“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo
2023: the year to get in position for the recovery
January 2023 signalled early that it would end with what the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says is “among the lowest sales month in recent history.”
As of mid-month, total transactions had reached just 334 properties, well below the 795 in mid-December 2022 or the 778 in mid-January 2022. The slow sales reflected not only higher mortgage rates but a barrage of anti-demand government policies that started the New Year.
Having dealt with a City of Vancouver Empty Homes Tax, the provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax and a provincial foreign buyer’s tax, effective January 1, we now have a provincial three-day Home Buyer Rescission Period (or ‘cooling-off’ period), a two-year ban on foreign buyers across Canada, a national Underused Homes Tax – essentially a Canada wide empty-homes tax for foreign-owned properties – and a national anti-flipping tax which would see any profits for sales within a year of purchase taxed as business income. And of course, Canada’s prime lending rate has doubled from a year earlier, due to eight straight Bank of Canada increases.
It is a wonder all this didn’t kill home buying all together.
Yet a close look at Metro Vancouver shows flashes of high-performing regional markets in January and evidence that, despite misplaced and heavy-handed government policies, many people remain eager to purchase.
January ended with 1,030 properties sold of all types across Greater Vancouver, meaning sales more than doubled in the past two weeks of the month compared to the first half. As well, new listings increased from 1,379 in the first two weeks of January to end with 3,384, but this was still the lowest number of new listings for January going back to before 1991 – more than thirty years ago.
This speaks to the one thing keeping prices from declining more than they have. Sellers are not desperate. There is a lot of equity in owning a home and that keeps buyers from going into the market and from sellers rushing to get out. Since the start of the pandemic three years ago, the composite home price in Greater Vancouver has increased by 26%, or about $286,000. The typical detached house is now worth $411,000 more than in January 2020, at a January 2023 benchmark of $1,801,300.
If there is one prediction that could be made about this market, it’s that listings will not be coming in abundance.
Despite all the government rhetoric about creating more housing, policies are failing to address the underlying lack of supply. In 2022, for instance, total non-rental housing starts in Metro Vancouver fell 18% from a year earlier to just 16,116 units. And, despite a year-over-year increase in rental construction, Metro Vancouver rents are now the highest in history and the most expensive in Canada.
In some markets, the low inventory sparked bidding wars in January and turned key suburban municipalities into seller’s markets as tenants aimed to move into ownership and owners tried to improve their housing.
Here are some markets bucking the downward sales trend:
- A Richmond condo listing attracted 11 offers in January as the local condo market moved from a balanced to a seller’s advantage.
- In North Vancouver, townhomes and condos are in a seller’s market with January townhouse sales at similar levels to January 2022.
- The strata sector was in seller’s market conditions in North Burnaby, New Westminster and even Coquitlam, despite a multi-family building boom in all three cities.
- In 12 of the 22 Greater Vancouver markets, townhouse prices increased from December 2022 to January 2023 and were up an average of 0.8% across the entire region to $1,020,400, while benchmark condo apartment prices rose 1% month-over-month to $720,700.
These are not the signs of a distressed housing market – there are instead signals that buyers, confident that interest rate hikes have ended for now, are willing to come back into the market. If there were more listings, there would be more sales. It is as simple as that.
And listings of resale housing are starting to increase. The total number of homes currently listed for sale in Greater Vancouver is 7,478, a 32.1% increase compared to January 2022 and 1.3% higher compared to December 2022.
All predictions are that 2024 will see improved housing sales and ascending prices. This is the year for buyers to position themselves for that recovery in a still vibrant housing environment with upside potential. In fact, we believe 2023 will be a much stronger market than most pundits are predicting.
Despite headwinds through 2023, there is far too much demand to keep this real estate market from doing anything but grow.
Summary of Greater Vancouver markets in January 2023
Greater Vancouver: With total housing sales down 56% this January compared to January 2022, the January 2023 composite home price was 6.6% lower year-over-year and a mere 0.3% lower than in December 2022, to $1,111,400. Total active Listings were 7,862 at month-end compared to 5,987 at that time last year and 7,791 at the end of December, while new listings in January 2023 were up an expected 173% compared to December 2022. For all property types, the sales-to-listings ratio for January 2023 was 30%. By property type, the ratio is 28% for detached homes, 28% for townhomes, and 33% for apartments. With 571 transactions in the month, condos accounted for more than half of all sales in January, with townhouse sales at 156 and detached house transactions at 295. With an 8-month supply of inventory, this is overall a buyer’s market that is gaining strength.
Fraser Valley: With 626 transactions in January 2023, housing sales were off 12.6% compared to December 2022 and down by 52.2% compared to January 2022 to the lowest level in 10 years. The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reports that “pent-up demand that has been building since the last quarter of 2022 will likely give rise to a sales uptick, especially if rate hikes subside, which we expect will be the case.” New listings saw an increase of 128.3% over December 2022 to 1,833 but remain at the lowest level for January since 1984. Active listings rose 5% to 4,118 compared to December 2022 and were up 76.6% compared to January 2022. At $942,200, the composite benchmark home price edged down 1.4% from December and was off 15% compared to January 2022.
