Here is an article published today by Derrick Penner of the Vancouver Sun.
Sales in British Columbia’s real estate market so far in 2008 are about half of what they were a year ago, although the pace has risen from a particularly dismal low point, according to the British Columbia Real Estate Association.
In February, B.C. recorded 3,653 sales through the Multiple Listing Service, down almost 47 per cent from February 2008. The average property price of $421,023 was down 12 per cent. Over the first two months, B.C. saw 5,768 sales, down 51 per cent from the same period in 2008. The pace of sales, however, increased 17 per cent in February, association economist Cameron Muir said in an interview, to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 47,000 sales from the low of 40,200 units in January.
Recreation-oriented markets such as the Okanagan, Kamloops, Kootenays and Vancouver Island — which boomed in recent years due to an influx of wealthy Alberta buyers — are seeing some of the steepest declines. “That’s not surprising,” Muir said. “Recreational-property and investment buying decisions are much more easily put off.” Alberta is suffering its own economic contraction with consequent job losses, and Muir said Albertans have seen their property markets and values decline, curbing their enthusiasm for discretionary purchases.
The Okanagan Mainline board, which includes Kelowna, saw 230 MLS sales in February, down 60 per cent from the same month a year ago. The region’s average price of $276,776 was down 28 per cent from February 2008.
In Kamloops, MLS sales plummeted by almost 60 per cent to 92 units compared with the same month a year ago. There, the average price was down almost 14 per cent to $277,088.
The South Okanagan board, which includes the summer hot spots of Osoyoos and Penticton, saw sales drop almost 59 per cent to 61 units in February. The average price dipped just over 10 per cent to $283,634.
Vancouver Island saw its sales dip almost 50 per cent to 328 units compared with February 2008. The average price was down just over 11 per cent to $291,085.
Muir said that given the weakness of B.C.’s economy, he would expect real-estate sales levels to be similar to those during the downturn of the late 1990s. He said that means there is room for more activity in the market from current levels, which mirror the recession of the early 1980s. He said buyers are being drawn in by declining prices, and low mortgage rates have helped reduce the carrying cost of an average home to a three-year low. However, Muir still expects 2009 sales to drop from 2008 levels and has forecast that the decline will be about nine per cent. “A rebound in home sales [in 2009] over past highs is not on the radar,” Muir added.