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Metro Vancouver property sales make big jump back to 10-year average

VANCOUVER — Sales of detached homes in desirable locations have shown the most bounce-back in the recovery of Lower Mainland real estate markets, while condominium sales in some suburban markets appear to be lagging, according to the most recent figures from the region’s major real estate boards.

February sales in both Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley saw significant gains from the same month a year ago, but continue to follow a sales trend close to their 10-year averages compared with near decade lows in 2013.

“Homebuyer demand picked up in February, which is consistent with typical seasonal patterns,” said Sandra Wyant, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which covers most of Metro Vancouver except for Surrey.

The Vancouver board’s realtors saw 2,530 sales cleared through the realtor-controlled Multiple Listing Service, a 41 per cent increase from the same month a year ago. The benchmark price, the average for typical homes sold, reached $609,100, a 3.2 per cent increase from February 2013.

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, which includes Surrey, saw a 21 per cent from the same month a year ago and even 43-per-cent higher than January, but “the increases in activity are specific to property type and location,” said board president Ray Werger.

The Valley’s February’s condominium sales jumped from lower levels in January, but at 181 units remained five per cent below the same month a year ago. Condominium prices were also softer with the benchmark price sinking 4.6 per cent to $193,200 compared with the same month a year ago.

By contrast, the benchmark price for a single-family home was $558,100 in February, an increase of 3.2 per cent from February 2013.

“Fraser Valley’s condo market, moderately busier in February, continues to favour buyers,” Werger said in a news release, with the inventory high enough to offer “prices comparable to what they were eight years ago.”

Wyant added that the Vancouver board is seeing a similar trend in its outlying suburbs such as Maple Ridge, where prices are down 2.4 per cent compared with a year ago at a benchmark of $173,000 and communities such as Squamish where the benchmark condo price was $203,900, down 13 per cent from a year ago.

“If we’re talking about downtown Vancouver, the west side, (the condo market) is a lot more robust than outlying areas,” Wyant said.

In Maple Ridge, however, Wyant added that new developments are competing with condos on the resale market, which is putting pressure on prices.

“With new construction, there is a desire of many first-time homebuyers to go for brand new,” she said, “as a result, resales are being impacted.”

In the Vancouver report, single-family home sales and condominium sales came out equal in February at 1,032 units each. However, that number represented a bigger gain for house sales, which were up 47 per cent, compared with condos for which the number represented a 36 per cent increase from a year ago.

The benchmark price on single-family homes hit $932,900 across the region in February, an increase of 3.4 per cent from a year ago. The benchmark was highest on the west side of Vancouver at $2.15 million, and lowest on the Sunshine Coast at $336,000.

BY DERRICK PENNER, VANCOUVER SUN