Condos alone can’t meet buyer demand
Sales of condominium apartments accounted for 53 per cent of all housing sales in Greater Vancouver in November 2021, with a 33.3% surge in transactions compared to November of 2020, but the record-setting sales pace may underline desperation in the market.
In the Fraser Valley, November sales of condo apartments were up 42.8% from November of 2020 and the benchmark price was up 21.7 per cent compared to November 2020.
We suspect more buyers are opting for a condo apartment because there is simply such little choice amidst unprecedented low inventory across all of Metro Vancouver. As well, apartments attract more investors than other sectors of the housing market, which further reduces the inventory. This is seen in pre-sales of new condo projects, in both Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
At least six new condo projects in Surrey, for example, completely pre-sold a total of 1,400 new condos since the summer. One high-rise project in central Surrey pre-sold 365 condos in a single weekend in mid-November.
Metro Vancouver saw 15 new condo projects, with a total of 2,525 units, released in October and this was followed by 1,796 pre-sale condos released in 13 projects in November. Yet Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reports that, even with 25,000 new condos under construction across Metro Vancouver, there were less than 1,500 condo units unsold as of November 1, the lowest level in three years.
As the demand increased, the price of the most affordable housing option has risen in step. As of November, the benchmark price for a resale apartment in Greater Vancouver was $752,800, up 11.1% from November of last year and 0.9% higher than in October 2021. In the Fraser Valley, the benchmark price for a apartment is now $530,400.
The average pre-sale price for a new condo in Metro Vancouver is now $1,050 to $1,150 per square foot, based on recent pre-sales. This means that a typical one-bedroom 480-square foot new condo costs around $500,000, and this average holds steady throughout most Metro Vancouver suburbs. Investors and owner-occupiers continue to buy due to expectations that prices will be even higher in the months and years ahead, which does appear certain due to the stubbornly low inventory.
The housing supply issue in Metro Vancouver is seriously out of whack with market demand. We have seen recent municipal and provincial government attempts to increase supply, but it is too little and too late to correct the current shortage any time soon.
Across Greater Vancouver the total inventory of homes for sale is stuck at a two month’s supply while the sales-to-listing ratio is running at 83% on average and cresting at over 100% in many markets.
With December looming, a month when listings traditionally fall to the lowest level of the year, Greater Vancouver will likely see the smallest ever inventory of homes to begin a New Year. The lowest we’ve seen at the start of a year is at 6,200 active listings. We will likely have less than 6,000 at the end of December which would translate into less than 5,000 active listings in Greater Vancouver when 2022 starts, after all the expired listings come and go at the end of December.
To put this in perspective, over the last six years, the average number of active listings to finish the year has been 8,440 while in the previous 20 years it’s been 12,015 homes.
If you have considered selling any type of property, list now and prepare for offers. If you need to wait until after the seasonal holidays, list early in January.
Highlights of the November 2021 house market:
Highest year-over-year detached house price increase in Greater Vancouver: Maple Ridge, up 34.1%
Biggest year-over-year detached house sales drop: Surrey, down 33.1%
Most expensive condo market: West Vancouver ($1.16 million)
Least expensive condo market: Surrey ($433,000)
Average sales-to-listing ratio, Greater Vancouver: 87%
Here’s a summary of the numbers:
Greater Vancouver: A total of 3,492 homes sold in November 2021, virtually unchanged (up 1%) from October but 15% higher than in November 2020. Active listings, however, crashed to 7,570 homes, down from 11,716 in November of last year. Here is a snapshot example of what is happening: New listings continue to decline as they have for months, slipping a further 2% from October to November. The month’s supply of total residential listings is still at two month’s (seller’s market conditions) and the overall sales to listings ratio is at 87% compared to 86% in October 2021 and 75% in November 2020. The composite home price in Greater Vancouver is now $1,211,200. This represents a 16% increase over November 2020 and a 1% increase compared to October 2021.
Vancouver Westside: A total of 647 homes of all types sold in the Westside in November, up 38% from November of 2020 and 9% higher than in October 2021.
New listings in November were down 11% compared to October 2021, but up 8% compared to November 2020. Month’s supply of total residential listings is down to 3 month’s supply (seller’s market conditions) and sales to listings ratio is 75% compared to 61% in October 2021 and 59% in November 2020. The price of detached houses on the Westside is slowly declining. The benchmark price of the 100 detached houses sold in November was $3,413,800, down 1% from October and tracking down about 1% over the past six months. The benchmark townhouse price is now $1,296,900, unchanged from a month earlier and up 12.7% from November of last year. The benchmark price for a Westside condo apartment in November was $835,500, 9.6% higher than in November 2020. With more inventory on Vancouver’s Westside, it’s keeping prices more in check compared to other areas. Funny, more supply does help keep prices down.
