December housing sales down, but annual numbers up

Housing sales in the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) area decreased in December, reflecting seasonal market conditions, but annual sales volume rose 13 per cent over 2014, according to the board’s latest report.

A total of 4,886 single-family homes sold on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in 2015, an increase of 13 per cent over the 4,335 sales recorded the previous year. Both the benchmark and average prices increased last year, up 6.91 per cent and four per cent, respectively. Inventory levels were at their lowest since 2005, down 17 per cent from the previous December. Limited inventory continues to place upward pressure on prices, which has created market conditions that favour sellers, according to VIREB’s recent report.

British Columbia Real Estate Association chief economist Cameron Muir predicts that housing sales in 2016 will remain robust throughout most of the province although we may not see the same level of acceleration that presented in 2015.

“The housing market is in a very healthy position heading into 2016, fuelled by consumer demand and low interest rates,” he said in a release. “Lack of inventory throughout much of the province will see home buyers competing for properties, particularly in the single-family-detached market.”

Although the Canadian economy improved in 2015, uncertain economic conditions will likely keep interest rates low, with any increase coming late in the year, if at all, said Muir.

VIREB president Margo Hoffman confirms that the VIREB housing market is now in seller’s territory, primarily caused by inventory levels that steadily declined month over month in 2015.

“We’ve been expecting house prices to rise because there are now more buyers than sellers in most of our zones,” she said in the release. “However, the VIREB market is still very price-sensitive, with overpriced homes taking much longer to sell.”

In December 2015, 277 single-family homes sold in the VIREB coverage area north of Victoria — an eight-per-cent increase from the 257 sales recorded the previous December and a 21-per-cent drop from November 2015. The benchmark price for a single-family home was $338,500, up 6.91 per cent from 2014. Benchmark pricing tracks the value of a typical home in the reported area. The average MLS price of a single-family home in December was $362,128, up two per cent from December 2014.

The December 2015 benchmark price of a single-family home in the Campbell River area was $265,200, down slightly from last year.

The 2015 Annual MLS Sales Summary, released by VIREB on Jan. 1, shows that in the Campbell River zone, 490 single-family residential units were sold last year, down four per cent from 512 in 2014. The average sale price for these units was $318,670, up five per cent from $303,453 in 2014. The median price in 2015 was $305,000.

Every other zone on the Island saw an increase from one to eight per cent in the average sale price in 2015.

When it comes to unit sales, the Comox Valley saw sales increase seven per cent from 762 in 2014 to 814 in 2015 while sales in the Cowichan Valley increased eight per cent from 728 in 2014 to 785 in 2015.