Times Colonist

Housing market continues to cool

Listings ballooned 25 per cent in the last month

- DARRON KLOSTER

Real estate signs were sprouting like spring flowers in Greater Victoria last month.

But there are far more sellers than buyers as the region’s housing market continued to cool from last year’s record highs.

The number of properties listed through the Multiple Listing Service ballooned to 4,332 in May, a 25 per cent increase over the same month a year ago and the highest inventory level since 1998.

The month of May, traditiona­lly a strong listing month, brought a record number of new properties to the market — 1,850 in total. That is 250 more than last May and the highest number for a single month in more than 18 years, according to Tony Joe, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board.

The real estate board was putting a positive spin on yesterday’s numbers, saying it’s a more balanced market with more choice for buyers. But everyone is conceding the market is cooling considerab­ly as average and median house prices faded from the record highs of 2007.

Last year, the real estate board recorded the highest number of sales since 1991 — selling 4,758 homes, 2,370 condos and 895 townhomes.

Average days on the market for all properties — currently sitting at 59 days — is bound to tick higher with so much inventory and choice, said Joe. He added there have been some price reductions in the local market, but only on homes that were priced based on last year’s demand.

“It’s a stable market but it’s a fickle one,” said Joe. “People are looking for a good deal. We are selling a lot of homes and if a place is priced right, it’s going in four or five days and, in some cases, we’re still seeing multiple offers.

“If it isn’t priced right, buyers are saying they’ll wait to see if something better comes up — and lots of property is coming up for sale.”

There were 770 sales of all types properties last month, down from 963 in the same month a year ago.

Sales of single-family homes dipped to 470 in May, down 105 from the same month in 2007, while condominiu­m and townhome sales also declined.

The average price for a single family home fell to $601,897 — down nearly $29,000 from April. The average price included 24 sales over the $1million mark and the sale of 10 waterfront properties through the region which averaged $1.2 million. The median price of $545,000 for single family homes also dipped by $13,000. The six-month average was $606,985.

Condominiu­m sales in May reached 168, a slide from the 235 sales in April, while townhouse sales slipped from 80 in April to 71 in May. However, average prices for both property types were up. There were 168 condominiu­m sales, averaging $336,157, up $10,000 from last month, while 69 townhomes averaged $435,056, a $14,000 increase from the month before.

Joe said more than 75 per cent of homes sold in the last year to residents of the capital region while another 13 per cent were to Lower Mainland residents. The remainder of the buyers were from the Prairie provinces, the rest of Canada and internatio­nal buyers.

Meanwhile, investment in residentia­l constructi­on reached $19.8 billion in the first quarter of 2008, an increase of 7.5 per cent over the same period last year, Statistics Canada says.

The federal agency says more new housing constructi­on, renovation­s and acquisitio­n costs explained the quarterly increase seen in most provinces.

Data released yesterday showed new-housing investment increased by 8.8 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2007 to $9.7 billion.

Spending on apartment constructi­on went up by 17.5 per cent to $2.6 billion, while constructi­on spending on singlefami­ly homes increased by 3.7 per cent to $5.6 billion.

Spending on renovation­s rose to $8.4 billion — a 7.2 per cent hike — over the first quarter of 2007 and represente­d 42.4 per cent of total residentia­l constructi­on investment­s.

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