Vancouver Westside: Total sales in January were 194, down 56% from the same month a year earlier and 20% below December 2022. New listings were up 196% compared to December but 29% lower than a year ago. There are less detached homes for sale than at this time last year, but this may change. In January, the City of Vancouver introduced Adding Missing Middle Housing and Simplifying Regulations in Low-Density Neighbourhoods, which would see the opportunity to develop multi-unit housing in single-detached RS zones throughout the city. The proposed changes allow up to four units on a typical 33-foot city lot, and 6 units on a 55-foot lot, subject to two rounds of public engagement. A final report and public hearing to be brought before Council in the fall of 2023. Meanwhile, investors and developers will be angling to purchase detached houses to take advantage of the upzoning. The benchmark price of the 25 detached houses sold in January on the Westside was $3,020,600, down 11.6% from a year earlier. The supply of total residential listings is up to 9 month’s supply (buyer’s market conditions) and sales-to-listings ratio is 27% compared to 100% in December 2022 and 44% in January 2022.
Vancouver East Side: Upzoning of detached house lots may eventually have an even greater impact on the East Side, due to the addition of two SkyTrain extensions and lower prices. The typical detached house sold in January for $1,664,900, or about half that of the Westside, and down 9.3% from a year earlier. Total sales of all properties were 118 in January, down 54% from a year ago. Condos sales, with 56, led local transactions and the benchmark condo price held steady from December 2022, at $676,800. Total active listings were 867 at month-end compared to 739 at that time last year and 880 at the end of December 2022. The supply of total residential listings is steady at a 7-month’s supply (balanced to buyer’s market conditions) and the sales-to-listings ratio of 33% compared with 85% in December 2022 and 54% in January 2022.
North Vancouver: A deep sleep in sales was seen in January with only 82 transactions, down 45% from a year earlier. Only 18 detached sales were seen, with the benchmark price of $2,033,000 down just 2.3% from a month earlier and 9.5% below January 2022. Meanwhile, 48 condos sold at a benchmark of $749,000, down less than 1% from December 2022. Both townhomes and condos are in seller’s market conditions with townhouse sales at similar levels to January 2022. Total active listings were at 416 at month-end compared to 291 at that time last year and 385 at the end of December 2022. Total residential listings are up to 5 month’s supply (balanced market conditions) and the sales-to-listings ratio of 35% compared to 132% in December 2022 and 55% in January 2022.
West Vancouver: Benchmarked at $3,074,400 in January, West Vancouver detached house prices are holding remarkably steady, down just 0.6% from a month earlier and less than 6% below January 2022, based on 16 sales. Total properties sold in January were 28, down 30% from December 2022 and down 38% from January 2022. The total residential listings are up to 15-month supply and the sales-to-listings ratio of 22% compared to 85% in December 2022 and 32% in January 2022. This is a full-on buyer’s market for those who can afford it.
Richmond: For the first time in two years, the average (not benchmark) home price in Richmond dipped below the $1 million mark in January, falling to $977,143, which was down from more than $1.2 million a year earlier. While total sales in January, at 120, were off 65% from a year earlier, there was action in the strata market. In one case a condo apartment attracted nearly a dozen offers. There were 81 condo sales in the month at a benchmark price of $720,700, a price up 4.6% from a month earlier and 3% higher than in January 2022. Richmond benchmark townhouse prices, at $1,065,600, are 2% higher than a year ago and edged up 1.5% from December 2022. Total active listings were 942 at month-end compared to 752 at that time last year and 919 at the end of December. Richmond is a buyer’s market with an 8-month supply and a sales-to-listing ratio at a weak 29%.
Burnaby East: Only 9 homes sold in January, perhaps the lowest ever recorded and below even the sluggish January 2019 which posted 11 transactions. Listings are increasing, posting a 214% spike up from December, which may keep prices in check. In January, the composite home price was $1,079,300, down 5.3% from a year earlier. There are 10 months of housing inventory in this buyer’s market, where the sales success ratio is a low 20%.
Burnaby North: Total sales were down 56% from a year earlier with 63 transactions in January at a composite benchmark of $954,200, a price down 4.7% year-over-year and off 1.1% from December 2022. (Benchmark prices slipped below $1 million last August and have been slowly descending since). Despite a lot of new condos being built over the past three years, condo prices are holding firm, benchmarked at $696,600 in January, a price 0.2% higher than in January 2022. This is considered an overall balanced market, with about a six-month supply of total listings and a sales-to-listings ratio of 31%
Burnaby South: Just 54 sales were seen in January, down from 94 a month earlier and 64% below the pace in January 2022. The composite benchmark price of $1,052,800, however, was up marginally from December 2022 and down less than 1% from a year ago. Active listings were at 352 at month-end compared to 283 at that time last year and 344 at the end of December. This is a buyer’s market, despite the sticky prices, with an inventory of a 7-months’ supply and a sales-to-listing ratio of 33%, far below the 152% seen in December 2022.
