February 2021: Watch for the rise of the strata market
February is traditionally a ho-hum period in residential real estate but this year, as with so much of the recent Metro Vancouver market, this February proved exceptional. Housing sales hit the highest monthly level since June 2017, with prices arcing nearly 9% higher than a year earlier to a composite benchmark of $1,084,000. The typical detached house now sells for more than $1.62 million –an average increase of $221,000 from February 2020 – with sales up 80% from a year ago.
Detached houses have been the headline news in Metro Vancouver for the past year, but we believe February marked the beginning of a major shift towards the townhouses and condominium sector.
February townhouses sales were up 82% year-over-year and condo apartment sales were 65% higher. Together, strata property sales accounted for nearly 65% of all February transactions, with condo apartments leading all sectors with a blistering pace of 62 sales every day. Condo developers reported “a sense of urgency” in new condo sales in February as 1,400 new condos started construction and 1,759 existing condos sold.
It may come down simply to supply. There is a lack of detached houses to meet demand, despite a 21% spike in new listings in February, and there has been a chronic shortage of townhouses, with just a 1.5-month supply now available. In Port Moody and Maple Ridge there were almost twice as many townhouse sales as active listings in February. And on Vancouver’s West Side the number of townhouse sales in February were the highest since June 2017.
Investors, we believe, are pivoting to condos, looking towards the easing of pandemic regulations that will bring vibrancy back to downtowns and foreign students back to Metro Vancouver campuses. Affordability is part of the equation. In the past year, condo prices have increased just 2.5%, while townhouse prices jumped 7.2% and detached houses soared 13.7%. In East Vancouver, as one example, the typical condo apartment sells for $599,000 while a neighbouring detached house sells for $1.58 million.
For an increasing number of buyers, condominiums are now the first, the smartest and only choice.
What to expect going forward...
We are now experiencing a perfect storm that is churning housing demand and prices to unprecedented heights. Mortgage interest rates are at the lowest level in our lifetime, even our parents lifetime. This combines with intense buyer demand and simply not enough listings, all in an environment where the home is now the centre for living and work for thousands of families. Multiple offers are now the majority of transactions. We don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Greater Vancouver: Total housing units sold in February were 3,852 were up 57% from the 2,454 in January 2021, 76% higher than February 2020, and a startling 155% increase compared to February 2019. Total active listings were at 8,851 at month end, compared to 9,894 at the same time last year and 8,831 at the end of January 2021; New listings in February were up 12% compared to January 2021, up 26% compared to February 2020 and up 30% compared to February 2019. Yet the sales-to-listings ratio, a key metric, February was 74%, signally a robust seller’s market, and perhaps strongest performance in history. In February of 2016, the former peak year for housing sales, the sales ratio was 56%.
February 2021 Highlights
Least expensive detached house: Maple Ridge, $972,600
Most expensive detached house: Westside, Vancouver, $3.3 million
Least expensive condo apartment: Port Coquitlam, $481,300
Least expensive townhouse: Maple Ridge, $594,300
Highest annual home sales increase: Tsawwassen, up 138%
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.
Vancouver Westside: Home buyers in Canada’s most expensive community should keep a close eye on long-term mortgage rates now because the five-year Canadian government bond rate has doubled since February 5 after barely budging for a decade, rising 45 basis points (0.45% ) to 0.88% as of February 26. The five-year fixed mortgage is tied to the bond rate, unlike variable rate mortgages. The current bond rate has already surpassed the forecast for all of 2021. If you are looking at locking in a new mortgage, the sooner is better.
A total of 592 homes sold on the Westside in February from 1,194 active listings, for a sales-to-listing ratio of 63%, the highest level in at least five years. Sales of condos dominated , with 440 condos purchased, compared to 87 detached houses and 63 townhouses. The price gap between sectors is becoming a chasm. The typical Westside detached house sold for a benchmark of $3,232,500 in February, compared to $735,000 for a condo and just over $1.3 million for a townhouse. Detached house prices were up 8.5% from a year earlier – ,nearly $275,000 – while condo apartment prices were down 0.2% and townhouse prices rose just 2.4%.
Vancouver East Side: Investors take note: East Side condo apartment prices have not budged in two years and now, at a $599,000 benchmark, are $13,000 less than in 2018. Townhouse prices are 2% lower now than three years ago, at a current benchmark of $910,000. However, all East Side strata prices have been edging up since December. Both have increased though in the last 6 to 8 months.
The East Side story is a positive one of increased transit, high-tech job growth and condo prices that are lower than in Burnaby and far below the Westside. There was a is surge in East Side condo and townhouse sales in February and this market appears ripe for rapid price appreciation.