Vancouver East Side: The City of Vancouver claims it is speeding up residential building permit approvals. As an example, the city claims that it should now take 12 weeks less time to get a permit for a new house to be built. As a comparison, Surrey, which is the second largest B.C. city, guarantees that will take no more than 12 weeks for new house building permit to be approved. In Vancouver it can still take seven years for a permit for a new condo or townhouse development to work through the city process. Meanwhile, housing demand is increasing and supply is falling. Total East Side housing sales in November reached 385, up 6% from November 2020, but active listings were down to 921 homes, compared to 1,232 in November of last year. With the overall sales to listing ratio at 76%, there is now just a two-month supply of homes on the East Side. As a result, the benchmark detached house price in November was $1,744,700, up 20% from a year ago; the typical townhouse now sells for $1,070,700, up 18.8%, year-over-year; and the benchmark condo price is now $639,600 and has been rising by 1% month-over-month this year in this seller’s market.
North Vancouver: The benchmark price of a detached house this November in North Vancouver was $1,955,300, up 17% from a year ago, but for 88 house owners in central Lonsdale, detached house prices may soon be rising faster. That’s because the City of North Vancouver ruled on November 15 to upzone the 300 block (St. Andrews and Ridgeway avenues) from East 15th to East 19th Streets for duplexes. Even higher density zoning, to include row houses, is being eyed for the area. This plan has been in the works for seven years. Under the change, the 88 lots can be converted to duplexes without going through the usual time-consuming zoning process. It is a start, at least. So far this year, no townhouses have been approved to start in North Vancouver city and there are only 27 under construction in the entire city. Meanwhile, there were only 40 new listings for townhouses in all of North Vancouver City and District in November and there were 42 sales, resulting in a sales-to-listing ratio was 105%, meaning every townhouse listing is selling. I know we keep beating the same drum, but when will municipalities realize that more housing supply is desperately needed?
West Vancouver: While overall housing sales were down in November, with the 81 transactions off 10% from both October 2021 and from November 2020, West Vancouver also posted a dubious award: provincial data shows West Vancouver homeowners will pay the fourth-highest speculation and vacancy tax in the province for 2020, at $5.9 million. The onerous speculation tax is supposed to lower both the rental vacancy rate and the price of housing. There is no evidence of either since the tax was introduced, in fact it appears to have had the exact opposite effect. The composite home price in West Vancouver was up 12% from a year ago, at $2,552,100 in November. A lack of supply may cause prices to increase: new listings in November were down 30% compared to October 2021 and the sales-to-listing ratio is at 70% compared to 54% a month earlier.
Richmond: How time and opportunity slip away. In November, nearly nine years after a plan was first discussed, the City of Richmond has booted a proposal for a large residential development in the Capstan area – 1,300 homes – for further discussion. The developer has already agreed to save more trees, add more rentals and pay $205,000 for an “owl and hawk hunting area.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for a new townhouse or condo in the that area, despite the intense demand. In November, a total of 481 homes sold in Richmond, up 43% from November of 2020, but the total active listings plunged to 997 homes, down from 1,637 at that time last year and 1,155 at the end of October 2021. With just a two-month supply on the market, the sales-to-listing ratio is a startling 94%. The current composite home price in Richmond is $1,116,200, up 16.3% from November of last year. We fully expect Richmond home prices to increase as the supply dwindles.
Ladner: Okay, I know we have heard this before, but Ladner may actually be moving towards completing a downtown makeover plan – discussed for decades and in planning for two years – that would increase density and encourage redevelopment of the waterfront. In November the city gave preliminary approval for projects of up to six storeys. A public hearing on the plan is set for December 14, starting at 6 p.m. In November, 41 homes sold in Ladner, up 8% from October, but new listings fell 20% in the same period. There is about a one-month supply of homes on the market, and the sales-to-listing ratio is at a remarkable 103%. The composite home price was $1,077,700 in November, 23.5% higher than in November 2020.
Tsawwassen: The benchmark price of a Tsawwassen detached house in November was up 26.8% from a year earlier to $1,476,700, which is also 5.5% higher than just three months ago, one of the higher price increases in Greater Vancouver. Townhouse prices have shot up 13.4% year-over-year, to $872,500, which is higher than in Burnaby or New Westminster. This underlines the price parity we noted last month that may be keeping new listing in check. At one time, a seller could cash out of home in Burnaby or Vancouver and be confident of buying for much less in areas like South Delta. Also, a first-time buyer would look to the outer suburbs for more affordable homes to get onto the real estate ladder. But today, home prices are quite similar across all of Metro Vancouver. Like many suburbs, the law of supply and demand is driving Tsawwassen prices higher. With new listings down 14% in November from a month earlier, the sales-to-listing ratio was 106% and multiple offers have become common.
Burnaby East: It was more expensive to buy a condo apartment in Burnaby East than a townhouse this November, a rarity in Greater Vancouver. I suspect it is because of a lack of townhouse sales in a market where there is only a one month’s supply of homes on the market, plus the recent resales of fairly new condos. In any case, the benchmark condo price in November was $742,400, while the townhouse benchmark was $704,400. The overall sales-to-listing ratio is 85%, creating a seller’s market in Burnaby East.