New Westminster: New West flirted with a seller’s market in December 2022 but was more balanced in January as sales dipped to 40 transactions, down 25% from a month earlier and 61% below January 2022. There has been increased action in the detached housing market, particularly in the Sapperton and the Massey-Victoria Heights areas, where quick sales were seen, some above asking, at the end of January. While the benchmark detached house price is $1,384,000, New Westminster has one of the lowest composite home prices in a SkyTrain-served community, at $782,300. Both benchmark townhouse prices ($892,300 ) and condo apartments ($622,500) are higher now than a month and a year ago, which is rare in Metro Vancouver. This is considered a balanced market, with a 6-month supply of listings and a sales-to-listings ratio of 38%.
Coquitlam: Coquitlam posted 73 residential property sales in January, down 10% from December 2022 and 58% less than in January 2022, and this is considered a buyer’s market with 484 active listings – about a 7-month supply – and sales-to-listing ratio of a low 28%, compared to 107% in December 2022. Condo demand and prices are firm: 48 apartments sold in January at a benchmark price of $656,300, a price nearly unchanged (down 0.9%) from a year earlier. Just 4 townhouses sold in January, but the benchmark price of $975,000 was down just 0.3% from December 2022.
Port Moody: Total sales in January were 23 – down from 41 (44%) in December 2022 and down from 57 (60%) in January 2022. Active listings were 188 at month end, compared to 93 at that time last year and 155 at the end of December 2022. New listings in January were up 145% compared to December 2022 and up 29% compared to January 2022. This is a buyer’s market, with the composite home price virtually unchanged from a year ago, at $1,083,700.
Port Coquitlam: Buyers withdrew from Port Coquitlam in January, and we suspect relatively high prices may be to blame in the only Tricities market with no SkyTrain. The benchmark detached house has shot up 38% since January 2020 and, even with an 11% decline in the last year, is still at $1,279,200. Just 13 detached houses sold in January, down from 29 in the same month last year. However, this is technically a seller’s market because there is only a 4-month supply of listings and the overall sales-to-listing ratio is running at 44%, with detached houses at 66%.
Pitt Meadows: Total sales in January slumped 50% from a year earlier to just 15 transactions as the composite home price in the small community fell 15% in the same period to $830,600.
Still, this is also seen as seller’s market because a lack of listings translates to just a 4-month supply. The current sales-to-listings ratio of 39% compares to 191% in December 2022 and 73% in January 2022, so sellers have a fragile advantage at best.
Maple Ridge: Maple Ridge, where the composite home price of $910,000 is still 38% higher than in pre-pandemic January 2020, also saw total sales slide in January, dropped 47% from a year earlier and 17% from a month ago, to 65 transactions. The benchmark price of a detached house, the dominant sales sector, is $1,166,000, down 16.2% from a year ago and declining by an average of about 1.5% per month since last fall. New Listings in January were up 232% compared to December 2022 and the total inventory of listings is up to 7 month’s supply (balanced to buyer’s market conditions), with a sales-to-listings ratio of 30% compared to 120% in December 2022 and 51% in January 2022.
Ladner: With 16 sales in January, up from 9 in December, Ladner saw its total supply of homes for sale drop from an 8 to a 5-month inventory in January, despite new listings jumping 209% month-over-month. Detached house prices are down 16% from January 2022, to $1,267,700, but are declining 2.5% per month. This is a balanced market tilting towards a buyer’s advantage with lower prices and a rather tepid sales-to-listing ratio of 37%, about half that of December 2022.
Tsawwassen: Tsawwassen posted zero townhouse sales in January, but only having 3 new listings will lead to that. Based on December sales, therefore, the benchmark townhouse price remains 4.4% lower from a year ago, at $937,100. Detached house prices are down 11% year-over-year to $1,434,600 but remain 30% higher than in pre-pandemic January 2020.
Total housing sales were 20 in January, down 52% from a year earlier, but new listings were up 185% from December 2022. This is a balanced market with a healthy supply of listings and a sales ratio of 35%, down sharply from 115% a month earlier.
Surrey:Surrey housing sales slumped across the board in January, with detached house transactions down 67.8% year-over-year, townhouse sales down nearly 50% and condo apartment sales falling 60% compared to January 2022. Benchmark prices followed suit, with detached house prices dropping 22% to $1,552,110; townhouse prices down 16% from a year ago to $807,200 and condo prices dipping 7.5% year-over-year to $526,938. With active listings rising and sales and prices falling, Surrey is a serious buyer’s market right now. Opportunity exists in that market.
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Partner/Broker and Chief Economist at Dexter Realty
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