Total East Side housing sales in February, at 408, were up 59% from January and 67% higher than in February 2020 and 146% above the 166 sales in February 2019. Despite an increase in listings, the sales-to-new-listing ratio was 70%, compared to 51% a month earlier and 55% in February 2020. Townhouses were seeing multiple offers with the sales-to-new-listing ratio at a stunning 105% in February, meaning virtually every townhouse listed sold.
North Vancouver: Both the City and District of North Vancouver are regulating new homes to meet the highest energy regulations under the BC Step Code, effective July 1, 2021. Perhaps better for the environment, the changes can add $40,000 or more to the price of a new detached house, according to industry estimates. Something to consider if you are planning to build or buy a new house this year.
North Vancouver is running out of homes for sale faster than nearly any other Metro region. There is now only a one-month supply, based on current listing and sales. In February total listings were 469 units, while sales reached 318 units. The result is an extreme sellers’ market, with a sales-to- listing ratio of 74%.
West Vancouver: February housing sales in West Vancouver, at 102 transactions, more than doubled from a month earlier, rising 127% from January and up 57% from February of last year. Sales were also 162% above February 2019. As usual, detached houses led the market, accounting for 80% of all transactions, despite house prices rising 16.8% from a year earlier to a benchmark of $2,972,400. West Vancouver remains a seller’s market, though more modest than in other regions, with a sales-to-listing ratio in February of 63%, which was up from 23% in January and from a 40% ratio a year earlier.
Richmond: With a sales-to-listing ratio of 77% in February, Richmond has about a three-month supply of residential units and it is being whittled down fairly quickly.
Total Richmond housing sales in February reached 453 units, up from 277 a month earlier and from 253 in February 2020, and a 192% increase from the 155 homes sold in February 2019. The benchmark price of a detached house increased 9.6% year-over-year to $1,651,800, but buyers should note that this price has been rising an average of $24,700 per month for the past three months. Condo sales in February reached 197 units, with benchmark prices up 6.5% year-over-year to $683,200. In the same period, typical townhouse prices advanced nearly 9% to $849,900.
Burnaby East: There were a total of 141 housing sales in February, up 46% from January and 28% higher than in February 2020. Burnaby East has among the lowest-price detached house prices in the region, with its benchmark of $1,317,900 about $300,000 below the Greater Vancouver benchmark. Active listings were at 84 at month end compared to 91 at the same time last year and 67 at the end of January. There is two month’s supply and sales to listings ratio of 64% compared to 65% in January 2021, 84% in February 2020 and 47% in February 2019. The sellers’ market is strengthening.
Burnaby North: This market has become intense with multiple offers on detached houses. One listing recently attracted 43 bids and sold for $300,000 above the asking price. The stats reflect what is going on in the home of the Amazing Brentwood and the new condos that surround it. Total sales were up 93% from the same month last year, to 193 transactions this February. Detached house prices have been rising more than 1% per month since last September and reached $1,572,500 in February. New listings in February were up 9% compared to January 2021, up 37% compared to February 2020 and up 66% compared to February 2019., yet the total inventory of listings is down to a 2 month’s supply. A strong sellers’ market, with the sales-to-listing ratio at 73%, compared to a ratio of 52% in February 2020.
Burnaby South: Anchored by Metrotown, considered Burnaby’s downtown, Burnaby South accounted for 201 of the 525 Burnaby home sales in February, with sales increasing 40% from January and up 91% year-over-year. Benchmark detached house prices were 10.2% higher than in February 2020, to $1,629,300, but the typical condo price was virtually unchanged year-over-year, at $664,700. Townhouse prices have been slowly climbing 0.5% every month for the past six months and reached $806,200 in February. Sales are strong, representing 74% of available listings.
New Westminster: That pounding beat you hear in the Royal City is pile driving on the waterfront as the latest and tallest new condo towers begin to rise above the Westminster Quay, in this instance two towers of 43 and 53 storeys. New Westminster’s housing market is now defined by condominium apartments, which represented 111 of the total of 164 transactions in February. Condo prices were up 3% year-over-year to $532,900, while condo sales increased 69% compared to both one month and one year earlier. New Westminster remains relatively affordable for all types of homes. Despite detached house prices increasing 11.9% from a year ago, the city has the lowest price for a SkyTrain-served market in Greater Vancouver, at a benchmark of $1,177,800. The overall sales-to-listing ratio, at 74% in February, reflects the strong sellers’ market.
Coquitlam: Coquitlam was an early adapter of laneway homes and small-lot, detached-house development, and now the city is considering zoning changes in six southwest neighbourhoods where residents have voiced support for higher density. These pockets include Austin-Poirier, Blue Mountain-Quadling and Whitting-Apian, among others. The areas are fairly close to SkyTrain stations and most of the detached houses were built 40 years ago. The plan is still in the consultation phase, but it is something local owners, buyers and sellers should be aware of.
