Home sales up on the Island, down in Metro

While April home sales were higher in the rest of the country, they languished in B.C.

The latest Canadian Real Estate Association data showed a 0.8% gain in monthly sales to 5,385 units from March. In comparison, sales countrywide rose 3.6%.  Sales were mixed in B.C. Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) sales fell 1.4%, marking a sixth straight monthly decline; sales also fell in Victoria, Kamloops, the Kootenays and in the north. The declines were offset by sales growth of 5.8% on Vancouver Island (excluding Victoria) and nearly 6% in the Okanagan.

Unadjusted, B.C. sales were down 18.8% from same-month 2018, compared with a national increase of 4%. Excluding B.C., national gains were 9%. Various policy measures continue to constrain sales in the province. Stress tests – and their effect on purchasing power – are a more significant drag in higher-priced B.C. markets such as Vancouver.

Year-to-date, B.C. sales were down nearly 25% compared with a national decline of 1.3%. Excluding B.C., sales in the rest of the country rose 4%.

Low sales continue to drive inventory levels higher. Active listings rose across B.C., extending a near-unbroken pattern of increases since early 2018. Active listings were up 38% year-over-year. The sharpest increase was in the Lower Mainland and Victoria. Sales-to-active-listings ratios point to buyer’s-market conditions in the Lower Mainland and southern Interior regions of the province.

The average price fell for the fifth time in six months to $663,172, down 0.8% from March and 6% from same-month 2018. The trend reflects a combination of price declines and a lower sales share in the high-priced Lower Mainland area relative to other regions.

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) housing price index, which adjusts for housing attributes, showed a 0.3% decline in the typical home price in the REBGV area, with a year-over-year decline of 8.5%. Fraser Valley values were up from March, but down 4.5% year-over-year.

New vehicle sales rebounded in March, signalling some firming of consumer demand and broader retail sales, but the trend remained negative. March sales in B.C. and the territories reached 20,299 units in March, down 4.5% year-over-year, but an improvement from February’s 6% decline.

Seasonally adjusted, sales rose 3.5% from February to about 18,550 units following a 5% decline. The trend has declined since a mid-2017 peak of more than 20,500 units. Falling sales reflect less replacement demand following robust sales in recent years, slower economic growth and higher interest rates. Nevertheless, sales flow remains above the previous cycle high observed in 2007-08. •

Bryan Yu is deputy chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union.