Confidence hinges on interest rates
Highlights of the Report August 2023
• Bank of Canada holds prime rate at 5% but keeps door open to further hikes
• Median price of a West Side detached house up $1 million in past year
• Total new listings have been falling, month-over-month, since May
• East Vancouver is leading all markets in detached house sales
• South Delta detached houses are moving to a buyer’s market
It is a sad commentary on the Greater Vancouver housing market when buy and sell decisions hinge more on minuscule interest rate moves than on the pragmatic needs of consumers. But that is what is happening. Two more consecutive Bank of Canada rate hikes in June and July – at 0.25% each – were enough to drive August housing sales down to the lowest level in six months and stall a rally in new listings, which fell 16% from a month earlier.
The Bank of Canada held the prime rate at 5% at its September 6 setting, but any confidence was dashed as the Bank warned that it would not hesitate to jack rates higher if the economy – and the housing market – began to heat up again.
The best advice for buyers is simply to take today’s higher lending rates into the equation and do the best to negate them. It is clear the Bank of Canada is failing, failing to admit it overshot on rate increases over the past year and trying to maintain the illusion it knows what it is doing.
Those considering purchasing a home between now and the next Bank of Canada scheduled rate hike announcement on October 25th should secure a pre-approved 120-day mortgage and talk to a mortgage professional about the best rate and term.
However, buyers and sellers should not be blinded by interest rate fluctuations. It is likely, considering the economic damage already done, and political pressure, that Bank of Canada rates will not increase again this year. Instead, buyers should concentrate on property values and sellers on matching their price to the market.
Buyers cannot ignore the investment dynamics this year. In the past six months, as both sales and listings fell, prices have continued to increase. The August 2023 benchmark price, at $1,208,400, is $65,000 higher than in March of this year. The benchmark detached house price was up $156,000 to $2,018,500 in the same period and the typical condo apartment price increased by nearly
$40,000 while townhouse benchmark prices have risen 5% since March to $1,103,900.
But August benchmark prices across Greater Vancouver were down 0.2% from July 2023 and strata prices have barely budged in three months.
A key reason for a lack of new listings is universally higher prices that have frozen sellers in place and lower rates they currently have on mortgages. A look at the 20 Greater Vancouver markets shows that the August benchmark price varies very little from Bowen Island ($1.41 million) to the Westside of Vancouver ($1.34 million) or from East Burnaby ($1.19 million) to Ladner ($1.17 million). The potential of pocketing a healthy dividend when moving within the region is diminished, persuading many potential sellers to stay put.
It currently feels like a market waiting for an excuse to buy mixed with a reluctance to sell. Growing pent up buyer demand may be the best way to explain the status of the market. But without any increase in listings, it makes it difficult for that pent up demand to release. And there’s little to suggest we’ll see any increase in supply.
Banks are working with homeowners to keep mortgages funded – one option is allowing 30-year amortizations – and many with lower rate mortgages are unwilling to dive into the high interest rate pool and make a move. Expect that when the mortgage climate changes to more favourable buyer conditions, sales levels will increase in a significant way. The number of new listings in August was 6% below the 10-year average and has been falling, month-over-month, since May. This has kept it a seller’s market with only a 4-month supply of listings available – even with the low sales levels. This is going to keep the overall inventory of listings at two thirds the level they should be to get to balance or to favour buyers.
The bottom line is that September, often a bellwether month for sales, could ring in a traditional market rally, especially with no further increase in lending rates. This is the time for buyers and sellers to take advantage of the upturn.
If you are considering a sale, it is better to list now before fall competition increases. For those looking to buy, the current price stability offers a short-time opportunity.
Regional market data for August 2023
Greater Vancouver: There were a total of 2,296 sales in August, down 6% from July and 23% fewer than in June 2023, but up 21% from August of 2022. Active listings were 10,082 at the end of August, compared to 10,099 at that time last year and 10,301 at the end of July. New listings in August were down 16% compared to July 2023, but up 19% compared to August 2022. Despite a rally over the past six months, overall prices have stabilized. The composite home price in August, at $1,208,400, was up just 2.5% from August 2022, though 27.6% higher than in August of 2020. With a tight supply and a sales-to-listing ratio of 57% in August, Greater Vancouver remains in a seller’s market.
Fraser Valley: The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board recorded 1,273 sales in August 2023, a decrease of 6.9% compared to July. Sales were up 25.2% compared to August 2022. New listings dropped to 2,622 in August, down 8.2% from July, but 28.2% above August 2022. Active listings have been rising since last December and grew again in August by 1.5%, from July, to 6,291, just 7% off the 10-year average. The overall benchmark home price in August was $978,066 and all sector prices were nearly unchanged (down 0.6%) from July 2023 but up slightly from August 2022. The biggest year-over-year price move was condo apartments, up 2.5% from August 2022, to $553,500.
