Greater Vancouver Real Estate Market: December 2013

In the Greater Vancouver real estate market, 2013 had two distinct parts: first half, dead slow; second half, back to normal.

The Year in Review

Sandra Wyant, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, says, “Home sales quietly improved last year compared to 2012, although the volume of activity didn’t compare to some of the record-breaking years we experienced over the last decade.”

Watch the video.

Year-over-year, MLS® home sales increased by 13.9 per cent to 28,524. That left 2013 with the third-lowest annual sales total in the last 10 years, largely because the spring rush was non-existent.

Then came June, and 2013 began kicking 2012′s butt every month, with double-digit percentage gains over the same month of the previous year. Those startling gains got us back to average sales levels.

The chart shows how 2013 MLS residential sales (green line) caught up with the 10-year average in July. We finished 2013 with December sales at 8.1 per cent above the 10-year average for the month.

Greater Vancouver real estate sales chart 2011 - 1013
After a lacklustre 2011 and 2012, it’s nice to be back. Most real estate sages are predicting that we’ll stay in that stable range in 2014.

Despite the encouraging sales numbers, fewer homes went on the market. We ended 2013 with 54,742 active listings. It’s a drop of 6.2 per cent from 2012, but it’s right in line with the 10-year average for listings.

With a balance of sales and listings, MLS benchmark prices did not move much in most areas—a 2.1 per cent rise overall. That beat the predictions, though. In a 2012 Reuters poll of real estate forecasters, the median prediction was a 3.8 per cent price drop in 2013, with an eventual total decline of 12.5 per cent.

In this year’s Reuters poll, the median prediction is a 1 per cent increase in 2014, with a 0.8 per cent rise in 2015. A RE/MAX forecast in December called for 5 per cent growth in average prices, and the new Royal LePage House Price Survey predicts a 4.4 per cent rise.

High-end real estate is still setting the pace. Benchmark prices for detached houses in the most expensive areas increased the most in 2013. Vancouver and the North Shore prices rose by 4.5 to 8 per cent over the year. And the average price for a detached house in Greater Vancouver hit a new record high of $1,276,073 in December.

The latest Sotheby’s Top-Tier Real Estate Report says that sales of $4 million-plus homes increased by 48 per cent over 2012, and that in the second half of 2013, sales of homes over $1 million rocketed up 74 per cent in Vancouver.

BC Property Assessments

No doubt about it, we live in a pricey place. According to the new BC Assessments roll, all but 17 of the 500 most expensive residential properties in BC are within the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s territory. The top 500 properties ranged from a gasp-inducing $54,206,000 for Chip Wilson’s Point Grey Road mansion to a relatively modest $7,484,000 for a West Vancouver waterfront home on Travers Avenue.

The REBGV includes everything north of the Fraser, from Whistler to Maple Ridge, as well as the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands, and South Delta, so those high-priced properties included city houses with panoramic views, Whistler retreats, country acreages, waterfront spreads and even three small Gulf Islands.

For the rest of us, the latest BC Assessment rolls, are based on market value on July 1 of 2013, so they don’t reflect the modest price increases we saw in the second half of the year. The BC Assessment office says that most changes will be in the -10 to +5 per cent range for the Greater Vancouver region. Judging by the examples they’ve published, many home owners will get a bit of a break.

There may be a few surprises in Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam, where a new program allows appraisers to spot physical improvements to homes more easily… from their computers. Many houses in Belcarra went up by 15 per cent or more, and waterfront properties throughout that region saw 15+ per cent increases as well.

Globe and Mail article titled “Vancouver Condo Market Stays Flat” looks at assessments in the GVRD. It quotes the BC Real Estate Association’s Cameron Muir as saying “… overall condo prices are now seven to eight per cent lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than they were at the recent peak of the condo market in 2009.”

If condos are flat, properties where somebody can build condos are anything but. According to the North Fraser office of BC Assessment, “Some properties that have recently been rezoned to a higher density are experiencing increases in total value in excess of 60 per cent.”

December Sales, Listings and Benchmark Prices

In all, 1,953 homes sold in Greater Vancouver in December. Of those, 762 were detached houses, 341 were townhomes or duplexes, and 850 were condo apartments. Compared to December 2012, those numbers were leaps ahead. Sales always decline from November to December, but this December they dropped only about half as much as they did in the 2012 and 2011.

What’s Up, What’s Down – At a Glance
 Dec 2013 / Nov 2013 Dec 2013 / Dec 2012
Overall Sales -15.9% +71%
- Detached -13.1% +79.3%
- Townhome -14.1% +60.1%
- Apartment -11.7% +68.7%
New Listings -42.8% +34.5%
Greater Vancouver MLS® Benchmark Prices % Change
 Dec 2013Nov 2013Dec 2012
Detached $927,000 +0.2% +2.5%
Townhome $456,100 -0.4% +1.2%
Apartment $367,800 0.0% +1.8%

For anyone hoping that Vancouver housing would get more affordable, this year was a disappointment, but there’s a wide range of prices in Greater Vancouver area. See detailed Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver stats for December for the range of prices in all areas and housing types.