Burnaby North: The benchmark price of a North Burnaby detached house has increased about $238,000 over the past year to a November benchmark of $1,769,000. And yes, we are still seeing multiple offers on prime houses in this strong seller’s market. Total sales in November were 185 homes, up 19% from November 2020, but the total active listings were down to 322, compared to 439 at the same time last year. The sales to listing ratio is running at 84%, up from 63% in November 2020. Burnaby North is a very strong condo market, due to the ongoing Brentwood area developments, with the benchmark condo price in November at $738,300, 11.1% higher than a year ago.
Burnaby South: Total housing sales in November reached 225 transactions, up 42% from November of last year and virtually unchanged from October 2021. Active listings were at 358 at month end compared to 669 at the same time last year, and 438 at the end of October 2021. New listings in November were down 2% compared to October 2021.The sales-to-listing ratio was 100% in both November and in October, showing that supply is not close to meeting demand. Townhouses are posting the strongest price growth, increasing an average of 2% per month for the last six month to reach $772,600 in November.
New Westminster: One potential developer has been waiting six years for a small townhouse development to achieve zoning through New Westminster’s approval process. Another, a rental project which even the mayor said “checks all the boxes,” was dissuaded from proceeding in November because city staff are concerned the site “is problematic from a livability perspective.” Meanwhile, only 12 new townhouses have been completed in New Westminster this year and, of the 16 condo apartments completed, there is only one that has been “unabsorbed”, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. There are 1,522 apartments under construction in the Royal City, but most will not complete until 2023 since 1,200 of them just started this year, and many of which are rentals. What is badly needed is strata townhouses. In November there were only 17 new listings for townhouses, but the sales-to-listing ratio was 142% due to 24 sales. As a result, the median price of a townhouse has soared $120,000 from a year ago to $854,000 this November. New Westminster currently has only a one month’s supply of all types of housing and the over sales-to-listing ratio is running at 99%.
Coquitlam: With total listings down nearly 50% in November, to 383, compared to the same month a year earlier and down from 430 at the end of October 2021, even Coquitlam is facing a housing shortage. This is reflected in prices in a market where the November sales-to-listing ratio was a high 89% and touched 110% in October. The benchmark condo price is up 14.2% year-over-year to $607,000; the typical townhouse is transacting at $890,100, up 22.2% from the same time last year; and detached house price are 24% higher to $1,577,900.
Port Moody: A flashpoint for the development community is close to ignition in Port Moody, where a major developer is apparently prepared to walk away from a large multi-family development because of repeated delays and changes from the city. The overall plan, more than two years in the works, involves replacing 58 detached houses that were assembled for a new development with hundreds of condos and townhouses. Meanwhile, total active listings have fallen about 40% from a year ago to just 125 homes in November. There is an estimated two-month’s supply on the market and the overall sales-to-listing ratio has been over 84% for two months. The composite price for a Port Moody home was up 16.6% from a year ago at $1,086,700 in November.
Port Coquitlam: Total housing sales in Port Coquitlam reached 127 homes in November, up 6% from a month earlier and 25% higher than in November 2020. Active listings were at 107 at the end of November, compared to 199 at that time last year and 138 at the end of October; new listings in November were down 13% compared to October 2021. Once by far the most affordable TriCity community, Port Coquitlam’s detached house price, at a benchmark of $1,323,500 in November, is narrowing the gap with Coquitlam and Port Moody, after increasing 27.3% from a year earlier. Based on its 111% sales-to-listing ratio, there is only a one-month supply of homes on the Port Coquitlam market.
Pitt Meadows: Pitt Meadows is still relatively affordable for home buyers, but only in relation to the rest of Metro Vancouver. Just three years ago the benchmark detached house price in Pitt Meadows was $702,000. This November it was $1,310,200. This may help explain why total sales in November were down 30% from the same month a year ago and 6% lower than in October 2021. New listings increased 13% in November from a month earlier, but total active listings, at just 37, are 40% lower than a year ago. The sales-to-listing ratio calmed to 72% compared to 106% in October 2021, but this remains a seller’s market.
Maple Ridge: Maple Ridge holds the distinction of posting the highest detached house price increase in Greater Vancouver, with the November benchmark price up 34.1% from a year earlier to $1,204,000.The entire Maple Ridge market is quite active, with November sales of 198 homes up 6% from a month earlier and 12% above the pace in November 2020. While total active listing are 55% lower than a year ago, new listings in November were up an encouraging 27% compared to October 2021. Yet, with the sales-to-listing ratio at 90% in November and 109% in October, prices may be forced higher.
Surrey: Speaking of price parity, the benchmark price of a detached house in Surrey in November was $1,557,900 after increasing 34.7% from a year earlier. But, and we have to blame the spike in prices, sales of detached houses plunged 33.1% in the same period and have remained static at around 320 sales for the last three months. Townhouses have seen the same trajectory, with year-over-year prices up 30.3% and sales falling by 20%. Lovely as Surrey is, when property prices begin to challenge suburban markets closer to Vancouver, it appears buyer resistance sets in. The outlier is Surrey condos, which are priced at a benchmark of $433,000 – far lower than in Greater Vancouver where the condo price is now $752,000. Surrey condo sales soared 52.5% in November, to 305 transactions, compared to November 2020. I would suggest that many first-time buyers and investors are being drawn to Surrey’s condo market.