Vancouver Westside: There was a price shocker in this trendsetting market in August. Only 141 detached houses were listed for sale and 69 of them sold for a median price of $4,070,000, almost exactly $1 million more when compared to August 2022. We believe this is an unprecedented one-year median price increase anywhere at any time in Canada. To say detached demand is high is an understatement. Strata action was more muted, with townhouse and condo apartment sales and median prices nearly level with July 2023. Condo medians, at $820,875, were nearly the same as in August 2022. Total August sales were 433, down 1% from July 2023, and up 18% from August 2022. New listings in August were down 20% compared to July 2023, but up 13% compared to August 2022. The inventory of total residential listings is steady at 5-month supply, creating a balanced market with an August sales-to-listings ratio of 53%.
Vancouver East Side: More detached houses sold on the East Side in August than in any other market in Greater Vancouver. The 80 detached transactions were also much higher than in August 22, when 57 houses sold. Prices are the key. At a benchmark of $1,913,500, East Vancouver detached prices are $1.6 million less than on the neighbouring Westside and about $100,000 below the Greater Vancouver benchmark. Some of the sales impetus could be from investors trying to assemble East Vancouver detached lots in anticipation of the higher-density zoning expected this fall, which would allow up to six housing units on detached lots. Total August sales reached 250, down from 286 (13%) in July 2023, but up from 196 in August 2022. Active listings were at 1,013 at month end, though new listings in August were down 25% compared to July 2023. This is a seller’s market with a tight supply and a sales-to-listing ratio at 66%, the highest since August 2021.
North Vancouver: The strata market is strong in North Vancouver, with a sales-to-new listing ratio of 74% and sales up sharply from both a month and a year earlier, even as sales of detached houses fell. There were 85 condo apartment sales in August, at a benchmark price of $817,400, up 0.4% from July 2023. There were 38 townhouse sales, at a benchmark of $1,312,100, but this price was down nearly 3% from a month earlier. Detached house prices, benchmarked at $2,268,000, have not budged in three months, but remain 2.4% higher than a year ago. The supply of total residential listings is steady at a tight 3-month supply, confirming this as a seller’s market.
West Vancouver: August sales were up month-over-month driven by the detached segment – not hearing that very often these days, especially in West Vancouver. It was the highest detached absorption rate since April for the community. Total sales were 57 in August and detached transactions accounted for 34 sales, at a benchmark price of $3,273,900, a price up 10% from six months ago, but still 2.4% below August 2022. New listings in August were down 20% compared to July 2023 and down 3% compared to August 2022. This is a buyer’s market, with a 10-month supply of listings and a 39% sales-to-listing ratio.
Richmond: Richmond prices have flatlined over the past three months, though they remain about 4% higher than a year ago, with the benchmark price at $1,187,900. Listings are down, as are new home starts. As of August 1, only 273 new condos had started, for example, down from 378 at the same time last year, and total listings were down to 1,162 at month’s end, about 200 units lower than a month earlier. We estimate there is only a 4-month supply in this seller’s market, with a sales-to-listing ratio at 64%, up from 54% a month earlier.
Burnaby East: This is a seller’s market but with few sellers and even fewer buyers, with just 31 sales in August from a total inventory of 83 homes for sale. There is only a 3-month supply on the market and the sales ratio is running at 82%, the highest in at least two years. The benchmark home price in August was $1,195,100, down 0.7% from a month earlier, but up nearly 7% from August 2022.
Burnaby North: Total sales in August reached 139, down 13% from July 2023 but up 16% from August of last year. We may see an increase in sales of detached houses right across Burnaby this year as the City prepares to allow laneway homes on detached lots. The laneway houses can be up to 1,500 square feet but they are also restricted to long-term rentals. The benchmark price of a Burnaby North detached house is $2,047,100, up 10% from six months ago but unchanged from July 2023. New listings in August were down 11% compared to July 2023, but up 36% compared to August 2022. Total residential listings reflect a 4-month supply, and the sales-to-listings ratio is 54% in this seller’s market,
Burnaby South: While total sales are up from last year, they have been tracking down for three months, with the 133 transactions in August down 24% since June and 4% below July 2023. Prices dipped 0.3% from July to a composite benchmark of $1,138,100. New listings in August were down 10% compared to July 2023, but up 26% compared to August 2022. Residential listings are steady at 3 month’s supply, but the detached market is flirting with a buyer’s market. The overall sales-to-listings ratio is 62% compared to 59% in July 2023, and 73% in August 2022.
