% higher than in April 2020. Total new listings were virtually unchanged from March, and there are currently 554 homes of all types for sale. The typical condo apartment price in West Vancouver is now $1,161,000, considered the highest of any Canadian community. With a five-month inventory on the market and sales-to-listing ratio of 40%, West Vancouver is shifting from a seller’s market to a balanced market.
One of the most active condo apartment markets in Metro Vancouver, Richmond posted 305 condo sales in April and 987 have sold so far in 2021, compared to 487 in the first four months of last year. The benchmark condo price is now $710,000, second highest in Metro Vancouver. There are 3,302 new apartments under construction, including 244 that started this year. But new condos could become more expensive. The City of Richmond is considering a fee on new condo apartments of $3.50 per square foot in the city centre area where most new condos are being built, as a way to encourage more rental construction. This is in addition to other civic fees, the GST and rising material costs that are already driving new condo prices higher. Pricey as they may appear, resale condos represent the best buy in Richmond’s strata market. Detached house sales in Richmond were down 23% in April compared to March, with 178 transactions at benchmark of $1,798,000. Exactly the same number of townhouses sold in April, but at a benchmark price of $888,800.
This was the only Burnaby market to post higher sales in April than in March, with an increase 9% to 76 transactions. This is likely a reflection of price, as the benchmark for a detached house in April was $1,435,100, or about $270,000 less than in Burnaby South or Burnaby North. Townhouse prices, at a benchmark of $701,700, are about $100,000 less expensive than in the rest of Burnaby, though its condo prices, at $752,000, are higher, due to the large number of relatively new condos. There are just 112 total active residential listings in Burnaby East, however. This translates to just a one-month supply at the current sales pace, and the potential of rising prices.
Some of the largest condo towers in Metro Vancouver dominate its skyline, but Burnaby North also has a very strong detached housing market. The benchmark house price in April was $1,709,000, up 16.8% from a year earlier and 4.7% higher than in March. Total housing sales in April, at 316, were down 6% from March, but with the sales-to-listing ratio at 68%, this remains a seller’s market.
There is long-range plan to create Burnaby’s new downtown in Metrotown, where condo apartment towers will be the largest development sector. If history is an indication, this will be among the active investor markets for off-shore buyers when pandemic travel restrictions lift. Condo buyers still have time to secure what could be solid investment. The typical Burnaby South condo apartment sells for $696,000 and prices have increased a relatively modest 3.5% from a year ago. Total April sales in the area were down 18% from March and the sales-to-listing ratio dipped to 59% compared to 70% a month earlier.
The City of New Westminster has issued a rare bulletin regarding any land owners in the vicinity of the 22nd Street SkyTrain station: “You may be approached by a developer, real estate agent, or other prospective buyer expressing interest in your property” the bulletin reads. Owners of detached houses should take note as the city has a “bold vision” for the area around the station, with a likely focus on higher-density residential. Not that house owners need an incentive. The April benchmark price of house in the Royal City was $1,287,200, up nearly 10% from just three months ago and 4.6% higher than in March. Total April residential sales were down 19% from March, but the sales-to-listing ratio of 66%, and rising prices, confirms this is a seller’s market.
This is one of the fastest-growing regions north of the Fraser River. Coquitlam planners are processing four large master-plan developments, with a total of 31 residential and mixed-use towers, including 11 towers near the Coquitlam Centre, destined to anchor Coquitlam’s new downtown. A giant new film studio, two new schools and a new recreation centre are also on the table. While April’s total residential sales, at 362, were down 22% from a month earlier, they were 289% higher than in April 2020. The benchmark detached house price in April was $1,654,000, up nearly $100,000 from March and $600,000 from a year earlier to give an indication of demand. Condos posted a 75% sales-to-new listing ratio in April, but prices benchmarked at $576,000, lower than in Burnaby and well below the Greater Vancouver average. SkyTrain-linked Coquitlam is shaping up a solid long-term investment for families and young professionals.
Despite Port Moody’s reputation as a go-slow zone for development, 1,431 apartments are under construction in the small waterfront community, including 227 that started in March. Condos sold for a benchmark of $708,400 in April, by far the highest price in the Tri-City region and condo sales are holding steady at 57 transactions a month this year. This reflects growing demand for Port Moody housing, with total sales in April up 350% from April 2020 and a sales-to-listing ratio of 71%. Port Moody’s detached house price data is skewed because it includes the prestige Belcarra area, so it is possible to find houses in central Port Moody for less than the $1,814,000 benchmark.
Considered the quietest of the Tri-City communities – only 46 homes have started construction this year – Port Coquitlam has its charm for buyers, including the lowest composite home price in the region, at a benchmark of $913,500 in April. Detached house prices are up 27.2% from a year ago to $1,248,500, the highest increase in the Tri-City but still the lowest house price in the region. Condo buyers may also be attracted to the prices, with condos selling for $517,900, among the lowest among suburban markets north of the Fraser River. Demand and low supply have driven local townhouse prices up 18.7% in the past year, to $774,700, however.
This bucolic community saw just 48 total housing sales in April, down 9% from March, but with active listings at just 63, there is only a one-month inventory on the market and 69% of the new listings sold in April. One can buy a townhouse in Pitt Meadows in the $640,00 range and condos for $450,000 or even less, though newer units are priced higher. This is a seller’s market with a tight inventory.
Maple Ridge posted the highest increase in detached house prices of any market aside from Bowen Island in April, with prices up 30.4% to $1,098,000, which incidentally is about $400,000 less than Bowen Island. Like Bowen, Maple Ridge has been “discovered” recently by those leaving the city. A selection of townhouses, with an average of about 100 new listings per month this year and benchmark prices of $664,300 – lowest in Greater Vancouver – is helping to attract both families and downsizers.
This small community on the southwestern edge of Greater Vancouver could represent a solid long-term real estate investments. Plans are being drafted for a village redevelopment around its historic waterfront and, sooner or later, an improved and larger George Massey Tunnel will smooth the commute. This helps to explain why Ladner detached house prices have increased 23.8% in the past year, one of the biggest price spikes in Greater Vancouver, to reach $1,270,600 in April. Also, the sales-to-new listing ratio was 80% in April, up from 78% in March, showing that Ladner is one of the top seller’s markets in the Lower Mainland.
It really is sunnier in Tsawwassen than most other areas of Greater Vancouver but the heat Is really in the housing market with April sales up 242% from April 2020 to 82 transactions. That heat cooled somewhat in April, with total sales down 24% from March and the sales-to-listing ratio at 66%, down from 77% from a month earlier. After consistent annual price increases over the past decade, the benchmark detached house price in April reached $1,348,500, up a startling 22.2% – or nearly $300,000 – from April of last year. Despite a low inventory, Tsawwassen townhouse prices are relatively affordable, at a current benchmark of $675,200, which is the second-lowest in Greater Vancouver,
Surrey: We add the second-largest city in B.C to our market round-up because it is attracting so much interest from Greater Vancouver buyers. The benchmark detached house in Surrey in April was up 28.1% year-over-year to $1,396,000 but it may be the townhouse market that is proving a pivotal attraction. In April there were 1,574 townhouses for sale in Surrey, compared to 1,324 in all of Greater Vancouver. As well, townhouse prices in a Central Surrey, which has the city’s most townhouse transactions, were $669,600 in April, compared to a Greater Vancouver benchmark of $900,900. Overall Surrey condo prices in April averaged $464,500, a price also very hard to find north of the Fraser River.