Coquitlam detached house sales in February totalled 105, up from 76 in January and 67 in February of 2020. The benchmark detached house price posted a year-over-year increase of 16% to $1,363,000. Coquitlam added 71 new listings to the townhouses inventory in February, but with 69 sales, the supply is dwindling and prices were up 7.8% year-over-year to $725,100. Total home sales in the month, at 322, were up 43% from January and 64% higher than in February of last year. The sales-to-listing ratio in Coquitlam was 79% in February, a very strong buyer’s market.
Port Moody: The waterfront, SkyTrain-linked city of Port Moody is in the midst of dramatic change – two new development plans alone call for about 5,000 new homes over the next two decades – but it remains a quiet community backdropped by the massive 2,700-acre Belcarra Regional Park on its north shore. The green space and oceanfront are among the reasons detached house prices have soared 17.5% over the past year to $1,655,900, fourth-highest in Metro Vancouver markets. Port Moody is also distinctive in that its February benchmark condo price, at $671,900, is higher than local townhouse prices, at $660,400, evidence of the modern condo apartments built since SkyTrain arrived. There is only a two-month supply of homes in Port Moody and the February sales-to-listing ratio was 81%, representing one of the strongest sellers’ markets in Metro Vancouver.
Port Coquitlam: Port Coquitlam is rather tucked away but it should not be overlooked for buyers looking for value and potential. The little city has the lowest condo apartment prices in Greater Vancouver, at a February benchmark of $481,300. The secret is apparently getting out, though, as condo sales this year were up about 30% year-over-year to 81 transactions, including 44 in February. Future condo development is coming, and about 20 detached house lots in a six-acre wedge of land on Westwood Street, where the city is planning its first high-density development zone, will be affected. The benchmark price of a detached house in Port Coquitlam is now $1,270,000, but prices have risen 19.1% year-over-year, the fastest increase in the Tri-City area and one of the largest in Metro Vancouver. This is a town for investors to watch.
Maple Ridge: The pandemic work-from-home trend has made Maple Ridge one of the most popular destinations for people seeking more living space and lower housing costs. The result is predictable: overall housing sales have increased 64% year over year and were up 51% in February from a month earlier to 292 units. The benchmark price of a detached house soared 18.2% to $972,600. Townhouse prices are up 13.4% to $594,300 and condo apartment prices have increased nearly 9%, to $387,500, from a year ago. All of these prices are the lowest in Greater Vancouver, but a low inventory may drive values higher. There is now a mere one-month supply of total listings on the Maple Ridge market and the overall sales-to-listing ratio in February was a startling 81%. This is an extreme seller’s market. The shortage won’t end soon. As of February 1, just 185 new townhomes and 189 detached houses were under construction in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area, and total housing starts in all of 2020 tallied just 213 units.
Pitt Meadows: Pitt Meadows total housing sales more than doubled in February from a month earlier, rising 118% to 48 transactions, and were up 78% from a year earlier, but active listings plunged to just 38, down from 86 a year earlier and 42 at the end of January 2021. The sales-to-listing ratio is 80%, one of the highest in the Metro region, as is the annual price increase of 20.7% for detached houses, to $1,066,700. Townhouse prices are increasing an average of 4% per month and reached $651,000 as of February. This small market is one of the hottest for housing sales in the region.
Ladner: The south Delta community of Ladner led Greater Vancouver’s mainland in price increase for detached houses, up 20.9% year-over-year to $1,159,000 in February. Detached house prices are now rocketing up by 7.7% per month, also the highest such increase in the region. Townhouse prices are up 6% from February of last year to $693,900 and condo apartment prices reached $537,600, up 5.5% from a year earlier in this very active market. With a 74% sales-to-listing ratio and few new homes being completed, total listings represent a mere two-month supply.
Tsawwassen: This sunny region of Delta has a blazing housing market, with intense demand taking up the 91% year-over-year increase in listings seen in February. Sales have more than doubled from a year ago, with 78 transactions in February, up 138% from a year earlier. Townhouse prices edged up 2.4%, year-over-year, to $640,500 but the real surge was in detached houses to $1,273,100, up 15.7% from a year earlier and 3.4% higher than in January 2021. The sales-to-new-listing ratio is 74% and, if the current sales pace continues, Tsawwassen will run out of listings in about eight weeks. So far this year, 359 new homes are under construction in Tsawwassen, including 73 townhomes, 251apartments (some of which are rentals) and just 39 new detached houses, but most of the new units are already pre-sold.
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