New Westminster: The Royal City was recently named the most livable city in the Lower Mainland and Number 3 in B.C., but after a surge in July sales, it posted one of the biggest declines in month-over-month sales in August. Total August sales, at 87, were down 27% from July 2023 but up from 77 transactions a year earlier. New listings dropped 16% from July, but total active listings are steady at 299 units. This includes a welcome increase in townhouse listings, which are now at a 5-month supply. Prices are holding firm, with townhomes benchmarked at $959,600, up 3% from a year ago; condo apartments also up 3% at $659,200; and detached houses at $1,587,300, unchanged from July 2023 but 9% higher than a year earlier. New West remains a seller’s market with a sales-to-listing ratio of 56%.
Coquitlam: With the imminent start of the massive Fraser Mills development and other condo projects, Coquitlam will be seeing higher starts by next year, but new supply so far in 2023 has plunged. Only 795 new homes have started, compared to 1,923 in the first seven months of 2022. Meanwhile, new listings in August were down 28% compared to a month earlier and total active listings, at 599, are down from 636 in July 2023. All sector prices are unchanged from July 2023, with the benchmark price up a mere 1.2% from a year earlier. With just a 3-month supply of listings and a sales ratio of 69%, this is a seller’s market despite the flatline prices.
Port Moody: Another strata/rental project in Port Moody has stalled at the design approval stage in a city that has had challenges getting new projects to market. The latest is a proposed six-storey, 60-unit project on St. John’s with 30 strata condos. New listings in August were down 31% from both July 2023 and August 2022 and there are only 167 active listings, lowest in a year. Still, with recent approvals, 306 new apartments have started so far in 2023, compared to just 5 a year ago, so there is progress on supply. Total sales in August were down 31% from July with 58 transactions. Condo benchmark prices are steady at $729,600 and detached houses at $2,076,500, are down 2.8% from August 2022, one of the few year-over-year declines in detached values. This is a balanced market with a total sales-to-listing ratio at 75%, compared to 43% a year ago and a healthy 6-month supply of detached listings.
Port Coquitlam: A total of 60 properties sold in August, down 5% from July and off 11% from August 2002. New listings are tracking down and total active listings at the end of August were 169, compared to 172 a month earlier. With a sales-to-listing ratio of 60%, this is a healthy seller’s market and worth a look at by buyers. The benchmark home price was unchanged from July at $971,400, the lowest price in the Tri-Cities.
Pitt Meadows: Aside from Squamish and the Sunshine Coast, Pitt Meadows posted the biggest month-over-month detached house price drop in August, with the benchmark price down 2.8% from July 2023, to $1,317,800. Total units sold in August were 23, down 4% from July 2023 but up 35% from August 2022 so the detached price slide is a bit of a puzzle. The supply of total residential listings is steady at 3 month’s supply, while the sales-to-listings ratio of 60% confirms this as a seller’s market.
Maple Ridge: Total sales in August were 119, down 17% from July 2023, but up from 113 transactions in August 2022, New listings in August were down 4% compared to July 2023 and up 17% compared to August 2022. The total supply of residential listings is up to 5-month supply (balanced market conditions), with a sales-to-listings ratio of 43% compared to 50% in July 2023. The benchmark price, at $1,005,700 has held steady (up 1.5%) since August of last year.
Ladner: While detached house listings are now at 6-month supply and in a balanced market condition, the strata sector is a different story with a shortage of both townhouses and condo apartments. Total new listings August were down 43% compared to July 2023. Despite the shortfall, prices are stable: the townhouse benchmark in August was $988,000, unchanged from July, while the condo benchmark was up 2%, month-over-month, to $731,900. Detached prices were unchanged from July, at $1,446,000, up 2% from a year ago. This is a seller’s market with a sales-to-listing ratio of 73% and a tight inventory.
Tsawwassen: Detached houses are now in a buyer’s market with a 9-month supply and August benchmark prices are down 3% from a year ago to $1,547,800. Opportunity awaits detached buyers here. Townhomes are maintaining sales levels while there were more condo sales than new listings in August. There were just 28 sales in all during August, down 15% from July 2023. Active Listings were at 162 at month end compared to 179 at that time last year and 161 at the end of July. With a 6 month supply of total residential listings and sales success ratio of 52%, this is a balanced market.
Surrey: B.C.’s second-biggest city posted mixed results in August, with detached sales and prices flatlining from a month earlier and sales of strata units falling from July 2023. Detached sales reached 175, unchanged from a month earlier, while the benchmark price was down 0.5% month-over-month to $1,675,900. Townhouse sales fell 13%, month-to-month, to 189 transactions and the benchmark price was down 1.3% to $881,600. Condo apartment sales were down 7.6% from July at 207 units and the benchmark price was off 1% to $548,200.