A wintry summer is brewing for B.C.’s real estate market with soaring interest rates drastically reducing buyer purchasing power while sellers clamber for yesterday’s prices. Home sales fell sharply in May while home values are declining, slowly but surely.
Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales fell 16.3 per cent in May adding to April’s 13 per cent decline to a seasonally-adjusted 6,853 units. On an unadjusted basis, sales fell 34 per cent.
While sales remained above levels observed just prior to the pandemic and above the same-month average from 2010-19, momentum is quickly weakening. This is not surprising with fixed mortgage rates well above four per cent and at a 10-year high, while variable rates are rapidly shifting higher. With home prices up 40 per cent during the pandemic, prospective buyers face a very different market, and many have quickly been priced out of ownership. High consumer price inflation is further amplifying affordability challenges for households.
Sales declines were observed in most regions of the province. Specifically, the real estate boards of Chilliwack (-25 per cent) and the Fraser Valley (-20 per cent), which covers Abbotsford-Mission and eastern communities of Metro Vancouver, including Surrey, led the drop in sales while the rest of Metro Vancouver fell 18 per cent. Vancouver Island fell 18 percent, but remained elevated, with more modest declines in the interior and northern markets. In contrast, retiree demand and migration from Alberta continues to support conditions outside Metro Vancouver.
Declining sales are contributing to a quick moderation in market conditions. Fewer sales and steady new listings lifted active listings in the province for a fifth straight month with inventory on the rise in most markets. Sales-to-active listings ratios remain in a range consistent with a sellers’ market, but the rapid decline suggests markets are nearly balanced, with the potential to move into a buyers’ market range.
At $980,324, the average price fell 4.7 per cent from April and marked the first sub-million-dollar reading since November. Consistent with sales, declines were deepest in Chilliwack (-4.3 per cent) and the Fraser Valley (-6.7 per cent), although average prices eroded in most real estate board areas.
After an impressive run where B.C. manufacturing sales increased for seven consecutive months, the streak came to an end in April as sales dipped 2.9 per cent from March to $5.8 billion. Both durable goods (down 1.6 per cent) and non-durable goods (down 4.5 per cent) posted weaker sales.
Key manufacturing areas such as wood products (down 5.9 per cent); transportation equipment (down 5.5 per cent); computer and electronic equipment (down 3.2 per cent); and electrical equipment, appliances and components (down 5.1 per cent) weighed down overall sales. The decline was only partially offset by a few sectors showing gains, such as food manufacturing (up 1.7 per cent), fabricated metal products (up 2.3 per cent) and sales of machinery (up 3.9 per cent).
Over 2022’s first four months, total sales remained 10.1 per cent of last year’s pace with durables (up 6.7 per cent) and non-durables (up 15.1 per cent), considerably ahead of last year’s pace notwithstanding April’s dip in activity. Manufacturing sales activity dipped across the province in May. In Metro Vancouver, sales fell 1.5 per cent and were down 4.3 per cent in the rest of British Columbia.
Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union.