Housing starts roar as sales go quiet

Vancouver leads pace as starts more than double in first quarter compared with last year


As housing sales dropped to the lowest level in five years, Metro Vancouver new home starts have soared in the first quarter of the year, with starts in Vancouver alone more than twice as high as during the same period in 2017.

There were 6,542 home sales on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Metro Vancouver during the first quarter of 2018, which is a 13.1% decrease from the same period last year.

This represents the region’s lowest first-quarter sales total since 2013, reports the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

But total housing starts across the region increased to 6,864 units in the first three months of 2018, up 30% from a year earlier.

In Vancouver, first quarter starts soared 109% to 1,956 homes, including 1,592 apartments or townhouses. Vancouver detached house starts jumped 93% to 364 homes, reports Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Huge increases were also seen in North Vancouver, where 1,422 homes broke ground so far this year, compared with 107 in the same period in 2017.

Starts were also higher in the Tri-Cities and Richmond, but were down in Burnaby and Surrey following near record starts in the first quarter of last year. West Vancouver had 120 multi-family starts this year compared with none in the first quarter of 2017.

The real estate board noted that sales of existing homes have been hit by a number of factors in 2018.

“We saw less demand from buyers and fewer homes listed for sale in our region in the first quarter of the year,” said Phil Moore, REBGV president. “High prices, new tax announcements, rising interest rates, and stricter mortgage requirements are among the factors affecting home buyer and seller activity today.

“Last month was the quietest March for new home listings since 2009, and the total inventory, particularly in the condo and townhome segments remains well below historical norms,” Moore added.

Despite 42,590 new homes now under construction across Metro Vancouver the current inventory remains low. Of the nearly 7,000 new strata units or new houses that have been completed so far this year only 1,004 remained unsold as of March, according to CMHC data.